Today has been a very special day for me. It started out like any other workday: I got up, let the dog out, showered, ate, drove to work, made myself a thermos of tea, and started trudging my way through the day’s tasks. When I took my first break of the morning, I switched over to Twitter and discovered that the US Supreme Court had issued a decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the United States. No longer was it a state-by-state decision. It was the law of the land.
I don’t have cable anymore. I don’t listen to NPR in the car. (I’m an audiobook guy.) I never visit news websites. I discovered several years ago that I am a happier person if I don’t drown in the tsunami of information masquerading as news. So, while I had some vague sense that the Supreme Court was deliberating a couple of cases about same-sex marriage, I had no idea that the ruling would come down today, or that it would be so sweeping.
I sat and my desk in shock. I got choked up. The news had an impact on me that I hadn’t anticipated. In that one short moment, something changed for me. It was a big change, and I’ve struggled trying to describe it, even to myself.
I’ve spent a lot of time today reflecting on my life, my history, my current situation, and my future. I am a gay man. I am a deeply damaged and broken gay man. My environment, my life experiences, and my inherent personality have combined to create a volatile emotional reaction that has left me scarred. My soul has calloused, but I’ve never really healed from the emotional and spiritual wounds I received going through the first 30 years of my life.
My sister once told me that there is no such thing as an invalid feeling. Feelings may be irrational, but they’re never invalid. My biggest irrational-but-valid feeling is my belief that I am fated to travel the remainder of my life’s journey without the benefit of a partner at my side. Over the years, I have truly come to believe I am emotionally incapable of being either the giver or receiver of romantic love. As I have grown older, I have tried to accept this; I try to find joy in my own company, and in the activities with which I fill my life. I have a good life, albeit a somewhat lonely one.
I say this not to elicit sympathy, but because I wanted to help set the stage: I was not expecting to be as moved by the SCOTUS decision as I was. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Washington state for nearly three years. It never affected me too much, because if my love life is any indication, I have a better chance of winning the lottery while being struck by lightning than I do of ever being able to take advantage of the marriage statutes in the state. I was happy for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who were denied marriage for so long. But for me? Eh.
Throughout the day today, however, I was regularly brought to tears by the true joy I felt from men and women all over the world at the announcement of the SCOTUS decision. I was deeply touched by the words of support and excitement that I saw flooding my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of my religious friends expressed solidarity and camaraderie. I took no small amount of delight in the smackdown I saw detractors being handed. I shook my head at the fear mongering and doom saying that prophesied the end of society as we know it. But mostly, I was touched by the love. So much love. Love of partners, of spouses, of friends, of family.
Then, this evening, there was a moment that broke the first small crack in the wall I have spent the last 37 years building around my heart. My amazing brother-in-law changed his Facebook profile picture to this:
This picture destroyed me, in the best possible way. It pictures him (my brother-in-law) and my three-year-old nephew side-by-side, the colors of the rainbow superimposed. The tremendous amount of support colored into this simple photograph, and the fact that it contained my little nephew, set my world view on its head. I realized for the first time that today changes so much.
I grew up believing that I was broken, that I was incomplete, and that I did not deserve to be loved romantically. (I should stress that this feeling did NOT come from my parents. It came mostly from my own, flawed analysis of the world around me.) I experienced silent heartbreak after silent heartbreak as I tried to hide romantic feelings for people who could not or would not understand, accept, or return them. I got so good at putting on a shield of bitterness and sarcasm to hide my shame that they became a permanent part of who I am. Now, I am a week away from my 37th birthday, and I have given up on love.
But out there, tonight, there is a little boy who will get to see that it’s okay for a boy to love a boy, or a girl to love a girl. He’ll hopefully get to see, in a way that I never did, real-life examples of regular, same-sex couples in the world around him. He will get to learn that there’s no such thing as “the gay lifestyle” to be feared like some imaginary boogey man. And perhaps most astonishingly, same-sex couples just won’t be such a big “thing” anymore.
I am thrilled for the many same-sex couple out there who have been waiting to get married, and who are now able to do so—many friends among them. I’m ecstatic that one more small portion of our collective bigotry has been shaved away. But I’m even more excited that there is now a whole generation of children who will grow up to wonder why this was ever a “thing” to begin with. There are children alive now who will grow up in a world where being gay is that much less of a shameful secret to be hidden away at all costs. And if some of those children are gay, perhaps they will get a chance to find the love that I never was.
And that—that—is why I was so moved today. The change that occurred in my heart was not about sex. It wasn’t about marriage. It wasn’t even about civil rights. It was about hope for a better, easier future for the boys and girls who don’t fit the normal mold. It was about love. And it was about damn time.
The world wasn’t automatically set to rights today with this Supreme Court Decision. There will still be far too many people who choose to live their lives through the lens of fear and paranoia; they will use the laziness of the slippery slope argument in an attempt maintain a status quo that fits their narrow world view. There will still be religions that use shame and guilt to quash “sinful” behavior. But there’s one more bright, shining ray of hope today than there was yesterday. It may be too late for me, but it’s not too late for the next little boy who suddenly realizes that he likes boys instead of girls.
And for that, I weep tears of joy.