I'm going off on a political rant today. If you're not in the mood for that, since I rarely tread this ground, feel free to wander off and read a funny blog or two or three.
By virtue of my Mom's line of work and the friends she associated with, from my earliest memory, there always has been a gay friend or two involved in my life. From Mom or Dad's coworkers and friends Bruce and Hockey, to classmates who were definitely gay (but closeted), to the elementary school music teacher who channeled Liberace's ring wardrobe, there were those who walked a different path.
My parents were very matter of fact if a question came up, but we rarely asked. Men who loved men were accepted as being equal as the married couples we encountered. To us, it was like having friends who were Christian and others who were Jewish. Each had valid reasons for who they were and what they believed.
As I grew older, I realized that my parents point of view was not the norm. Being gay was not something those in the public arena publicized. If that information was leaked, it was detrimental to their political aspirations or their ability to get juicy acting roles.
Probably the most confusing to me is how heterosexual couples could go about their lives together without speculation, but if you were gay? Well, surely you must be thinking about getting into every person of the same sex's bed. This made no sense, because I don't know anyone, male or female, gay or straight, that talks about sex 24/7/365.
When I first moved to Maryland, part of the Bible belt, the first question after "Where do you live?" and "Where did you move from?" would be "What church do you attend?" When you answer that you don't belong to a church, you're on your own. The ex and I made very few friends those first few months.
Then I met a friend who wasn't all about which of the 125 churches in town I was a member of. Instead, we had good conversation about work, music, the arts, politics and everything under the sun. The difference?
He was gay.
Over time, my ex and I became a part of our Ken's crowd of friends. Much like the straight world, this crowd had the boisterous, the quiet, the educated, the redneck, the well traveled and the religious. The only difference is who was standing by each person's side.
Conversations with Ken were much like those with my single female friends, lamenting the lack of quality men in a small town who weren't already snatched up. More likely, though, we'd be talking about food, what we'd read in the Washington Post or when a favorite artist would get their act together and release another album. In short, it'd be typical. His sexual orientation was (and is) only a small facet of who he is and what he talks about.
One of the couples in the crowd would tell us of the predominantly gay church they were quite active in, but it was a substantial commute for us. Any time I'd see Kevin, we'd comment "Hey, MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) needs to get up this way." This church sounded like it possessed something that I felt many churches lacked-an appreciation for ALL of God's creatures.
Long story short, MCC opened a satellite branch in our town that quickly outgrew the building rented for services. When we moved 100 miles east, the original congregation that Kevin had belonged to was close by. We attended this church and felt at home, even though we were the minority there, the rare heterosexual couple. In 1997, we were married in that church, with a pastor who we adored. It was home.
One thing that my experience has taught me with my friendships of gays and lesbians over the years-we are different because of how those DNA molecules are put together. Does someone choose to have Down Syndrome? No, it's because they have an extra chromosome. How about having green eyes? Thank what Mom and Dad contributed to the gene pool. Choose to be left handed? Tall? Short? Blind? Intelligent?
You're scoffing at me. "Suzanne, I have no control over those things." Well, why would someone CHOOSE to be attracted to someone of the same gender, knowing full well that most of society rejects the concept and considers those who do to be perverts? Would you choose a path that would set you up for a lifetime of ridicule?
(If you want my theological argument, I'd dive into my question of "if God makes us in his image, why would he make gay people, unless he condones it?" We're not going there today.)
Last fall, many states had referendums, propositions and amendments to either legalize gay marriage or to legally allow persecution by defining marriage as between a man and a woman. California voted that gay marriage was unacceptable, as did my state.
It went to court in California the other day and the verdict was upheld. Gay couples cannot marry. I am upset, because who you share your life with and want to be legally committed to should not be denied to you by virtue of your partner's gender.
My friend Ken? Ten years ago last week, he began a journey with a wonderful man. If I were given the task of finding him the perfect partner, I could not have found a better person for him-the two are like peanut butter and jelly, wine and cheese, Burns and Allen. I am so happy that Ken found his life partner. That they've celebrated ten years is no surprise. Someday, they'll have a silver anniversary and maybe even a 50th anniversary.
Unfortunately, I am sad that a matter of genetics, of uncontrollable biology keeps the two from cementing their love for each other with a wedding.
Someday, I hope that we as a country get our damn act together and allow these fine men the opportunity to have the same rights as they would have if one of them was a woman. I want to see that for all gay and lesbian couples.
I especially want to someday sit in a MCC church and watch happily as my friends Ken and Bill get to say "I do" and it be recognized by the state as well as the church.