In the wake of the recent legislation in NY regarding gay marriage, I feel the need to respond to some of the messages that I have been hearing from the world in which I live. Many of these messages are in celebration of a law that was a long time coming. But some are those in opposition, claiming that somehow this thing called marriage should be reserved for just one group of people. I really don’t like getting too political in my writing because I have an extreme fear of making someone mad (my friend Marguerite calls this being passive aggressive, of which I am the queen). Yet when I read articles about people claiming that society is degrading before our eyes and see protests in which people’s souls are being slandered in the name of free speech, I have a visceral reaction that I can feel in my every extremity. I’m angry and I want to say something. But I’m also chicken shit, so I sit back and just watch.
Recently I’ve been reading a book by Anne Lamott about the art of writing. In a somewhat exaggerated way, she describes the phenomenon of writer’s block. One particular part that has stuck out to me is the hesitation that comes from fear. And I realize I am not alone in my hesitation. She describes her fear of a “long bony white finger (that) would emerge from a cloud and point at you, while a chilling voice thunders I told you not to tell.” She goes on to say that these voices are “banshees and drunken monkeys. The voices of anxiety, judgment, doom and guilt.” But then she simply says, in her matter of fact way, “just put down on paper everything you can…and deal with the libel later.”
So here I go, in the face of banshees and really drunk monkeys, I am going to tell you what I think about same-sex marriage.
One year ago tomorrow, I married a man that I feel is perfect for me. Not perfect, but perfect for me. And there is an inexplicable freedom that has come from being able to spend my days with someone who makes me happy. Yes, the concept of marriage is in essence simply a paper document you can lose somewhere in your files and request a copy whenever you need it for $15.00. And yes, there are plenty of people who take this concept lightly. Going into marriage because they like to plan big parties, think they might get some money out of the deal, or are in such a fit of puppy love that their logic is blocked by emotions and sex drives. But after 365 days within this bond of marriage, I have come to view it as more than simply a paper that legally binds us.
People claim all the time that marriage is sacred. Sacred meaning, according to Google dictionary, dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity. As I grow in my faith and understanding of my “deity,” I come to realize that my service and worship comes in the form of loving others. If “God” is good and “God” is love, then “God” has to be the positive things that happen in this world. And this makes complete sense for marriage to be set apart for this, as anyone who has ever been married knows, it ain’t easy. (For those of you who are now worried about my soul because I put God in quotation marks, please do not fret. I’m good. You can read my book that I’m working on and it’ll explain how God has become a quotation to me…and hopefully you can ascertain from it that I am indeed, not “lost.”)
A few months before I got married I overheard a colleague say that she won’t get married till she knows that her gay friends can. Of course, my guilt set in about my impending nuptials. Is my getting married a huge slap in the face for my friends who cannot? I began to feel awful that I was having a “bachelorette party” and had invited my two good friends who have been together longer than I had with Mike. In a committed relationship with each other and the community that they live in which, by my definition of honoring a deity, they worship and serve positivity and love more than I do. Shouldn’t they have the same right to enter into a sacred bond of marriage if they want to? Lord knows we heterosexuals have not kept that bond very sacred. Just look at prime time television.
Separate but equal is also not the solution. Suggesting that homosexuals can commit to each other, but just don’t call it marriage. It’s hard to believe anyone would even argue this point, especially anyone who has ever read a book or seen a movie (which is a lot more likely today) about the civil rights movement. Just looking at a black and white photo with the words “colored” and “white” on drinking fountains makes it easy to see that this concept was based on lies and naivety. People once believed that the color of skin made us “susceptible” to all kinds of diseases if we intermingled. In much the same way, I have seen communities of people who claim love as their highest value, yet keeping themselves as far away from “that lifestyle” as they can so they don’t “catch it” per se. And I’ve seen the effects of trying to “pray the gay away” on people as if it was a wound that needed to be healed. I can hear the banshees now…racism and preserving the sanctity of marriage are NOT the same. In which I will reply…they are separate but equal I suppose.
When I turned on Facebook this morning (haha, I know that you don’t turn it on like a tv. Boy I’m feeling old now), I found myself overwhelmed with everyone’s opinions on this new legislation. And I quickly reposted something someone posted that said, “I was born gay. Were you born hateful?” because I wanted to share my opinion too. Then I realized, that we often are too quick to share with our Facebook world every little thought we have in our head. Even when it may not adequately describe what you are thinking. And to what end do we do this? To argue on a social networking site about something that is so incredibly important to a large portion of our friends and families?
I realized that I didn’t even necessarily agree with that little slogan that I posted. Yes it told Facebook which “side” I was on, but it didn’t have any explanation to my argument which often can just fuel the fire rather than help people understand. I also know that people who disagree with gay marriage were not born hateful. They were taught or had an experience (or didn’t have an experience) that informed their worldview which has not been disproved so far in their lives. Not to say that I don’t think they need to change their minds, but I think a little grace goes a long way. I recommend that the age old phrase, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes should be applied here. Feel the freedoms that they feel and those that they are restricted from. And then share when you get back into your own comfy, well-worn shoes those that you missed while you were away.
The freedoms that I would like to share with my friends and family are those that I have learned from being married. Marriage has helped me become a more disciplined person. Not the legal act, but the commitment I made to love and respect Mike every day. My marriage was easy access…get a paper, wait the required days the state deems necessary to “think about it” and then say “I do” in front of a judge right next to the Hillsboro jail. But the process of learning patience, giving encouragement and loving the one you’re with has been edifying and something I hope everyone experiences on their own paths. I don’t believe everyone needs to be married but I do believe that I have been blessed by the love that I have received from my commitment to Mike and I desire that love to be felt in the hearts of everyone.
I am glad that today, I am able to share a freedom with some very incredible people that I know. Let freedom ring. Or as Beyonce once said, if you like it then put a ring on it because now you can in the state of New York.
© 2011 D. Willson