Every morning on my ride to work I listen to NPR -- specifically, New England Public Radio. I like their balanced approach to news stories; especially political news. So of course I listened eagerly after the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 US states.
Wait, wait. Let me back up. My sister and I were having brunch when one of my dearest friends texted me. "I am literally crying at work because I'm so happy about the ruling. I cannot even imagine how you feel! Finally!!!"
I had known the vote was coming, but honestly I hadn't been paying very much attention. I worked in Boston for an LGBT newspaper for three years after college; I had kind of burnt out on following LGBT politics so closely. It was exhausting, because every vote -- every setback -- had a direct and lasting effect on my own personal life, my marriage, my family.
Do you know what that actually feels like? Not very good. I hear from these jerks all the time on the radio, because like I said, NPR does work hard to present a fair and balanced picture that I appreciate. Talking heads, politicians, and religious figures who say that the way I live is proven to be more unhealthy. That I'm more likely to get an STD or HIV. That if I insist on being a lesbian, I should at least be celibate. That I shouldn't have children because they'd be irreparably damaged by my "lifestyle." That I'm infringing on their rights by getting married.
(I've actually had to change to a different radio station a few times over the past few days. You can only listen to people say such awful things about you for so long.)
So when I got Cara's text last Friday and immediately confirmed the ruling by turning to Twitter, I didn't feel anything...for about 30 seconds. Then I burst into tears. I showed my phone to my sister and we celebrated tearfully together. My goosebumps lasted the rest of the day (seriously, they started to hurt). I kept tearing up, over and over, thinking about how it felt to finally be afforded the same rights as everybody else in this country. At first I felt relief, gratitude...and then it slowly turned to anger. Why are we so amazed that this happened? Why did it have to happen at all? Why couldn't I have always been able to marry Kristie -- make medical decisions for each other, file our taxes together? I've written before about how much it sucks to feel all this negativity from people who don't even know us. And it still sucks.
What changes people's minds (I know this to be true) is realizing that they know someone who is gay or lesbian. Having even a few minutes' interaction. At our favorite diner on the way to Virginia, Kristie and I were paying our bill when the truckers in line behind us started making jokes about gay men (talking with a lisp, flopping their wrists around, etc.). Kristie and I exchanged a glance or two, and then rather than continue to ignore them, I turned around and started a conversation. We talked about the food at the diner, the t-shirt I was buying, whether or not pink was my color. I didn't mention being gay, or gay marriage, or politics or anything. But hopefully that little tiny nothing interaction started a subconscious change for these guys, letting them know that we're people too -- we're funny and we appreciate good diner food and we're nice to talk to.
(I wish I could have some of these politicians and religious leaders over for dinner. Seriously. We'll cook you something gluten-free, we'll show you all the tricks our dog knows, we'll argue over who has to get up from the table to change the record. I really think you'd like us if you met us.)
As pissed as I've been this past week, the more powerful feeling emerging is hope. I'm so glad and happy that public support is rallying behind something I know so thoroughly to be true -- that as an American citizen, I'm entitled to all the rights and protections guaranteed in the Constitution, regardless of with whom I've fallen in love. I'm glad the next generation doesn't have to live with any single seed of personal doubt planted by jerks on the radio. I'm glad that we have a law to point to, a piece of paper (I'm assuming it's a real piece of paper?) on which it is written we are the same. Because really, we are.
I've celebrated the Fourth of July every year for as long as I can remember. I mean, fireworks are always cool. But this year's Independence Day has a brand-new significance for me. I'm legitimately proud of my country. I feel so loved, and validated, and heard, and I finally feel free.