All this violence, all this hate, all this anger, all this vengeance, all this “eye-for-an-eye”, and all that repeats in my mind is this:
I originally wrote this blog on 17 September 2015 in response to two different Facebook posts. I was hesitant to share it, but since the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, with the shooter allegedly in conflict with his sexual orientation emerging as one of the possible motives of the shooting, I feel it actually is more important and more relevant than ever. In addition to members of the LGBT community facing higher rates of suicide and homelessness, I need to add we also face a higher risk of violence towards us.
Yesterday (16 September 2015), I saw two different posts on Facebook that inspired this blog.
One was a post by a friend of mine, who is African American, in which she was invited to a friend’s house for a gathering, and ended up talking to another attendee who was Caucasian. Well, I’m not sure I should say “talking to” as it seems, from what she posted, she was being “talked at”.
This man “ranted” at her for a while and ended this rant with: “…And where does this leave the white man?”
So I’m usually one of the first people to say something about a tragedy like the one at Pulse in Orlando, but it has left me shocked, and upset, and flabbergasted. There’s a fatigue that’s overwhelming me. America, we keep having this conversation, but there’s never a proper conclusion to it. How many more deaths do there need to be until the lawmakers finally do something? The worst mass shooting in America, in the LGBTI community nonetheless, but will something finally be done to curb or, dare I hope, stop these insane mass shootings from continuing? When will a “live-and-let-live”, tolerant attitude prevail over this “them-versus-us”, eye-for-an-eye, backward-thinking, blind hatred? I pray a solution, and common sense, prevail. I pray for peace and tolerance. I pray for Orlando and America. And I pray for all those injured and killed, and their families and loved ones. Life is short; be happy and love! #PrayforOrlando
Today, at Careers Expo, I saw a high school student who appeared to be isolated from other students, anxious, and spending the Expo alone. The student started watching our students applying makeup at the far edge of our stand away from them.
I’ve been that kid and I’ve also not had the courage to help kids like that when I was that age due to the threat of being isolated when things seemed to be coming right for me in high school.
Okay, okay, I know everyone is expecting me to talk about some wonderfully romantic proposal Noel made to me on a beach in the South Pacific somewhere (at this point, I am waving my hand in the general direction of any island near New Zealand, which could be in any given direction), but it didn’t quite happen that way.
Noel can sometimes put the cart in front of the horse when he’s excited. It’s fine. I talk quickly when I am excited and I’m sure it annoys him to no end sometimes. Anyway, he came home from work yesterday and said he’d been talking to my parents and siblings about engagement rings, and stuff like that. I mean, we’ve been together for 17 years, so it’s not like we haven’t made a commitment to one another in every aspect of our lives. The only thing marriage gives us is legal recognition of a full relationship, so it’s really, to me, a technicality.
Anyway… Noel got home, we were in the living room, and he made the (what I felt was) off-the-cuff question of if I would marry him. I answered something like, “Um, duh, of course I will”, thinking we have already discussed this all and I thought it was pretty clear we would, at some point, get married after we worked the logistics out of how to incorporate our New Zealand friends and family with our American friends and family into one or two ceremonies, or maybe one ceremony and one party, or whatever combination we would make. We had a big hug and a kiss and I really didn’t think, “Oh my God! I’m engaged!” Because I’ve been engaged pretty much for 17 freakin’ years!
This morning, I was at work, talking to Don in his office, when Don’s phone rang. It was Noel for me. He reminded me to grab a few things from work (he’s at home today), and then said that he’d put on Facebook that we were engaged, and went into the detail about this, that, and the other thing.
Then, it dawned on me that I had not called my parents or siblings to let them know this all, and they might read it on Facebook and be angry with me. To be fair, it was about 11 PM or midnight where they were when he asked, they are at market, and I’m thinking that they probably have an early start. Why call them with, “Hey, we’re now really really engaged now we can really really get married?”
Today has been really busy at work with end-of-term stuff, trying to get my car repaired after being hit in a parking lot yesterday (that’s a story for another blog), getting ready to take the dog to the kennels so we can head away, chasing after delinquent / missing students, and so on. So things are kinda slipping my mind a bit.
So… a million and one friends and family have called and written and liked the update on Facebook, and thank you all for your support and love and kind words. I called my Mom really quick to let her know and make sure she wasn’t upset, and she was like, “Uh, no… we got the idea when Noel was talking about engagement rings.” Implied in there was, And you’ve been engaged for 17 freakin’ years pretty much!
Well then. I’m engaged-engaged. Looks like I need to start thinking seriously about how we’re going to logistically make this all happen!
(Pssst. I added a new category for these sorts of blogs. It’s called “My Big Fat Gay Wedding”.)
I admit, I haven’t been losing sleep over our inability to get legally married. Why? New Zealand is a socially progressive, fair country, and if it didn’t happen now, it would happen in a few years. As Motormouth Maybelle said in Hairspray, “A foot in the door, that’s all it is. One toe at a time.”
I also have to admit, last night, watching the parliamentary debate of the third reading of the bill to legalise LGBTI marriage on TV, I knew we had it in the bag. Deep down, something told me, “We’ll be equal in the eyes of the law now.”
New Zealand Parliament didn’t let us down. They voted 77 to 44 to legalise same-sex and transgendered marriage. We became the 13th country in the world to do so.
Suddenly, a young man in the gallery above Parliament stood up and started to sing Pokarekare Ana, a powerful Maori love song that makes me cry nearly every time I hear it. Everyone else rose, even the politicians, even the politicians who had been against the bill, and joined in. Only in New Zealand, eh?
It shows who New Zealanders are, deep down, as a people. There is not that great gulf between conservatives and liberals here. Sure, we may argue about ideology and how things are implemented, but deep down, those divides are not a chasm like they seem to be in the USA and other places.
A lot of people fought for this right for us. Noel and I had fought for equal rights in immigration, and, to be honest, I kinda felt we did our bit for gay rights. As I said before, I knew that eventually, one day, we would have full equal rights.
When we went to bed, I think I stared at the ceiling for a while as the sheer weight of now being totally and unequivocally an equal with any of my straight friends, family, or co-workers in the eyes of the law pressed down on me. It came to me that this was the feeling women had when they got the right to vote or right to make their own reproductive choices. This was the feeling people who had been enslaved but were now free had upon their freedom. This was the feeling people who were denied marrying the person they loved on the basis of, first, religious beliefs, then skin colour, felt when they suddenly had the right to marry that person they loved.
I was at the end of a journey, the end of a fight to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. It had started the day I was born (and we still have a long way to go in the USA and socially, I admit) and here it was, 17 April 2013, and the journey to complete legal freedom ended successfully at the age of 39.
I stared up at the ceiling, tears in my eyes, and a smile creeping along my face.
I felt utterly and completely free.