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:
So, today was one of those really busy days at work. End of term, which always causes a bit of a kerfluffle around the place, was a little more end-of-term-ish for me as I’m taking a break like everyone else over the school holidays instead of working through like I usually do. I honestly am burnt out and tired and making lots of mistakes, and since my colleague Lyssa is away overseas for personal reasons, I’ll be dealing with new students the last week in July all by myself administration-wise, so I need to be fresh of mind and spirit for that.
Anyway, I had a surprise visit from a graduate of ours today. She popped in to get a few things, and it was great to see her looking so happy.
After Jacqui left the school, I took over the interviewing for a while, and this student (let’s call her Rikki) came in for an interview after we received her application. She was quiet, slightly withdrawn, and wholly unconfident. Her educational experiences had been, to put it nicely, horrible, and her performance obviously suffered as a result. I had a feeling, reading between the lines, that she’d probably been called “stupid” or “dumb”, when, in actuality, she was anything but that.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Part of me feels I should say I’m sorry but I’m not sorry. A lot of shit has been going on in my life, and I’d like to hope most people would agree that real life takes precedence over a blog or keeping others entertained.
There’s a lot to write about, a lot I need to tell you, but I had a bit of an epiphany today, and I wanted to share it with you all.
Last night, I was feeling a bit nostalgic, very awake, and slightly under the influence of a few glasses of vino, so I rummaged through our cabinets below the bookcase with our DVDs and Blu-Rays in them to haul out my old photos from my pre-New Zealand days.
Some bring tears to my eyes. Some make me long for yesterday and for those who are no longer with us. Others make me smile. Others again make me laugh heartily.
I found a photo of someone I haven’t spoken to in a long time, someone who, to be totally honest, hasn’t crossed my mind a lot lately. He does once in a while, but with time marching on and a million other memories cramming their way into my head every month or three, and having seen each other last in 1995 when we were both totally different people, these thoughts grow fewer and farther the more distant that year becomes.
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.
Today, there are major battles occurring in New Zealand, the USA, France, and many other countries. It’s a civil war of sorts, another civil rights movement, and this time, the question is: Should we allow gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) couples legally marry? (Not civil unionise. Marry. As one of the Supreme Court justices said, it’s the difference between a skim-milk marriage and a full marriage.)
We’ve heard every excuse in the book from the anti-marriage crowd.
“Marriage is for procreation.” Really? How can two straight people in their 50s get married if marriage is for procreation?
“God / Allah / Jesus / [Insert Your God Here] wants marriage between a man and a woman.” I don’t think you or I can say anything about what God (or whatever god you believe in) thinks. Besides, marriage has been around for a lot longer than some of our gods, so no one religion can truly make a claim on the institution of marriage. Also, holy books like the Bible say a lot of things like, “Don’t eat shellfish” and “Don’t wear clothes of two different fabrics” and “Women are not equal to men” and “You can have slaves” and “Don’t cut your hair” and “Don’t get tattoos or pierce your body” and (my favourite) “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, yet anti-marriage equality people seem to conveniently forget some or all of these parts. And, while we’re arguing this point, LGBT couples are asking for the right to legally marry so we can have the same rights and privileges under the law (not your church) that straight couples have.
“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” If you are dumb enough to believe that Adam and Eve were the only two people on the planet at the start, then you are dumb enough to spout garbage like this. My Mom (a very smart woman) said to me one time: “I think Genesis in the Bible is how God tried to tell His people about these things in very simple terms, like explaining the Big Bang and evolution to a 5 year old.” And it’s true. Now, we’d say, “Imagine there was a boy named Adam, and a girl named Eve,” knowing that Adam represented men and Eve represented women. And, even if you want to argue this point with me, go read some of the additional Biblical texts out there and let me know who Lilith is and how she fits into the picture if Adam and Eve are the only man and woman on the planet. On the scientific front, homosexuality and even homosexual pairing is observed in many species on this planet. So, God created gay ducks but He didn’t create gay people? Right.
“Marriage is sacred.” If it’s so sacred, why do we allow divorce?
“The fabric of society will unravel if we let gay and lesbian couples get married.” Really? Because we heard this argument with multiracial couples, and it totally happened when we allowed a black man to marry a white woman. Oh wait. It didn’t. And see the point above. If divorce, single parents, mixed marriages, etcetera, etcetera, haven’t destroyed the fabric of society (and they won’t), I doubt letting a few loving, caring, monogamous gay and lesbian couples getting married will unravel society either.
I could go on all day with some of the garbage that people say about the whole thing, but it comes down to this:
I was born gay; the only choice I made was to tell the truth and live my life true to my biology / genetics / whatever made me gay. I pay the same taxes as everyone else. I am supposedly equal in the eyes of the law. But, as the law currently stands, I do not have the legal right to marry my partner Noel. This automatically bars him and me from certain legal rights (like the ability to adopt as a couple) in New Zealand and thousands of legal rights, protections, and abilities in the USA. This brings the argument back to that, therefore, as a gay man, I am not equal in the eyes of the law.
The USA is very good at doing this to groups of people, including African-Americans throughout US history and Japanese-Americans during World War II (at least). Animal Farm has the perfect quote: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
One of the stories my Grandpa used to tell us that stands out in my mind was when he had to go to the emergency room in a hospital in Chicago or Milwaukee sometime in the 1940s or 1950s; I wish I could remember the story exactly. My Grandpa had scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and so, I guess he was used to being a bit of an outsider in that regard, and he did the Christian thing and treated others as he would like to be treated. At the hospital, Grandpa had to wait for a while to see a doctor. The nurse came in, quite flustered, and apologised profusely. Grandpa said he was in a bit of pain, and the nurse said, “Well, we do have a coloured doctor on duty.” Grandpa told her he didn’t care what colour the guy was, send him in.
The doctor came in and kept asking Grandpa if he was sure he wanted an African-American doctor to help him. Grandpa said, “You’re a doctor, aren’t you?” The doctor confirmed he was, to which Grandpa replied (again) that he didn’t care what colour the doctor was as long as he could make him feel better.
And this is the attitude a lot of my family has to this day. This was the amazing attitude Grandpa had towards everyone he met in life, and it’s something I try to emulate (hopefully somewhat successfully, because I, like he, am a minority).
Grandpa died in 2004, aged 83. I still think about him every day. At his wake, though, another amazing thing happened.
My Grandma was talking to one of her and Grandpa’s friends, a woman about the same age. I was standing nearby and happened to overhear my Grandma: something she doesn’t know to this day.
My then-83 year old Grandma said, “Marty (my Grandpa) even got to see Scott before passing away. Scott flew in from New Zealand; we all wish his husband Noel could be here with us, too.”
My grandparents, devout Catholics their entire lives, never cared that I was gay. They never cared that I was in love with another man or wanted to marry him. They thought I should have the same rights as everyone else. They never judged me at all, because they loved me for who I am.
It took courage for my Grandpa to let an African-American doctor help him out in an era that that was frowned upon. It took courage for my Grandma to say to her peers that her grandson was married to another man. It took courage for my friends and family to stand behind Noel and me to love us for who we are and support us in our fight for marriage equality.
Every little step we take as individuals, for the freedom and equality of others, helps change society in a positive way.
Do you have the courage to stand with us, on the right side of history?
Yesterday, I spoke about the fragile “interior” me as opposed to that “exterior” me that seems so strong, but I think I left a few things out there.
If you do decide to go “into battle”, to stand up to the bullies or for something you believe in strongly, you need to pick your battles wisely. There may be compromise. You may wish to take the higher road, turn the other cheek. You may go in with all guns blazing. You may need to defend your honour. There may be things you have to do that you don’t like doing but the end justifies the means. Any which way you look at it, there may be winners and losers. It may be a short, sharp blitzkrieg or a long, drawn-out war. There might not be a battle at all; maybe they deem you too weak an opponent to consider, or maybe you walk away with your head held high.