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Monday, June 29, 2015

Musings on Marriage Equality from a Straight Ally

This is Donald. Sorry boys, he's straight. Photo by Pamela Ann Berry


I had the opportunity to work with Donald Seaman a few years back at Jackson College when he was working with the Theatre Department. His sense of humor and love of learning is contagious. He posted this on his Facebook page on Friday after the SCOTUS ruling and I asked him if I could share it with my audience. I am humbled by how many straight allies we have out there, and it’s heartening to know that we did not go into this battle for marriage equality alone. Thank you Donald for your friendship, your support, and your prose. You need to write a book dude.
I’ll shut up now and let Donald speak:

It’s a great day for the U.S.A. everybody! Ours is the 23rd country to remove its head from its hind-end to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples. I really, really, really wish we had been the first (ambition should be made of sterner stuff) but it is a grand day indeed and we are all better for it. I want to share my enthusiasm and write as gracefully as Justice Kennedy, but I fear there is naught left to say. I will share a post from a couple years ago to clarify my point of view but before you read that, I feel compelled to draw a minor parallel to something I was part of yesterday.
We recently finished an ESL teaching certification course here at UT-Austin where one of our students was a blind refugee. He was a curious, playful and endearing student and we all grew fond of his humor and his charm. During the final week of class he invited several of us to his home and yesterday four of the teachers were able to join him for dinner at his apartment where we learned a bit about him and ourselves. The visit went as I expected it would; he was generous, gregarious and sweet. There were some brief moments of tension as we tried to decode his broken English and forestall awkward faux pas due to cultural confusion, but overall it was very pleasant and I think everyone was glad they could attend. I have met, known and served visually impaired people in the past, but I have never been in the home of a blind man. His was a tidy, comfortable apartment, not unlike my own but for minor differences. After just a few moments I understood the privilege and advantage of sight. We were able to make a few discrete adjustments on his behalf, but long-term remediation was beyond our grasp.
The relevance to today’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage is this; while I can imagine what it’s like to be blind, I have the luxury of opening my eyes. I am not blind and I am not gay, so whatever degree of sympathy I have for oft-marginalized populations, I fear I can’t truly empathize with them. I realized that I can do what I’m doing now; I can write and advocate on behalf of my colleagues and friends, but I can’t really put myself in their position because there will always be seemingly minor but realistically gargantuan details about which I haven’t the foggiest. I noticed things which I simply hadn’t imagined but which were so obviously problematic that I was forced to meditate on my good fortune. When the news broke today I immediately reflected on what I learned yesterday and I thought that this ruling might be as restorative and empowering as the gift of sight would be for our student.
“To live, to see the sun, to be in full possession of viral force; to possess health and joy; to laugh valiantly; to rush toward a glory which one sees dazzling in front of one; to feel in one's breast lungs which breathe, a heart which beats, a will which reasons; to speak, think, hope, love; to have a mother, to have a wife, to have children, to have the light” - Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
I was glad for the political progress, but I also felt a sense of relief for every encumbered individual who could finally count themselves as a fully vested member of society because many of these people are my artistic, philosophical and intellectual heroes. Perhaps this is empathy? I don’t know. Hitch and Stephen Fry were more succinct and poignant in their remarks during the Intelligence² debate in October of 2009:
“Well, I say that homosexuality is not just a form of sex, it’s a form of love, and it deserves our respect for that reason.” - Christopher Hitchens
“It’s a little hard for me to know that I am disordered, or again to quote Ratzinger that I am ‘guilty of a moral evil’ simply by fulfilling my sexual destiny as I see it. It’s hard for me to be told that. To be told that I’m evil. Because I think of myself as someone who is filled with love, whose only purpose in life was to achieve love, and who feels love for so much of nature and the world and for everything else and who like anybody decent and of an education realizes that in order to achieve and receive love it’s a struggle.” - Stephen Fry
I too think of myself as someone who is filled with love and whose only purpose in life is to serve love and to achieve love, but all things are not for all people. Marriage may not come to me, to you or to someone you think deserves it. We are not entitled to all that we covet, but neither should we be envious or bellicose to those who perfect their passions.
I recently found an old high school portfolio from Mr. Lawrence’s psych class. I was amazed to find that even then I wrote in support of progressive drug policies, assisted suicide and gay rights. I don't mention it to fish for compliments, but simply to invigorate those of you who may feel that your current progressive beliefs may be far-fetched. I'm proud to say I've supported these issues for over twenty years and each is finally coming to fruition.
As for arguments contra gay marriage I am utterly uninterested and you can piss right off. The battle is over.
Below you'll find my remarks from March of 2013 regarding this very topic:

I'm an expert in nothing outside myself, and when confronted with a fresh donut even that proficiency is suspect, but I can claim to know what love is. (thank you, Forrest). I am not married, don't have a girlfriend, haven't been privileged to see my own child born, but I do know what love is. I adore my friends' kids. They are the best thing in my life. I am thankful every day for my parents and love them beyond comprehension. My brother is still a source of admiration and pride. He's so smart and we have a shorthand for humor that only siblings have. My friends have made my life better by accepting me as I was and enjoying what considerable mischief I could bring to their lives. Devotion is a pale shadow of what I feel when I think on my friends, so it makes no sense that I should ignore even a small opportunity to lend my voice in support of the only thing that gets me to put one foot in front of the other; love. There were nights of endless pleasure, as the song goes, but what motivates me to support marriage equality are the nights of endless solitude. If you have ever felt that earth-cracking avalanche of melancholy when you are the guest with no +1 or when another moonrise magnifies the empty seat next to you, why, why on Earth would you be so primitive, atavistic and crude as to deny love or even try to destroy it for another? This is not admirable, this is not leadership, this is not holy, spiritual, ethical, moral or laudable in any way. This is base. This is contrary to everything we learned in kindergarten. One memory always moves me. There is no delicate entrée for your gentler natures, but evening fell and we took our cue from the urges within, searching for our identities in each other's arms. I saw her wipe a tear away and smile. Unsure of just about everything at that moment I asked her what was wrong. She said "Nothing. Nothing is wrong. I'm just so happy to be with you and I know that you love me." Now, things fall apart, that relationship didn't hold, but the moment did. It was wonderful, it was tender, it was emotional, it was psychological, it was love. Not every story has a happy ending, but every tale has a teller. Each of us is writing a story. Each of us has different complications. There is not a single reason why love should be any more complicated than it already is. We are in a time when men and women are more comfortable living out loud, but think of the people you know who simply couldn't in their time. As Pooh says, "Together is a very grand thing to be." Let's get together and move forward, abandoning the irrational lunacies of a too cloudy past and perhaps, in the words of Hitchens, "our species would begin to grow to something like its full height if we left this childishness behind". I know what love is and wish it for all of my friends. Equally.