Early in the long narrative of our deeply modest contributions to effect marriage equality, my partner - our non-legal, homemade wedding of 1999 was still two years away - and I participated in a march in Washington D.C. with hundreds of LGBT comrades, families and friends. It was a blue-sky, gentle-breezes day. Knots of people watched from the sidelines, some with signs. I'm sure many were supportive. The ones I remember best, though, were not: bible quotes about the abominations of mankind lying with mankind instead of womankind, Adam & Eve, not Adam and Steve, much ado about Sin. The people holding them shook them at us, wishing us back to where we'd come from (brunch, Dupont Circle). When our group arrived at the related rock concert later, a similar pitchfork-angry herd met us there, shouting at our cars as we turned into the venue. Scary, then eased when Melissa Etheridge tore into "Come to My Window."
In my 20s, when my female relationships were exclusively with, er, straight women - perhaps a safer bridge to gay-dom then jumping right from boys to girls - I of course experienced no discrimination, because I was well-protected in my personal closet, which featured not only the typical glossing over of how weekends were spent, and with whom, in the office on Mondays; but relationships with men, fortifying both my own sense of possibility and public narrative. I fell in love with the women - deep, tearful, romances where I felt vastly more at home than with the men, but with no plan or even hope for living out loud with any of them in the real world. I couldn't imagine what that looked like, for me.
As I neared my 30th birthday I had a visit with my latest secret girlfriend (we were living in different cities) and a close friend of hers came over for dinner. This friend knew we were together, and the three of us had dinner, our same-sex relationship comfortably present. We two saw off the friend and had breakfast in the neighborhood the next day just like so many other Park Slope gay couples around us.
I went about that day in a transformed state. I experienced the freeing connectedness of the fully authentic state of being in the world. Gay people live this way. I want to live this way. Back on the other coast, I wrote the girlfriend a letter saying: let's do this. I can do this, you can do this, let's be together, really. She could not do this. I made out with the guy next door, which helped not at all, and thought, OK - time to get it together. I determined to just be open, and be ready to act when it felt right. Happily, my future spouse showed up at a mutual friend's wedding later that summer, it felt more than right, and I acted (so would have you, if you'd seen the dress, her cool appraisal of me, the competition from the men).
After a quiet start, we came out to our families a year later. My mother, after calling back to clarify that this meant that I actually wasn't going to date men any longer, was all in, along with my whole family. My partner's family were mixed, but they nearly all showed up to the wedding. At work with any new colleague or outside meeting I immediately developed an irritating habit of announcing as soon as I could find an opening that I was gay, married to a woman, a tic that has worn off in its obsessiveness but has never really gone away. We joined an old tennis club in the Berkshires that, when we pressed, changed its bylaws to include us as a family. (Yes, we'd like this to count as part of our political awareness campaign, since we're on our second tennis club as first same-sex family members; speak softly, and hold a big racket.)
"We're together," we told countless waiters, shop owners, airline stewards, passport control. Not sisters; spouses. Not legal anywhere, but putting the world on notice.
Our first daughter was born in New York City in 2002, carried by my partner. I needed to formally adopt the baby in order to be considered her other parent. A social worker came to our apartment, interviewed me, examined the rooms, submitted a report to the judge along with the required letters from friends testifying to my fitness for parenthood. I got fingerprinted, and my spouse and I went to the courthouse to petition the state for me to be parent to my own daughter. I carried our second child, and my spouse had to adopt her, same drill. This rage never really cools.
Both girls have had to educate their peers on having two moms, though the load has lightened with age and the velocity of increasing acceptance. Last Friday, June 26th, 2015 I told our 12-year old of the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage, and she said "About time! Some people are such idiots," but she had a pleased tone. Which is to say, she's nearly 13. The 8-year old, when I explained that our marriage was exactly the same as her friends' parents' marriages legally, got saucer-eyed, then ran upstairs to tell her sister, whom I hope was gracious in hearing it again.
I'm not exactly sure what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote their document - they could likely hardly imagine women voting, let alone women marrying each other- but we can know that at its core they wished to ensure equality for all citizens, and facilitate future generations' equal protection, which the Court honors with this ruling.
Did I mention I'm married to a woman? Going on 16 years or one week, depending on how you count it.
Happy Fourth of July to this surprisingly great country of ours.