Maybe it’s in reaction to the tragic string of suicides we’ve read about these last few weeks (young, gay men deciding not to go on living in a culture that so utterly devalues them), or to the election season (which always brings sexuality into the foreground), but this TWW (two week wait) I’m finding – mixed in with the usual amount of excitement.nervousness.hope – a new and unexpected emotion: anger. J assures me that this is normal, that, in fact, the abnormal thing is that it’s taken me this long to get this angry, but anger isn’t really my style. I am a person with a lot of faith. I trust humanity. I believe the old saying that people do better when they know better, and I’m usually fairly content to keep trying to do better myself, and to use my life, patiently, to help teach others. But I seem to have suddenly, unexpectedly, hit a wall with with this issue. And maybe it’s a wall that’s been a long time coming.
Unlike my wife (who came out with a fair amount of finality at the brave age of 13), I danced in and out of the closet for 10 years – from 15-25. I felt more shame than even I understood at the time. I bargained with myself: it’s alright to casually date women, but they’re not serious relationship material. It’s fine to be attracted to women, as long as I’m attracted to men, too. I was also in the Air Force for 8 years of my early adulthood. Though I’ve been out of the military for 6 years, I’m still grappling to understand the consequences of that environment on my sense of self.
So when I came out for good, at 25, I felt a huge degree of love and patience for the people of my country who weren’t accepting. I bargained for them, too. They just have a different belief system. Different values. They’re religious. They’ve been trained to be bigots by those around them. It’s not their fault. Maybe I can show them that there’s nothing evil or threatening about me. Maybe I can love them into loving me. Some of this has already fallen away, but by and large my tolerance for their intolerance has stuck around.
It’s not here anymore. Some of the hostility I’m feeling now was triggered by a terrifying incident this summer, in which my wife, our moms, and I were threatened on a country road by a couple who clearly hated us (truly hated us) because of our sexuality. I was the most afraid for my life and the lives of my loved ones that I have ever been, and it still haunts me. But it also woke me up to the dangers of bigotry. What those two people did to us was violent, and anyone would call it that, but what I’ve noticed in the months since that day is that violence isn’t restricted to incidents in which one’s immediate bodily safety is threatened. People commit violence against my family, and families like mine, each time they walk into a voting booth and strip us of the right to be legal parents. Or the right to marry. Or the right to keep our jobs or our apartments. Or when they talk about us as if we’re less than they are: as if they, as human beings, deserve a voice in what we, as human beings, are allowed to feel, or do, or want. I drive next to, and eat next to, and live next to people who would do me violence, in one form or another, everyday. And I think that trying to bring a child into a world where that is simply a reality is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever faced.
So on top of anticipation, I feel anger. I feel what I imagine must be hatred (or the closest thing to hatred that I have ever known). I no longer care what brought a person to their bigoted opinions, and I no longer feel any responsibility to lovingly persuade them against fighting to deny me equality. Almost everyone in America today has access to (even if it has to be sought for) representations of gay human beings who want nothing more than equal rights, who are not a threat to “family values.” Everyone can overcome their bigoted surroundings to acknowledge the human worth of others. If they choose not to, then I feel justified in my anger towards them. It is not my duty in life to teach them not to hate me.
Though it’s foreign to me, I predict that this anger will serve me in the years to come. Maybe it was about time that I toughened up, faced what is simply, unavoidably, true. People will see my family and judge us. They’ll think, without knowing anything about us, that our children should be taken away. So, okay. They’ve made a fighter out of this loving, patient pacifist. And though I pray that these emotions will fall away in the years to come (that legal and social victories will render them unnecessary), I can handle them for now. My single priority – with which nothing else competes – is the safety, security, and happiness of my family. And people who threaten that have made themselves an enemy.