All over my Facebook feed, there are people posting, talking, supporting Marriage Equality today. It’s truly an amazing thing. What a different world it is today than it was five, ten, twenty years ago.
Last night, as the evening news talked about the Supreme Court challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and DOMA, as straight people were everywhere were talking about marriage being a civil right, it seemed a good a time as any to talk to my daughter about how this applies to our family. She is just thirteen, the same age (or maybe even a little older) that I was when I discovered that my father was gay. I found out by eavesdropping on my sister and a girlfriend talking derisively about my father’s boyfriend.
I remember the shock, the fear, the mild revulsion as I processed the information. Back then, of course, one didn’t speak of such things. It was perfectly acceptable to call people fags, homos and queers. There weren’t any TV shows talking about gay people. But then as I thought about the whole thing, I realized that it didn’t change anything. I liked my dad’s boyfriend. I didn’t want to think about them having sex any more than I wanted to think about my parents doing it. So they were gay. They were still good people. Whatever.
We hardly ever spoke about the gay thing as a family. My mother knew that I knew, but we didn’t speak of it. My father knew that I knew, but we didn’t talk about it. I certainly didn’t talk to my siblings about it. And most of my friends were blissfully unaware of it. Plenty of people had divorced parents, and my father’s boyfriend never made an appearance in our lives. He just happened to be at the house if we went to visit my father. But he didn’t come to funerals, graduations or weddings. I worried what people would think if people found out he was gay. What would they think of me?
But telling my daughter was an entirely different experience. Of course “gay” still isn’t something that is widely accepted amongst her peer set. Being called gay or queer at school is still considered negative. But the plethora of information and familiarity her generation has with homosexuality through pop culture has led them to a much more open attitude about it. Some people are gay, some are straight. It’s just who you are. My daughter shrugged her shoulders when I talked to her last night, as if the news was a: not at all a surprise (after all, she knows my father’s partner lives with him we see them together every Christmas) and b: no big deal. The stigma and the strangeness of it all just weren’t there as they were for me. Gay is just part of life these days.
In fact, the only question my daughter had was how my father could marry my mother, since obviously you are who you are, and if he was gay, why would he choose a woman for a partner? Explaining society in the 1960s, where being gay was simply not an option, where one got married because that was simply the only choice that existed, was hard to do. Because she can’t even imagine a world where black people sat on the back of the bus and gay people couldn’t talk about who they were. I told her that while my father loved my mother, and was happy to be a father and have a family, eventually he became very frustrated. He was who he was, and eventually he had to live the life he was made to live, not the one that society forced on him. I am still not sure it made a lot of sense to her, but she nodded and said she understood.
How wonderful it is to have that time, the time when being hateful and bigoted, seems strange and foreign instead of the norm. We’re still not there yet, not by a long shot. But the tides definitely have turned, in a big way. I am not sure if the Supreme Court will be as far along as our society is….only time will tell.