I’ve posted satirically about gay marriage before on the blog. Well this week, we’re going to revisit that topic. This is Gay Pride week, both in San Francisco and in New York City. Those are the locations where you’ll find almost all of my readers. So once again, I’m going to write about gay marriage. But this time, I’m not laughing.
MONKEY BUSINESS by Tony Asaro (Composer/Librettist)
When I debate marriage equality, I typically take an “equal rights” position. Constitutional protection is my main point. Not allowing us to marry creates a second class of citizens who do not have the same rights as the rest of the country, rights that are ostensibly guaranteed to all people by the Constitution. I try to leave the personal side of the equation out of my argument. It’s best to fight fear and ignorance with facts. I learned that from Kevin Jennings during my days as a gay youth advocate for GLSEN. No matter how personal and emotional the topic is, leave the personal and emotional out of your argument.
It is understandable that people get emotional when arguing against hate and bigotry—beliefs that are themselves rooted in emotion. When the essential part of your being is attacked, it only makes sense that people would get defensive. So often you hear people on our side using the emphatic declaration: “Being gay is not a choice!” While I do believe that being gay is not a choice, I don’t think that should be the cornerstone of our argument. I say, “So what if it is a choice? People make countercultural choices with their lives all the time. Atheists, pornographers, hermits, nudists… These lifestyles are all choices, but all who choose them deserve the same rights as everyone else.” There you have it: a non-emotional approach which works quite well.
Today, however, I’m gonna get emotional. This issue does hold a lot of emotion for me. And besides, this forum ain’t no debate; it’s Monkey Business where I can write about whatever I want. It’s MY party and I’ll cry if I want to.
The church was a familiar church from my childhood, and for the reception, they chose the Sons of Italy hall in the Geneva Mission in San Francisco. This hall has a special significance for us. Known to my family as “The Sons of It’ly”, it was the place that my Grandmother’s generation used to socialize. It was also where Todd’s parents (my cousin Craig and his wife Lynn, now both deceased) had their wedding reception nearly forty years ago.
Ring bearer (and son) Levio, and flower girl Sofia.
Todd’s sister, Stacy, was the maid of honor, and Todd’s brothers, Christopher and Ryan were his groomsmen. Stacy, the oldest of the four, is my age. Our cousin Jennifer, two years younger than me, was there with her kids—her adorable three year-old daughter, Sofia, taking the role of Flower Girl very seriously. My cousin Jason who restores vintage cars was the chauffer.
The newlyweds were driven to the reception in this beauty. It was pretty bad ass.
We all grew up together. We were very close. With Italians, family is everything. As I looked around the wedding at my cousins, each with their own families just beginning, I couldn’t help think that not so long ago, there were Ms. PacMan wars, and barbecues, and hurt feelings, and vacations to the Russian River, and Sesame Street Playhouses, and Cabbage Patch Kids with headgear… Now, we’re the adults. We’re the parents. We’re the ones getting married.
Well, they are, anyway… The great cycle of regeneration, this legacy of renewal, doesn’t belong to me. For me, this is a spectator sport. A wonderful spectator sport, mind you. I sit in the pew full of pride. I could burst with the excitement of seeing my cousins starting out on the next leg of the journey, the torches high in their hands.
But as it stands now, I will not be married. Nor will I have children. My last name will not be passed to a spouse, or to a child. (Thankfully, my brother has taken up that slack and the Asaro name will live on through him.) But, I will not carry that torch. I’ll walk alongside them that do. I will accompany them as a scribe, recording their triumph, but never knowing it for myself.
I guess as a young gay man, I never really thought about what I would be giving up. I have a very loving and accepting family. I am never made to feel different, or less-than. It didn’t occur to me that who I am would (and does) preclude my involvement in my family’s propagation and in its rituals. I also didn’t know that one day, I'd hear the ticking of my own biological clock. I didn’t know gays had them.
My assumptions about my gay life in my early days of gayhood came from what I witnessed in our culture, I think:
- Gays are single. Only rarely do they have long term relationships that resemble marriages.
- Gays do not raise children. The exceptions to this being gays who come out of the closet after having been married and fathering children with a woman, or wealthy gays who can afford to adopt, and who have the time/desire to jump through all the legal hoops.
- Gays are separate. They live somewhere outside the hetero paradigms.
Most of us in my generation grew up with these ideas being reinforced. Homosexuality was never discussed in school. Gays (and those perceived to be gay) were vilified on the playground and often in our homes. Homosexuality was underrepresented and often misrepresented in the mainstream media. The predominant ideas in everyone’s mind were that homosexuality is a sin against God, a thing from which we need to protect children, and something that undoubtedly leads to AIDS.
What would my expectations have been for my life if at 18 years-old, I could have turned on the television set once a week to watch Cam and Mitchell with their daughter Lily on Modern Family? Or if gay relationships were talked about in my third grade class? Or if I saw lawmakers, activists, and even religious leaders advocating for my right to get married? This is the world gays are coming out in today. The change in our community is palpable. Our mores are evolving.
But I’m a generation older than that. I am the transition. The tide had not yet turned when I was coming of age. I saw the change on the horizon though, and as a young man, I started to want the things I never thought I was entitled to have. Family? Children? Marriage? Stability? Support? Normalcy? You mean, I could have those things…!?!?
In my 20s, concurrent with all of these questions circling round in my head, I was in love with a wonderful man. David, my then partner and I, decided to have a commitment ceremony in 2001. I don’t think anyone—my family, friends nor even David and I—ever thought that it was real. Not in the way a marriage is real, anyway. The ceremony was more of a way for us all to say, “This love is legitimate, cruel world!” than it was a true cementing of our lives together. I don’t mean that to sound pejorative. We loved each other, and we were very much loved by our friends and family. But there was no precedent for us to which we could look, no happily-ever-after fairytale for us in which we could believe.
There still isn’t. We’re much closer now, but gays only have marriage rights in a handful of states. Even then, having equal rights does not mean having equal acceptance. While the victories are happening in courts and state legislatures all over the country, the predominant message is still that gay marriage is abnormal. Our attempts to establish families that resemble the straight paradigm are deemed unworthy and inferior by the culture and by the law. Long-term relationships and stable families are not what gays do and not who gays are, or so we're continually told...
My cousin Stacy will be married to her fiancé, Orlando, this fall. She wants many children, and she wants to host holidays. I listen to her as she half plans/half day dreams her future. I know now that I want the same things as she does. I want to surprise my husband with flowers at work. I want to redo the kitchen cabinets, compromising on the color of the stain. I want to make chocolate chip pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse for my ratty-haired, pajama-clad family on Sunday mornings, just like my dad did.
I’m not sure if any of these things will ever happen for me. I try to be hopeful, but I have low expectations. And if that life isn’t in the cards for me, that’s fine. Being the scribe is still pretty wonderful. But even if I am left out, the next generation deserves to be allowed to contribute. And we, right now, can enact that change.
I wager that if you’re reading my blog every week, you’re probably on the side of marriage equality already. But not everyone around you reads my blog, nor thinks similarly. You can start with them. The next generation of LGBT young adults needs your advocacy. We are very close to winning this argument legally at the federal level, but we have a long way to go to win this argument in the hearts and minds of much of America.
To my straight readers, this week is Pride week, so take a minute to think about your lives, and what you’re proud of. For many of you, that will be your marriage, your children, your home. Think about how important those things are to you—how you define your existence by them. Think about what it would be like to not be allowed to have those things. Then look around at all the bigotry being spewed by the anti-gay marriage initiatives before congress and in the courts right now. Look at the Michelle Bachmanns and Mitt Romneys and Rick Santorums--all of whom want a shot at making sure gays and lesbians never get to participate in the fabric of America.
To my gay readers, be proud this week, and always. Know that the next generation will stand on our shoulders. They will carry the torches we hand them on the next leg of our journey. Make it a torch that shines brightly.
HAPPY PRIDE, MONKEYS!