What happened this past week? Was I dreaming? Or did I slip into some alternate America of tolerance and compassion?
First, the President of these United States-yeah, that guy-offered up the single most important speech in gay rights history. No, really. This past week-Monday, January 22, 2013, to be exact-in the first oration of his second term, President Barack Hussein Obama was the first American president to mention gays and lesbians in his inaugural address. In a speech that equated the suffragette convention of Seneca Falls and the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery with the spontaneous riot at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969-a riot that marked the beginning of the LGBT Movement-my president stated in no uncertain terms that that none of us were equal until “our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.” Whoa. I gotta confess I was so thunderstruck at the audacity of hope stirred by those parceled words that I wept. Aloud. Like a white woman. Honestly, tears streamed down my face in Justin-Timberlake-just-left-me rivers. But then he (Obama, not Justin) continued, “For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
What the s**t? Did the president just endorse marriage equality on the steps of the U.S. capital? Can he do that??
And yet this remarkable event was not enough. Since I’d tuned in late to the inaugural festivities, it wasn’t until later that I learned I’d missed another phenomenon. No, not Beyoncé’s lip-synching of the National Anthem. But seriously, by the way, why-oh-why is this news? I mean, who the f**k cares about this, except maybe Ashlee Simpson? Anyway, Barry’s unprecedented ‘coming out’ was actually preceded by an openly gay Hispanic poet tendering the inaugural poem. Did I just die and go to The Anvil on Slave Night? On the most public of stages, Richard Blanco, a Cuban-Spanish immigrant, standing on the steps of the nation’s capital, articulated the strength and unity of the “one light we move through” under the “one sky … our sky” canopying overhead of this our “one country”. The sweeping generosity of that singular poem could not be denied, especially knowing, after hurriedly researching this daredevil ‘Richard Blanco’, the struggle he withstood at the austerity of his bigoted grandmother, a woman who upbraided him for being “un pato faggot”. This alone drew me to him in solidarity for every insult and epithet I braved and weathered at the hands of small town bullies and goons. And even my own mother, who once told me that my being gay made her “want to vomit”.
Who was this guy? And how did he just tap into my and my nation’s experience so crisply? So intimately?
More sobbing. More kvelling.
But then there was Jacob Rudolph, a New Jersey teenager who, on a considerably smaller but no less public stage, in accepting his school award for Best Actor, came out publicly, not only to his parents, but his high school-teachers, students, the always-homophobic high school football team (I speak from personal experience.)-all at the same time. His proud father posted a video to YouTube, making my ability to share in this occasion convenient and yet a far more universal and impacting admission. In a time when approximately 28% of gay and lesbian youth drop out of high school because of discomfort (due to verbal and physical abuse) in the school environment, young Jacob’s stand was both courageous and defiant and otherworldly.
And now, today, I learn that the Boy Scouts of America are reexamining their ancient and obsolete rule against gay scouts and scout leaders.
Oh my gods! I need more Kleenex.
Needless to say, it’s been a very emotional week for me, not to mention the LGBT community. (Can I get a ‘What, what!’) Nothing in my past or my present could have prepared me for the overwhelming feelings of relief and elation and stupefaction that have seeped into every part of my world in the past seven or eight days.
As gays and lesbians in America inch ever closer to first-class citizenry, weeks like this are game-changers. However, I wish they weren’t. I wish it were not necessary for a young person or a poet or a president, for anyone, to have to stand up for gays and lesbians in this country. I wish the act of “coming out” wasn’t even necessary. That a parents’ realization that their child is gay was welcomed with, simply, a satisfaction in knowing. Period. And not anything more. That as each child developed, they were allowed to be whomever and whatever they needed to be.
But for now, gimme this crazy Bizarro-America of open arms and articulate thinking and wrap it up like Christmas. I never thought I’d live to see the day.
And if I’m dreaming, please, don’t wake me up.
Thus ends my catechism.