Monday, April 1, 2013

Just do it already!

I've been sick. So sick I wanted to fucking die. Nothing that would kill me, of course, because I'm tough. Just a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit, stage-4 lung cancer, and I might have swallowed some razor blades as well. I'm feeling much better today, thanks for asking.

I'll tell you what else makes me sick. This.

This. Makes. Me. Sick.

I don't know what your Facebook feed looked like last week, but mine looked like it was bleeding. Bunch of bleeding heart liberals with their equality symbols.

I got up off my death sick bed to change mine too. I'll leave it up while we wait to see whether SCOTUS chooses to ring the death bells for fucking DOMA. Rights shouldn't be a choice, but here we are, letting the high court choose.

You know who doesn't have a choice though? Gay people. They don't have a choice whether they're treated like they're not as good as the rest of us because they're gay.

And they don't have a choice about being gay.

It makes me sick that in the year 2013 we're still having this discussion. Add a broken heart to my list of ailments.

And let me tell you a story.

My little brother is gay. He came out to me sometime in the early 90's, when he was in his early 20's. I already knew. I'd known for years. Our mom had suspected for years. Even though he dated girls and voted Republican and listened religiously to Rush Limbaugh, I knew he was gay. Even though he loved cars and mowing the yard and fixing shit, I knew he was gay.

He told our middle sister first, and then she told me because she can't keep a secret. I had to keep it a secret from him that I knew. And then act surprised when he told me. Only, of course I wasn't surprised, because I wasn't surprised when she told me. I knew.

I don't think anybody was surprised when he came out, because in addition to those manly qualities I listed above, my little brother liked to wear suits and Italian leather shoes even when he was in high school. His car was too clean, he buffed his nails, and when he was in high school, he sometimes went on a date with 3 girls at once. And after our dad died, he quit football and wrestling because he loved swing choir and theatre and wanted to focus on those instead. It was a big deal. And he worked in a funeral home. (In case you didn't know, the funeral home business is a hotbed of homosexuality. In fact, that's probably what made him gay.)

None of those things I listed would necessarily flip the switch on the gaydar, just as none of those things on the other list would flip the straightdar. I can't tell you how I knew he was gay. I just knew. So for years I just waited for him to catch up.

And it did take years. For reasons.

First, we come from a small rural town in Iowa. Everybody knows everybody and everybody's business.

I don't know what it's like to be gay there now, but I know what it was like when I was growing up. A boy who was suspected of being gay could get hurt. Bad. Nobody wants to be the gay guy in a small town in Iowa -- at least not then.

And my brother was popular -- both in high school because he was smart, funny, and so talented, and because he took care of people at the funeral home. People loved him ..... and people would not see him the same if they knew he was gay. It's really best to be normal in a small town.

(Of course, Iowa has marriage equality now [Fuck you, California!], but when my brother came out, that wasn't even on the radar.)

Second, he  knew too many young gay men who had come out and been disowned by their families. I knew that wasn't likely to happen to my brother -- at least not at the time he came out. But had circumstances been different .....

Our dad died when my brother was 15. Let's just say he wasn't a very liberal man when it came to differences like race and gender. None of us can know how he would have reacted, and to be honest, I'm glad we didn't have to find out.

Seems like that would make it easier, doesn't it? That he didn't have to come out to Dad? Well, it didn't. Because a son can still disappoint a dead father, and disappoint him terribly -- in his own imagination. A son can take on the shame he's sure his father would feel. And my brother believed his dad would be terribly disappointed in him for being gay. In fact, he could never be sure his own dad wouldn't have been one of those fathers who turns away from his son and never wants to see him again. He could never be sure.

I like to think our dad loved him too much to have done that. I can't be sure either though.

And my little brother also had a older brother -- one who was a lot like Dad -- a hard-drinking, Rush-loving redneck who worked at the quarry driving the heavies. He wasn't likely to embrace the rainbow.

He also had 3 sisters and a mom, and while I don't think he should have worried about any of us caring one way or another (women love gay men, right?), he couldn't know for sure that he wouldn't lose his entire family, and that was something he couldn't bear the thought of.

I'm going to skip a whole bunch of other reasons why my little brother didn't come out sooner, because I'm probably preaching to the choir anyway. I'm just going to land on the third and last one.

Third, once he came out to us, he would have to be out to himself, and he was the hardest person he had to come out to. Once he did it, there would be no going back. No hiding in the safety of being a straight man. Once he came out, he would have to accept who he was -- a gay man in a culture where being gay put him at a disadvantage in almost every way, even if his family and his small hometown did accept him.

He knew he would give up so much.

He loved kids, and the likelihood that he would ever have his own family would plummet. He would have to settle for being a fabulous uncle. He couldn't fall in love and get married, and even if he partnered up, he wouldn't have the same rights. He could be fired just for being gay. In some states he could be arrested. He was at a higher risk for HIV/AIDS. People in his own political party would accept his money and his vote while keeping a foot on his neck so he wouldn't ruin their god-given right to a civil union. He might be bullied or beaten or tied to a fence and left to die ...... 

Once he came out, my little brother would never again pretend --either to his family or to himself -- that he was a straight, white man. He would be different.

He would never again enjoy the privilege of being a straight, white man, even though he would still exactly the same man he was before.

He was exactly the same man before he came out as he was after he came out. The only thing that changed was perception.

Why would he choose that?

He wouldn't. He would never have chosen to be gay. My little brother  -- although he wouldn't change it all these years later -- would have chosen to be a straight man. If he'd been given a choice. He wasn't given a choice.

The rest of us have a choice. We can choose to stop treating people like they're different just because they're gay.

I know it's a radical concept, but gay people just aren't different. They're normal, and it's time we stopped treating them like they're not. (Even using this language makes me uncomfortable. "They." There is no they when it comes to rights. It's us.)

Enough, I say. We do have a choice.

A choice SCOTUS will be making for us, and I hope they make the right one, because really there is only one right choice.

I hope eventually my granddaughter never has to see one of these unless it's in a history book. Equality comes when you no longer have to tell people you're all equal.


  1. My reaction to the little pink boxes was "what a bunch of sheep!" I searched for an alternate and wound up with Rothko, who painted everything in boxes.
    Mind you I was part gay way back when the sexually strayed met in warehouses set up as private clubs, before gay bars were even legal. In fact, I remember when "gay" meant extra happy in public and was a private word amongst deviates. (By part gay, I mean I'm "bi". I love everyone.)

    Thanks for your precious words. It is pitiful that so much debate has to go on to give part of our populace that which is clearly in the constitution yet denied to them.


    1. I've seen a dozen variations. I don't much like the bacon one, which is carrying the love of bacon just that much too far in my opinion, but there are some creative options out there.

      Thanks for your words, Barbara. "Sexually strayed." Sigh.

  2. I switched my profile pic immediately when I read what it was about. I had seen the blue equal sign on someone's car last week, and Alyssa looked it up while we were driving. I think only 1-2 other friends had changed their profile at the time. I liked watching my newsfeed turn red. I spent that first day listening to the audio of the SCOTUS' Day 1 of the hearing.

    But, thank you for writing this. I've been looking at the profile pic, and thinking how sad it all is that this is a debate of any kind today. Your brother's story is a grim reminder of middle America back in "the good ole days."

    I read that Scalia pushed to have this case heard because they were aware how the sentiment of the country is going, and every day they DIDN'T hear it, DOMA would be losing ground. In spite of being irritated by him being such a troll on the court, I was so reassured by the women of the Supreme Court! Articulate, smart, not being pushed around. What incredible role models they are for girls today!

    1. Indeed. We need more women on the Supreme Court. Given ... you know ... we represent more than 50% of the population. Scalia is a dinosaur. It's time for him to follow his brethren into extinction.