I never went to law school, but I was a serious student of United States history, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. We have a democracy that is governed by a system of checks and balances. No branch of government is supposed to have exclusive control. The rights of the many should not trample the rights of the few.
The Declaration of Independence is not law, but it is the foundation for many of our laws. Key components of that foundation are supposed to be the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are foundations and laws. The rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion are equally significant. One should not trump the other.
The morning of September 11, 2001 was beautiful in central North Carolina. Little did I know that one of the most horrific days would unfold a few hours later at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. The contrast between light and dark was numbing. The effects lasted for weeks.
I have not had a 9-11 segment of extreme highs and lows until the past ten days. The beauty, the peace, came from being with my extended family. It was my first time with them since some of them had learned that I acknowledged being gay. I did not know who knew, but I knew it extended beyond the circle of people with whom I had spoken. I did not want that to be the focus of my visit, and I am thankful that it was not.
The focus was on my aunt, her funeral, and her family. That is where the focus belonged. She, her husband, and their children were among the most influential people in my life. I wanted to acknowledge that influence. I wanted my cousins to know that I love them, their mother, and their father.
My dad did not “do young children well” when I was a child. That meant I could not really start establishing a relationship with him until I was twelve, becoming a young adult, and becoming logical. He had an edge. Mom was loving and sweet with no edge. My aunt was loving but she had a touch of an edge. I needed a bridge between my mom’s sweetness and my dad’s pronounced edge. My aunt was that bridge.
The funeral service was beautiful. There was love. There was joy in seeing each other, and regret knowing that the only time many of us can get together is at a funeral. Prayers were said. I felt a mutual sense of peace and pain realizing the opening prayer given by my hospice care uncle would most likely be the last time I heard his voice on earth. Kind words were spoken. Gospel truths were taught. Songs were sung Instruments were played in perfect harmony. We laughed. We cried.
The kind words and love continued in the days after the service:
“Know that we love you and that you will always be a part of the family.”
“I feel impressed to tell you that your best days are ahead of you.”
“You are a great cousin and friend.”
The joys of those moments were scarred by the senseless deaths in Colorado. I did not focus on that a lot. My prayers went out to the victims and their families. There was not much more I could do.
A comment a few days later from one of my newer friends caused me to stop, to think, and to grow sad. It was his observation that in the minds of many people, the sin next to murder is the love that he shares with the love of his life. I sent them a small gift later in the week acknowledging their Facebook relationship status. It was not a wedding gift. Like North Carolina, Utah and most other states do not recognize ‘Husband and husband,” or “Wife and wife.” They are doing what they can do in their pursuit of happiness, but they are restricted to a Facebook status change and a commitment ceremony.
In my opinion, the most galvanizing argument against civil same-sex marriage is the opinion that it is not taught in the Bible and this is a Christian nation so same-sex marriage must be outlawed. I think that is a flawed argument.
This is NOT a Christian nation. It is a nation specifically founded on the right of freedom of religion and the prohibition of a state religion. Many of the foundations of our laws are found within Christianity, but they are NOT EXCLUSIVE to Christianity. They are found in other creeds, and they are found outside of any religious creed.
Please note – I am not asking any religion to be required to perform same-sex marriages. I don’t think that I should dictate to any church any part of their doctrine. I am supporting civil same-sex marriage. In my opinion, no church or group of churches should dictate the availability of same-sex marriage to couples who want to be married.
The right of freedom of speech s important. I am exercising that right in this blog. Mr. Cathy of Chick-Fil-A has exercised his right. I am sure that he feels deeply that he is doing God’s work on earth.
I question if he actually knows any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people, because many of us who are one of the above have been deeply wounded by the manner in which he made his comments. When I came out, several of my friends said they would have to change their opinions about gay people because they knew I was a good person, even if they did not agree with my decision to look for a companion.
My Facebook feed has been bombarded by messages in opposition to and in favor of Mr. Cathy and Chick-Fil-A. One group is staying away. Another group is increasing their patronage. The right to decide were to spend or not spend our own cash is one method of expressing freedom of speech.
I do not know Mr. Cathy. I never expect to meet Mr. Cathy. I doubt Mr. Cathy will ever notice that I have stopped frequenting MOST of his restaurants when I travel. I have no dialogue with him and I don’t expect to be added to his appointment calendar.
I do know Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, though not as well today as I knew them several years ago. They own the two Chick-Fil-A franchises in my home town that I WILL continue to patronize. They contribute to causes that help my community. They provide jobs to people in my community. They were kind to my family and generous to some of our friends even though they knew we were Mormons, not the most popular religion in my community. They are good people
I do not know this for a fact, but I presume that Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey share the same opinion about same-sex marriage as Mr. Cathy. I still plan to patronize their two franchises, because we have an established relationship and they have always been respectful of that relationship.
I think we have too many people drawing lines in the sand. The ideological canyons being formed are deeper than the Grand Canyon. We need to talk more with each other – not less.
The whole argument about same-sex marriage is hypothetical to me. I do not have a companion. The argument about same-sex marriage is not hypothetical to my friends in Utah who are setting up their new life together this week. It is not hypothetical to my friends in Maryland, a monogamous gay couple who have been together over twenty years. They spent $7,000 in legal fees for the contracts that are necessary for them to carry out and secure the decisions they have chosen together – rights that would explicitly belong to them if they had a civil marriage.
I do not think I am anywhere close to finding a companion. But eleven years after making a decision that I would remain single and celibate, I am trying to move forward on the basis of a very strong, unexpected, and not requested premonition last March that I was supposed to have a companion and that companion should be a man.
One of my greatest frustrations is that in the three months since I started coming out that I have only met one other openly gay person in my county. I have looked for newspaper announcements about events where I might meet some people who are gay. I have searched the Internet and found events in surrounding counties, but nothing in my county.
So imagine my surprise and frustration last night to discover that there was an event in my county yesterday morning. I did not see it in the local media announcements. It did not show up in any Internet search that I did earlier in the week. It was not conspicuously listed on the page of the sponsoring organization like similar events being held in other counties.
Two close local friends who I know from different venues and who not know each other both expressed concern for my personal safety when I came out. They said this county is not friendly to openly gay people. They said this county does not welcome openly gay couples. Some other people have told me that if I want to live openly with a man as my companion that I need to move from this county.
Was the sponsoring organization of yesterday morning’s event afraid to make it publicly known? Did the people who attended yesterday’s event feel that their freedom of speech needed to be limited? I hope that I simply missed an announcement. I expect that word of the event was spread through the local gay grapevine. I just wish someone had tossed some grapes in my direction so I could have attended.
I was on a mental and an emotional high a week to ten days ago. I have been on my deepest mental and emotional low the past three days.
Several months after my separation and at the end of some counseling, I went to my doctor to discuss whether I need some medication to temporarily help me get over some depression. I had previously been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD – the temporary depression that some people experience when the days are shorter and the nights are longer. That is one reason I prefer living in North Carolina over Utah.
After discussing most of what had happened the previous few months, I received a short-term prescription for Zoloft. I did not fully discuss with my doctor why I was so depressed. He knew that much of it related to being separated and going through North Carolina’s lengthy divorce process. He did not know the biggest reason I felt depressed, though – the realization that I was most likely gay.
I did not know how to reconcile being gay with the some of the core teachings of my life. I did not want it to be true. I do not know how many mornings I regretted waking up because I was gay, but it numbered in the thousands. I finally got through that period. I entered that “wishing that I would not wake up” phase again for another six months a couple of years ago for a different reason before working thought it a second time, and retiring. As of this weekend, I am close to being there again – wondering why I am waking up.
I don’t take many prescriptions. Their annual refills expire next month. I will make an appointment. I will see my doctor. I will tell him I am gay. I will tell him that I have experienced recent depression. I will see what I can do to get through this phase between now and my appointment. I hope there is more sunshine than rain. I am somewhat adept at functioning and succeeding on the outside even when I am down on the inside.
I want to be me. I want to live here in central North Carolina with my cats, my dogs, and hopefully someday, a man. I want to continue talking with my family and my friends. I want us to continue to love and respect each other even when we don’t agree on important issues. If some organization thinks it is time for someone to be more vocal about the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of gay. lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in my community, I will see if there is some way that I can add to that dialogue.
I don’t want to argue. I don’t want to be rude. I don’t really want to take any new drugs, but I will if that is part of what is needed. I will order and eat the chicken sandwich, hope that my friendships grow with people who agree and disagree with me, and, if necessary, replace the side of waffle fries with a side of Zoloft for a time. Life is too short to be angry or miserable. Let’s enjoy the journey together.