The annual festival is nearing once again. While I check which events we'll attend and go out to buy a new outfit, I still feel this knot; double tied and twisting in my chest. Pride. It echoes and bounces around my skull. Of what do I have to be proud? Proud that my home country won't recognize my marriage as an equal to my heterosexual friend's marriage? Proud to see Michelle Bachmann, in all her homophobic glory, campaigning to run this country? Is another year in a "civil union", a term cooked up to make us feel less than content, something that should make me proud?
Before I jump back on that soap box, I want to tell you a story-something that happened which I think sums up how I really feel about this subject.
Two years ago, my partner and I went to Atlanta with my sister and her husband to our usual New Years Eve celebration-the Widespread Panic concert. We were having the best time, waiting to go in for the concert. I adore my sister and brother-in-law.
Bundled up and buzzing, we walk with the crowds to Phillips Arena. Standing elbow to elbow with everyone waiting for get inside, I hear a commotion. And then we see them; standing with their furious signs and shouting on the sidewalk. I don't need to read what's on the sign or even guess what they're yelling; I've seen this all before.
Others shout back, angry at their presence. Even though I am in no immediate danger, I slip my hand into Ruth's hand for that gentle support. She squeezes back, eyes fixed in the other direction. My wonderful older sister, even if she is a little intoxicated, shouts with the others. This upsets her too, even as she stands with her husband.
"Why are they even here?" she asks.
Although my thoughts are the same, I know those people understand homosexuality doesn't exist only during the Pride festival; it is a continuous existence. It never rests.
But I understand that neither does hatred.
Really getting in a tizzy, my sister looks at me and says we, Ruth and I, should go kiss. Right in front of their signs. I know she means this as a heartfelt suggestion. But then it came to me. I looked back at the people-at their faces-then back at my sister's face. I said, "I'm not trying to make a scene. I'm just trying to live my life." And that was it.
The crowd thinned and we made it into the arena to enjoy the rest of the night. When they counted down to midnight, I kissed my love, my partner, just like everyone else.
What I learned from that night was pure reality-I just wanted to live my life.
Now, back to this soap box.
Something must change.
The answer must be simpler than moving away. Moving somewhere where getting married or starting a family isn't out of reach. Moving away from our family and friends.
I think maybe where some get confused is the title. Where one may picture marriage beginning in a church, I picture marriage starting in the heart. Those who fight passionately for the sanctity of Holy Matrimony are mislead. I don't want Holy Matrimony-I want a marriage. I have a marriage. Getting caught up in virtues and the relevancy of literature on the subject is nothing in which I'm interested.
That paper? That license that says I'm qualified to the same rights as a heterosexual wed couple? That's what I want. And that's where the confusion lies, I believe. Holy Matrimony versus marriage. Partnership, friendship, love, acceptance, playfulness, sharing dreams, accomplishing goals...that's a marriage.
Let me share another story.
One night, driving home from visiting my mother, my car was suddenly hit by something. We pulled over to investigate and found a dent-around the size of a bullet as could be produced from a b.b. gun or pellet gun. We'd seen a group of people outside a house we passed when hit and furiously called the police. When they arrived, Ruth began to recap the event and she, being in the passenger seat had first noticed those outside the house. I was shaken up and while Ruth was talking, the officer looked at me then back at Ruth.
He asked who's car it was and I told him it was under my name. He scrunched up his nose and looked at Ruth. "Then why are you doing most of the talking?"
After discovering there was really nothing they could do, we drove home. Ruth, staring contimplatively out her window said, "You know, I realize now that we will never be seen as a couple..." I knew it struck a nerve with her so I changed the subject to get her mind away from it.
But honestly, I think about it quite often. In fact, while I lead a busy and happy life, I think about it constantly. All of it. Every time we've been to the bank and seen the confused looks on the faces of the tellers when we explain, "No, it's a joint account." Everytime a server assumes we're on separate checks. When we were looking for the perfect place to have our ceremony (note the absence of the word wedding) I remember the beautiful places we had to pass up because same sex ceremonies were something they just didn't do.
They seem menial and mundane events but when you face them everyday, they combine and converge into one massive wall in front of another.
I know I'm not alone in feeling this. And I know it is not only gay or lesbian people feeling this. Daily, heterosexuals fight for the rights of their homosexual neighbors. For those of you who have never attended the Atlanta Gay Pride Festival, you might be surprised to learn that there is a straight float in the parade. But you don't have to ride the float to show your support. And let me be frank, support of the 'lifestyle' is not the same as support for human rights, for those who struggle with this subject.
You can visit http://atlantapride.org and find out other ways you can support or celebrate. Personally, the Centerstage Loft is always first on our list, where we definitely make an appearance every Pride.
So, October 9-10, you can support human rights in Atlanta. I hope to see you there.