No matter what religion you are or are not, the holidays are usually a time for family. I guess we tend to notice other families more around this time because everyone is out shopping, celebrating, and doing what families do together every November through December.
This Halloween, my friend and I took her four year old son out trick-or-treating in my neighborhood in Los Angeles. I live right near a school, on a quiet, tree-lined street, so we figured this would be a great place for festivities. As we walked down the sidewalk, several porch lights were lit up, but when we knocked on the doors -- there was either no answer or the people inside were not prepared.
"What the heck?" I said, "There are kids all over this neighborhood -- why isn't anyone playing?"
Then we saw a door all lit up with fall-like decorations, so we thought that was a good bet. But when we knocked, a particularly rude woman came out and said, "We don't celebrate Halloween. It's rude to just go knocking on people's doors!"
Yikes. What is wrong with these people? I thought. I told my friend we should try closer to the school. As we turned the corner, we saw a line of about ten kids under the age of eight coming towards us. They were wearing glowing bracelets and lead at the front by a festively dressed gay dad, with his husband watching the back of the line. The dads and kids were singing some sort of Halloween song and having a great time -- so we stopped and asked them where we could find other houses that were celebrating. They invited us to their neighborhood, which was a few blocks over.
When we got there, EVERY house was decorated and every parent was not only handing out candy, but very involved -- getting their kids dressed, telling them scary stories, building Haunted Houses. Every parent also happened to be a gay parent.
Throughout the holiday season I have watched these families interact. And I couldn't help but remember that less than five years ago, not far from this neighborhood, I was stopped on a street corner by a group of picketers trying to convince me to sign a petition against gay marriage.
"Why do you care so much?" I asked.
One woman answered, "Gay marriage threatens traditional marriage!"
"The only one who can threaten YOUR marriage is YOU," I laughed.
This particular woman was there with her child and went as far as to say that (gay) men have no maternal instinct and shouldn't be raising kids -- alluding to them most likely being pedophiles. This was not the first time or nearly the last time I have heard this sick statement.
I happen to be a straight woman, raised in a traditional two-parent home -- with a mom and dad that loved the hell out of my siblings and me. Growing up in the melting pot of Los Angeles, we were fortunate enough to live around a diverse group of people. As a child, I knew a lot of gay men and women and it neither confused me, nor caused me to become gay.
Now as an adult, my experience in general has been that gay parents tend to be extremely involved in their children's lives and try just a little bit harder than their heterosexual counterparts. I suppose it's because they have to. If you're heterosexual, you can marry (and divorce!) whoever you like. You can also get pregnant by accident.
Gay couples have had to fight to have their relationships recognized. If they want children, they have to save, plan, and pray that either their in vitro works or that they are able to adopt. In order to go through what they go through, you have to really WANT a family.
As a heterosexual, this has taught me that family should never be taken for granted and secondly, I thank my lucky stars I haven't had to fight as they have.
In the past few years, we have come a long way with regards to treatment of gay Americans, but we have a long way to go. We got the Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty all over every headline last week because of racist and anti-gay statements, which have outraged some and caused others to say, 'Meh. He's a redneck saying redneck stuff.' Same way I've heard people excuse racism in older people because they 'came from a different generation.' It was wrong then and it's wrong now.
As the New Year draws near, my hope is that we embrace love wherever it is found and however it looks and that we learn from our differences -- instead of being afraid of them. But most importantly, that we look at OURSELVES so that we need not be 'threatened' by the lives of others.