After my last Huffington Post blog, "'Angry Queers' Break Stained Glass Windows," I received this email: "Always enjoy reading your words and hearing your thoughts but sometimes I think you're trying so hard to make your point that you come across bitter." Me, the happy homo, bitter? Corny, preachy, hyperbolic, bombastic, boring, maybe, but bitter?
Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. How could I be bitter? In fact, I woke up yesterday morning celebrating what happened on June 18, 2008, at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. Who would have believed it possible that Gary and I would celebrate 30 years together, or that our relationship would be honored by church and state alike? I walked the beach just after sunrise, and last night Gary and I celebrated three decades together with lemon-drop martinis, Thai fried rice, and a movie.
The day before that was Father's Day. How could I be bitter? Mike texted me, "Love you, Dad," from a location in Hawaii; Erinn and her husband, Dr. Terry Rich, took us out to lunch; our granddaughter Katie gave us photos she had framed; and our grandson Sean gave us "Grampa #1" baseball hats and T-shirts. How could I be bitter when life couldn't be better?
On second thought, maybe the emailer is right. I am bitter. Bitterness, the dictionary says, is "resentment felt as a result of a real or imagined wrong done." I checked my Thesaurus to see if any of the adjectives under "bitter" describe my feelings after 25 years of working to help end religion-based oppression, and I discovered that the writer of that email was right. I am "bitter": resentful, angry, infuriated, irate, enraged, incensed, outraged, and anxious.
I'm resentful that Christian leaders -- Protestant, Catholic, and Mormon alike -- still warn the public that we are a threat to family and to nation. I'm angry that "holy terrorists" on the Christian right are still determined to reverse the rights we have gained, amend the U.S. Constitution, and drive us back into our closets. I'm infuriated that children who are different are still being bullied and called "fag." I'm irate that lesbians and gays are still being rejected by their parents, priests, and pastors. I'm enraged that they are still being crippled in body and in spirit by gay-bashers who really believe they are doing God's business. I'm incensed that LGBT teenagers are at least twice as likely to attempt suicide than their non-LGBT peers. I'm outraged that year after year our transgender sisters and brothers are the number-one victims of hate crimes across the U.S. And I'm anxious that about what could happen to the U.S. (and to us) if the tea-party types take the White House and the Congress on election day, November 2012.
I admit it: I'm bitter. However, I'm not just bitter. Once again, my Thesaurus filled in some of my (hopefully) more positive adjectives: grateful, ecstatic, thrilled, elated, hopeful, encouraged, delighted, and thankful. I'm grateful that I'm married to a man who, in spite of my failures and broken promises, has never given up on me. I'm ecstatic that we begin our retirement living in a little cottage just blocks from the beach. I'm thrilled that I have a loving extended family, including my former wife, and literally hundreds of loyal friends. I'm elated that my heroes are calling Holy Terror "[a] consciousness raising, must read book" (Spong) and "a page-turning whodunit that is both chilling and enormously instructive" (Robinson). I'm hopeful that you will forgive me for sneaking in a Holy Terror plug. I'm delighted that so many religious leaders, local congregations, and even whole denominations are becoming open and affirming. I'm encouraged by the gains we have made. And I'm optimistic that we will go on making them.
I admit it. There are times when I am bitter and other times when I am almost overcome by joy. I sometimes wonder which emotion will triumph in the end. Tomorrow will I wake up singing something cheery from a Broadway musical or find myself still waving my fist at the "holy terrorists" on the Christian right? I have no idea. But in the meantime, it's hard to stay bitter very long knowing that God created me gay and loves me exactly as I was created. When a "holy terrorist" waves his Bible and calls me sick and sinful, I can look him in the eye and say with certainty: I am gay. I am proud. And God loves me without reservation. Try staying bitter after saying that!