Currently in Norfolk, Va., U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen is considering a reversal of Virginia's legal position on same-sex marriage. If Wright Allen, an Obama appointee, rules that the case has merit, it will be sent to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit, in Richmond and hopefully be heard again by the Supreme Court.
What this means to me and other gay and lesbian people in Virginia is that this is more than just giving us the option of getting married -- if that's what we choose to do -- it's a validation that our lives matter. Our children's lives matter. Instead of "those two lesbians down the street raising a child," or "the gay guys with kids," we are the parents, the uncles, the aunts and friends of a legally sanctioned union.
When I was a kid, I remember going to my friend Jimmy's house after school. Over chocolate chip cookies, Jimmy announced to his mom that "Gary and I are going to get married when we get older."
Her response was without any surprise. "No honey, boys have to marry girls. Boys who like other boys are called queers."
That was a defining moment in my life. I was no longer Gary; I was a queer. You see, I wanted to marry Jimmy. When he announced our engagement to his mom, I was happy. I had never been that happy before. Jimmy and I would be just like our parents, two people who loved each other who had a family.
As I got older, I began to realize that I needed to make some changes. Being queer was a dead end. The only notoriety I would ever receive would be a mention of my arrest in one of those parks where the queers hang out looking for dates. So, I made a promise to myself that when I turned the ripe old age of 28, an arbitrary age that seemed to be important to me at the time, I would become straight. Then, I would be what everyone wanted me to be: happily married to a woman, contemplating children.
When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time just trying to be myself. But there were always road blocks. The only other person in the school that I knew who might have been gay, was the assistant principal who was the butt of all jokes. One spring, when yearbooks came out, someone got the idea to write "I think you have a hot bod, Love Malcolm!" underneath his picture. In no time, you couldn't find a picture of the AP that wasn't defaced in some way. Sometimes the popular standouts would show me some attention, but it would almost always end badly. One time, the fastest runner in the school smiled and waved at me when we passed each other in the hallway. I was sure, he liked me. But the next time I saw him, he just blew me off and said, "My dad saw you. He said you were a faggot." What was it that I was doing that gave me away, I thought to myself.
I was equally unsuccessful in passing myself off as straight. Some of the girls liked me, but then it would get to that point when I couldn't or wouldn't want to even kiss them. When I was with the guys, I would try and drop my voice a few octaves but by second period, it would be lost and that familiar nasally twang would rear its head. Nowhere could I fit in.
As I got older (and closer to that fateful 28th birthday), I found myself not really wanting to move into the future. People would ask me what I wanted to be, what my plans were for the future. Most of the time I would shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know." Not because I had so many things I wanted to do, but because I just couldn't see living in this strange, new future. There was a morbid thought that played itself out at that time. If I were to die in an accident, I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore. It would be just like I wasn't even here.
By the time I was 28, I realized I couldn't turn off my gayness anymore than I could change my height from being tall to short, or my skin color pink to olive. Sexual orientation is not determined by the flip of a switch. It's so deeply embedded in the essence of who you are that without it you are negligible, not a complete person. You always feel like something is missing.
I wonder what would have happened had things been different. What if there was a family down the street with two dads, instead of a mom and a dad? And the two dads were just as good as the families with a dad and a mom? What if "queers" were looked as equal to everybody else? Would my life have been different? Would I have seen a future?
Virginia has always been a little slow to accept the rising tide of social progress. This is the same state where districts closed the schools and the state government led massive resistance to integration.
That's why this case is so important to us. We want to be recognized as being the same as everybody else. Same rights, same everything, nothing less and nothing more.