DOMA now finds itself in the dustbin of American discriminatory history, and it's a time for celebration. It's also a time for reflection, and a time for focus. As I type this, Justice Antonin Scalia (who I'm sure in an alternate universe is my BFF) is reading the Supreme Court's dissenting opinion which in some ways is just as important as the majority opinion because it outlines the nonsense which brought us to this point and the fight still needing to be fought.
And to stay focused on how far equality might still have to travel, sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the arguments that still sway individuals such as Justice Scalia. The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book about lessons learned on 30 gay blind dates in the real world during these modern internet-driven times. I wrote it to ensure that we remember that we, in fact, do have an agenda, all of us, gay/straight, black/white, democrat/republican, team Edward/team Jacob. And that agenda is #equality.
I'd like to take a moment here to address a vicious rumor that has permeated the national media conversation for several years now: "the Gay Agenda." Depending on the source, be it a political despot, a religious zealot or a clearly closeted crackpot, "the gay agenda" reads something like this: Gays want to turn all children into homosexuals. (Pretty sure that Toddlers and Tiaras has the sexualization of children all taken care of -- there's no room for gays to make their mark there. And do we really need to have the conversation about 'turning' and 'choice' and Lady Gaga's 'born that way'? It's not 1813, it's 2013.) Gays want to ruin traditional marriage. (I love the retort: "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get one." What we actually want are the 1,138 rights outlined here, many financial, all emotional, that we are denied by not being able to marry. Simple.) Gays serving openly in the military are a threat to our national security. (Um: no, they're not. Ask the 25 other countries that "allow" gays to serve. And really, has our educational system in this country deteriorated to such a point that logic and reason are a thing of the past: do lawmakers actually think that banning gays from openly serving means there are no gays in the military? My face hurts.) Which leads to: gays want to undermine the very fabric of American civilization. (As opposed to the many, many years of civilization that have survived, quite well, with homosexuality as a natural and vital part of such societies.)
So let me acknowledge that there is, indeed, a gay agenda. And on a recent madcap roadtrip that I undertook (30 blind dates in 30 days in 30 U.S. cities... which I blogged about here), I opened my heart, my schedule and my journalistic sense of inquiry to explore just whether or not this 'gay agenda' really exists. To assist in my experiment, I relied on the very gay community said to have planned this insidious agenda -- 30 men in total.
And this is what my Gay Agenda looked like for one month, activities and events planned with care by my dates, every one of whom could teach a class on creativity and thoughtfulness: skeet shooting, a Joey Arias concert (run, don't walk...), a haunted house, five museum tours (the National Portrait Gallery, the Banjo Museum, the Historical Adventure Museum of Wichita, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the Cleveland Museum of Art), dinner at Mr. Rain's Fun House: An American Classic (a.k.a. House of Hilarious Meats), trespassing on the White House Lawn (one of the two of us, and it wasn't me...), a motorboat tour of Smith Mountain Lake, two sports bars, a screening of the HBO documentary Outrage, four peaceful hikes (Smoky Mountain National Park, Stone Mountain, Mt. Emily in Oregon, the mountain overlooking the University of Montana), two campfires (one with s'mores!), four campus tours (Furman University, the University of Wyoming, Eastern Oregon University and Gonzaga University), a driving tour of Buckhead, the affluent suburb of Atlanta, two tennis matches, a visit to an assassination site, not one, but two, meet and greets with live tigers, lost our food virginity together (me to fried green tomatoes, him to sushi), two butterfly exhibits (do yourself a favor...), the world of the DeSoto Caverns Family Fun Park, visited the Vulcan, the world's largest iron statue, a haunted tour at Sloss Furnace (it's not a haunted house, because there is no house...), two festivals (one Turkish, the other, the Pensacola Pride Festival), ate a 'Garbage Burger' at McGuire's, kite-flying (well, kite-crashing: there were witnesses), spray painted graffiti on a train underpass, had a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich picnic, played checkers, visited the Louisiana State Legislature building, went horseback riding, visited two aquariums, a double date, attended the Texas State Fair, a dog show and a petting zoo, paid respects at the Oklahoma City National Museum and Memorial, dedicated to the victims of the bombing in Oklahoma City, saw two movies, went ice-skating, took six city tours (Williamsburg, Baltimore, Greenville, Hastings -- the home of Kool-Aid! -- downtown Laramie and Park City), strolled through an art gallery, made a clandestine rooftop visit to the observation lounge of the second highest building in Wichita, toured two botanical gardens, bowled (horribly), strolled the Denver Zoo, saw the Ames Monument and Vedauwoo Overlook, the highest point of the transcontinental railroad, a drive-by of Robert Redford's Sundance Ranch and a visit to the Snowbird Ski Complex, karaoke (you knew that had to make the list, right?), two wine bars (one named the Grape Escape -- I love it!), a pool hall to shoot some pool, the Boise Train Depot, a winery, the Hot Lake historical site, a drive along B Avenue, the modern day road over the actual Oregon Trail, a chocolate apothecary, two paint-your-own-pottery sessions, a bakery, Spokane Falls, a hot tub dip under the stars, fulfilled my commitment to be a guest speaker at the Spokane gay youth group, a carousel ride (Grab the Brass Ring, people!), a blind date (truly: with a blind man), was taken to see my first abortion protest at a local clinic, sat in on an orchestral rehearsal for a children's concert, had my picture taken with the Mary Tyler Moore statue (I was hatless... next time!), shopped at two farmer's markets, saw the IMAX movie Bugs and then toured a live-frog exhibit (I love frogs), an 18-mile bike tour, planted a tree as part of an urban revitalization project in Detroit, took a hot air balloon ride and, last but not least, a shvitz at a Jewish bathhouse (my date was a complete gentleman, but we did see each other's junk).
So there you have it: a slice of life, a look into 30 days in the lives of gay men, dating, looking for love, putting themselves out there to meet someone they can partner with as part of their inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I do declare. Can we just call it a Human Agenda, and put this vicious rumor about there being a gay agenda to bed, once and for all?
The commonality among gay men and women when comparing their experiences with discrimination as opposed to any other group of people that are discriminated against is this: gay people don't have gay parents. So what is often a fundamental support system for others experiencing discrimination (racial, religious or otherwise) is that they can rely on family or larger cultural institutions to shore up their inner core to face the challenges presented to them in the face of discrimination, because the family understands, and has experienced, the discrimination.
Not so for gays.
By default, the gay community has taken on, the responsibility of banding together, supporting each other, loving each other, teaching each other, protecting each other and fighting for each other in a way that has been necessitated by the 'otherness' of their homosexuality. If that describes the actual gay agenda, then I'm all for it. It's an agenda of human equality.
'What's your agenda?' Tell me in the comments. Twitter: #KevinRichberg