With tomorrow being my birthday, I sit here and look back on what I have seen and experienced. June 1973 was when the Upstairs Lounge was set on fire and killed 32 people. At the time it was the largest mass killing of LGBTQ people. In the month of August, the first major LGBT event was held in Canada and was called Pride Week 1973. It would be almost a decade before GRID was first mentioned in media coverage and brought the AIDS epidemic to full view of the public. May 5th, 1993, Hawaii Supreme Court says that denying marriage licenses to same sex couples is discrimination based on sex under Hawaii law. June 26th, 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States strikes down all remaining sodomy laws with Lawrence v. Texas. July 30th, 2003, George W. Bush supports “codifying marriage in the United States as being between one man and one woman.” June 26th, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in United States v. Windsor, requiring federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in states. The remainder of that year we would see more and more states issuing same sex marriage licenses. This would become one of the largest years for LGBTQ rights. That’s a lot of history in a short time.
I remember the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in America and even remember the speech when Reagan finally discussed the disease for the first time. I knew as a child that I had a different attraction than my friends, even without fully having a label for it. My mother had two lesbian friends that lived as a couple and I never knew it was different than any other relationship. They were always Pat and Brenda to me, and I always loved going to their place. It was years later that I found out my dad wasn’t crazy about them; he feared their influence would affect his children. Mom never pried into my life about girls I was dating, nothing beyond causal interest. Mainly, because they never lasted. As a young kid, I spent more time carrying around my mother’s old purses full of Star Wars figures and dressing up in her gowns and singing on our Mr. Microphone to songs on the radio. More than once getting caught singing some Diana Ross song, with stuffed animals as breasts. Combine that with my love of Michael Jackson, how could anyone not know I was a gay kid?
By the time 1993 rolled around, I had graduated high school and was a year into college. I only remember Hawaii making same sex marriage because Shawn had proposed to be in 1999 and that’s where we would have gone to get married and honeymoon. In college, I was busy experimenting more with men and hiding behind women, so that I could keep the illusion of a good southern male. During all of this time, until I met Shawn, relationships, dating and marriage were not even on my radar. I was having fun enjoying sex as much as I could get it. Meeting Shawn in 1997 changed all of that for me. I fell for him hard and fast and wanted to be with him and building a relationship. When he proposed, I freaked out and said no and that shattered him. I knew it was a mistake the moment I said it, but I also knew I wanted to be with him forever. I still carried the idea that having other partners was acceptable, though I cheated on Shawn three times.
In 2003, I buried Shawn in his family’s plot, watched his father try to convince everyone that he had repented being gay and wanted to be straight. An event that never happened. With Shawn’s death I felt I would never love again and in short decided that I would not get married in the future. The Idea of being in a committed relationship slowly took over my mindset. It filled my mind that if I got into another relationship that it would also end at some point, so dating around became the way I wanted to proceed. It would take me awhile to get over the death of Shawn.
Looking back, I don’t think I ever fully believed gay marriage would pass. Sure in 2013 we saw the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, but it didn’t fully set in. It also didn’t really have an effect on me, I had already resolved to not wanting to get married and going into a dating slump since 2003, even dating wasn’t in my mind. I don’t really remember my mom ever saying anything to me about getting married and settling down. So, I guess I never really felt the desire to do so, sure there was the little gay kid inside of me that was fascinated with fairy tales and wanting that one special man to sweep me off my feet. I just lost interest in it as time went on.
In my 46 years, it has been amazing to see how far our history has come along. From watching our rights become what they are today, the AIDS epidemic and even better treatment processes, and to same sex marriage. I am glad we have the choice to be able to legally marry and was partly why I got a minister’s license. While I may not agree with marriage for me, I will fight for other’s ability to be able to get married. I only hope that we will not lose the ground we have gained. Here’s to hoping that one day our rights won’t have to be a battle. I do not ask for assimilation, as we need to be the individuals we have always been, I only hope to not have the same rights that our heterosexual counterparts take for granted all too often.
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