Friday, June 26, 2015
I confess--as I read through the many letters of congratulation and exultation appearing today to celebrate--finally--the restoration of full civil equality to Gays and Lesbians and Trans folk across the nation--many brought a tear to my eye.
Why? Because I was born 87 years ago into a world that had only contempt and derision for anyone who did not "fit into the mold" of heterosexual society. At that time, if you were discovered to be gay, your parents, friends, and family might disown you, the law might incarcerate you, your employer might fire you, and the medical and psychiatric establishments might institutionalize you.
The only place you could read about yourself was in Kraft-Ebbing's descriptions of "perverts" or perhaps in "The Well of Loneliness," a work of fiction which offered a totally depressing version of those hidden from and rejected by the mainstream society. (And this book was taken to trial in England and charged with being pornographic, though it did not contain a single "sex scene." It was the topic itself that was held to be obscene.)
Given that the penalties were so serve, why did so many of us follow our hearts and seek to be with our same sex partners anyway?
The answer is simply--as many have made clear today--love is love. To give up the person you felt you were destined to be with overrode all other considerations. And the penalties for this were severe, even if we were not punished in any of the ways mentioned above.
Gays and others were forced to hide their identities from all but a carefully chosen circle of friends. This meant denying to others who we truly were, what we really felt about ourselves and others, and carrying within a heavy burden of guilt feelings imposed on us by society at large. We all heard horror stories of people being (often) wrongly accused and publicly humiliated by the authorities--though some of these had never had an actual homosexual relationship, for they were afraid. Some were so intimidated that they were not able to have any kind of mature sexual relationship with anyone, even as adults. Some were subjected to cruel and painful "cures" to change their sexual preferences.
I could go on and on with such accounts. I grew up as a totally closeted lesbian, although often I was in an extremely long term relationship, and frankly I think this was a very unhealthy way of being in the world.
Today, I am proud that I was a "foremother" of many of those who celebrate today. I like to think that "I was a lesbian before it got to be popular."
I have lived alone for many years and the new ruling will have no practical impact on my life, since I do not plan to marry anyone of any sexual group.
But I am delighted that--finally--I and my sisters and brothers have at last been allowed to come to the front of the bus and are no longer forced to pretend to be something other than what we are.
Here is a letter I received today from Emily's List, a group dedicated to helping more women get elected to public office:
The Supreme Court has made marriage equality the law of the land.
Today is a historic day for progress. I could not be more humbled by the decades of hard work by millions of activists that led to this moment.
Equality for LGBT Americans has come so far in just half a century. It was 46 years ago almost to the day that instead of enduring another police raid of a gay bar, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back — sparking the modern LGBT rights movement.
It was only in 2004 that Massachusetts became the first state where same-sex couples could get married. As of yesterday, 37 states and Washington, D.C. recognized marriage equality. Now in every single state couples will be able to marry whom they love.
These victories have been hard fought and hard won — and we should all take this moment and celebrate that. But there are more battles yet to be won.
Victory will only come if we continue to fight, and if we continue to elect and push our politicians to do more for LGBT rights.
Join me and pledge to continue the fight for equality and help elect the politicians who will stand with us:
Thanks for all you do,
President, EMILY's List