Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Fairytale for Everyone?

Okay, I'm over at the Green Phone Booth and not blogging here anymore but the following email I received from my brother in law was too important to not post somewhere. I truly believe that we will one day look back at this time and shake our heads in wonder that we, as a society, treated people differently, refused to extend rights to our friends and neighbors. This has nothing to do with being green but everything to do with fairness and justice. NO ON PROP 8.:

Dear Family and Friends,

By now I hope you have heard of Proposition 8 on the California ballot this November. If passed, this initiative would rewrite our state’s constitution to read that marriage could only be legally defined as between a man and a woman. I have followed this particular race with interest because, as many of you know, DJ and I were recently married in a ceremony up at City Hall in San Francisco. If Proposition 8 passes, DJ and I could go to bed the night of November 4th as a married couple and quite possibly wake up the next morning as two single men in the eyes of the law. Just like that, all of the rights, privileges, and equality afforded to straight couples will vanish for us.

All it will take is a simple majority of California’s voters to make this change. Unfortunately, anyone looking at the polls these days can see that our side is gradually losing. While the race seemed locked in a dead heat just a few weeks ago, the recent barrage of advertising has had an adverse effect on our cause, and it now seems possible that Proposition 8 might pass. According to a friend of mine who teaches history, the passage of this proposition will be notable because it will be the first time in California’s history that an amendment to our constitution will take rights away from people instead of giving them more rights.

Even here in the “liberal” Bay Area intolerance is everywhere. Here on the Peninsula, where we have made our home and have always felt so safe and secure, ignorance and hate still surrounds us. To prove this to you, I wanted to share with you two incidents that happened to me recently. They are not ones that I have shared with many of you since they feel very personal, but they nevertheless point out the reason why defeating this proposition is so important right now before things get worse. I relate them to you so that you can hopefully understand what we are up against.

A couple of weeks ago, Callie and I had a nasty run-in with a very cruel and ignorant woman. My mom had taken us to the Cantor Art Museum on the Stanford campus for a nice day of sun and culture. It was Homecoming Weekend on campus and the place was packed with happy alums. We stopped at the museum restaurant for a bite to eat and Callie had to use the “potty”. We left my mom and went down to the restroom. After Callie was done, we walked out of the restroom and a very pleasant-seeming woman beamed at me, walked over, and said, “You have a beautiful daughter there. She’s just gorgeous!” I naturally said thank you and started with Callie back upstairs to my mom.

The woman quickly caught up to me and looked right at Callie and said, “Are you and Daddy heading back up to Mommy? Your Mommy must be pretty to have a little girl like you.” I answered back my pat answer in this situation. “Callie is extra lucky and has two daddies. We’re actually going back up to see her grandmother.” The woman’s face suddenly paled. She stared straight at Callie as if I weren’t there and launched off a series of offensive, ignorant remarks. “How can such a pretty girl like you have two daddies? Is that even legal? That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. You have no Mommy and two daddies? How did that happen?” and on and on. Once I got over the shock of what was unfolding in front of me and in front of my two-year-old, I scooped Callie up and quickly walked upstairs saying in a loud voice, “Let’s leave the ignorant lady alone, Callie. She’s not a nice person and she doesn’t have anything nice to say to us.” Callie glared back at the lady and said, “Mean!”

The second incident occurred at school. I am out at school, although I do not publicly announce it. If kids ask, I tell them. I wear my wedding ring and have pictures of my husband and daughter on my desk like all of the other teachers do. I don’t make a big deal about it. Last spring, I came to school early and was chatting with a friend outside of my classroom. Suddenly, I saw her eyes go to the outside of my classroom door and watched as her face paled. I followed her gaze and saw scratched into the metal classroom door in big letters was the word “FAG” with a very offensive picture drawn underneath. The police were called. Reports were filed. Embarrassing questions were asked and answered. Photos were taken. The damage was so severe that the door had to be taken off and refinished in order to remove the hate crime. To this day, they have not solved the crime and probably never will.

These incidents are two of many that DJ and I have had to endure as gay men and gay dads. Even in our liberal-leaning Bay Area, hatred and fear are out there. The ignorance is amazing – even by people who think they are being well-intentioned and supportive. Although these are two of the most extreme interactions I have ever had, there have been other, smaller ones that, while less upsetting, were still depressing to say the least. The anti-marriage side fuels this ignorance and hatred with their stereotypes and their mistruths and I am tired of it.

DJ and I watch the same debates and read the same news stories that I’m sure all the rest of you do. Our love and our relationship have suddenly become fodder for the public to comment upon, question, moralize on, and preach about. The foundation that we have built up, the love we have, the happiness we share has been reduced to, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

We turn off the news each night feeling sadder and sadder about this sorry state of affairs. It’s easy to feel disheartened. What makes it worse for me personally is that I feel so helpless from preventing this proposition from passing. I don’t have any extra cash to throw into new advertising. I don’t have friends connected in high places who will help get my voice heard. And I certainly do not want to join a phone bank and annoy people at dinner time and endure the harassment and threats that I hear many others do. Obama will clearly win the state of California, but this proposition has a very good chance of becoming law. It’s not just a Democrat/Republican issue. This left me with the dilemma of how to help.

So, I came up with the truth. Yes, the truth. Maybe if people can get to know at least one gay person, they will lose some of the fear and misunderstanding that they seem to have. The other side paints gay people in a certain light, but I don’t see myself or my life in any of it. So, here’s my truth so people who don’t know a gay person can get to know one.

What I am:

I am married to my partner and he is my best friend. I have a beautiful daughter. Both my partner and my daughter are the lights in my life. I am a loving and nurturing husband and parent. I crack up when our daughter tries to say new words and gets them all mixed up. I worry about her future. I read to her every night before she falls asleep. I do my job well. I am respected by others. I am a role model to the children I teach. I live my life with integrity and honesty. I pay my taxes. I could stand to lose a few pounds. I can eat more ice cream than anyone else I know. I have friends. My friends love me, support me, and are there for me when I need them. I have a loving, supportive family who never batted an eye or questioned me when I came out to them. I have friends and family from all walks of life, and I celebrate that every chance I get. I love games. I love crosswords. I am ultra-competitive and I hate to lose. I love 80’s music. I go with my family to Disneyland four times a year. I can speak Spanish. I argue with my partner sometimes. We kiss. We make up. We forgive. I miss the people in my life who have passed away. I am actually quite average in almost every way except that I have found myself in love with someone of the same sex. I am a human being with the same ups and downs in life that anyone else has.

What I am not:

I am not a deviant. I am not weird. I am not perverted. I am not a child molester. I am not abusing my daughter by raising her in a house filled with love, family, friends, travel, learning, diversity, and laughter. I am not interested in promoting any kind of “agenda”. By the same token, I am not interested in anyone pushing their values, morals, or religion on me. I am not looking to “recruit” kids to be gay. I am not “teaching” my daughter to be gay. I am not “the wife” in our relationship and neither is my partner. I am not scary. I am not intolerant. I am not lonely and depressed. I do not drink alcohol. I do not take drugs. I did not have an abusive childhood. I am not someone who needs to be feared. I am not ashamed that I am gay.

I am me. And I’m guessing there are thousands of other “me’s” out there in my same situation. All of us are just asking for the right to have our love legalized. If straight people can have this right, then why can’t we? Certainly you don’t believe that if gay marriage becomes law that people will be able to marry their own relatives or their goat or their car? You can’t believe that legalized gay marriage will affect anything taught in our public schools? Surely you don’t think that the moral fabric of our society will be ripped and forever irreparable if gay marriage is legal? Just look to Massachusetts, The Netherlands, Canada, even ultra-Catholic Spain and post-Castro Cuba for examples of how legalized gay marriage has had no effect on the religious, societal, or moral foundations of those states and countries (despite what the lies from the other side will tell you). After gay marriage was legalized in those places, no churches were forced to change their ways. No straight family lost any rights or privileges. No kids were taught “how to be gay”. No agenda has been pushed other than love, respect, and understanding. What are people so afraid of?

One only need look to celebrities adopting their own children and then splitting up, or celebrities getting married multiple times or for less than twenty-four hours for examples of the unraveling of the moral fiber of our own country. Do not blame gay folks for the problems that plague every segment of our population – gay or straight. Gays should be able to get married, raise families, divorce – the whole nine yards – just like straight people. It wasn’t too long ago that here in the U.S. people of different religions were not allowed to marry. People of different ethnicities were not allowed to marry. People from different socio-economic classes were not allowed to marry. Many of my friends and family fall into one or more of these categories. All of those doors have opened for everyone else, and it is time for the door to swing open for us too.

When DJ and I go to adopt our next child, we will be barred from adopting that child in ten to fifteen states only because we are gay. The fact that we would make great parents or that we have a wonderful life to give another child doesn’t play into the equation at all. We are flat-out denied in those places because we are two men. Being recognized as a married couple would be the first step to taking down those barriers and building a family of love and respect.

I close this letter asking you one favor. I know that most of the people to whom I am sending this are friendly to my cause and are on my side. To you I send out much love and heartfelt thanks for your support. The favor I will ask of you is that you kindly forward this email to everyone you know. Even if they are not a registered California voter, I feel this message is important enough to be heard in any state – especially considering that 26 states have similar amendments in their constitutions already. Maybe if some people hear from a “real” person and not a politician or an actor in a heavy-handed commercial, they may understand a bit of the truth as I see it: It doesn’t matter if we are gay or straight. We all deserve equal rights.

Thanks in advance for reading my long letter and passing it on to anyone you can. I am not an especially eloquent writer, but this is my one small way of trying to do something about this frustrating election. I appreciate your help with it more than you will know.

NO ON 8!!!



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