Archive for March 21st, 2009

The thought of marriage is something I haven’t entertained since I was nineteen years old. I had moved to California and was missing my best friend Tiffany – we’d been companions for years and I thought that, if there was one person I would marry, it would be she. I wrote her a letter in hopes that she’d come to California.

A year or so later when I self-identified as gay, I realized that I was thankful that Tiffany hadn’t come to join me in California. I had a new set of circumstances to understand, and with my new reality I moved forward.

The letter to Tiffany was mailed twenty-five years ago but recently I’ve been thinking about marriage again. Not because I find myself in a position to marry, but because I can’t. Despite the media frenzy over same-sex marriage and the continued discussion over California’s Proposition 8, I’ve sat this one out because I felt it didn’t really matter to me.

I’ve determined that the reason I felt it didn’t matter is because I’ve been conditioned to believe that I wasn’t fit to love someone enough to do that. Everything that I’ve been exposed to for the past twenty-five years has said, subtly or otherwise, “its not for you”.

It was a recent article in the Chicago Free Press by the syndicated columnist Jennifer Vanasco that offered a perspective I’d not previously considered. I’ve read this paragraph from the article over and over throughout the past two weeks;

Marriage is a risk. It is brave. When we fight for the right to marry, we are asking for a chance to be challenged. We are not taking the easy way out. We are saying that in spite of the odds, despite the large possibility of failure, we are willing to live in hope.

Over the past twenty-five years there have been a handful of boyfriends here and there. While we spent time together with varying degrees of success, and while we may have challenged ourselves with career moves and housing opportunities, we never had to entertain thoughts of a social challenge as great as marriage. We never had to be that brave.

When I look back with this new perspective, I’m pissed off that I’ve never been expected to be brave like that. I feel jilted, actually. While I can’t change the past, I wonder how things may have been different if every gay man had grown up with the expectation that he could find, fall in love with, and marry the man that makes him feel so alive inside that he just couldn’t bare not to.

Imagine raising a child who has a capacity for music and forbidding them to play the piano, the guitar or denying them the ability to sing out loud. Imagine denying a child with great athletic ability the chance to run the bases, use the parallel bars or shoot hoops. They’re permitted to sit in the bleachers, attend the concerts and follow the lyrics, but they’re forbidden to participate. End of discussion.

Many gay men my age are doing well for themselves. Some better than others but most have solid jobs, livable homes and manage a vacation or two a year. We have not been left out of commercial success. We have, however, been left out of achieving the true emotional success of love.

Marriage is a cultural statement far greater than it is a legal statement. Legal statements can be crafted by lawyers. From a cultural standpoint, gay men and women have been led to believe that they are inconsequential. That our lives simply don’t matter … as much.

For the past twenty-five years I have internalized this without realizing it. Despite the hard work attributed to my various successes, I have kept myself from fully understanding the bravery in love. I grew into adulthood without this kind of hope. Without knowing it I took the easy way out and accepted the societal view of my own capacity.

I always thought that I was being brave – every father tells his little boy to be brave. Now I understand that I have not been brave at all. I never expected to have these feelings and now I do. I’m angry and sad at the very same time. My father told me to be brave and I have failed him.

Click HERE to read more by Jennifer Vanasco.

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