This week, history was made. Marriage, once a heterosexual privilege, has taken a turn for the better: the United States Supreme court officially dismantled both the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 in one swoop””ending years of discrimination.
I was sitting in my living room Wednesday when I saw a post on Facebook about it. I quickly googled it and found the countless articles exclaiming equality and progress. I could hardly conceal my excitement but I had to because I was at home, surrounded by family whose views are so different from my own.. I smiled a sweet, silent victory despite everything. Finally, it seemed, that my rights as a gay young adult were coming together.
I remember 2008, when Proposition 8 was on the ballot. I remember all the lawn signs that read “Protect Marriage,” “Keep the Children Safe,” and other discriminatory remarks. Back then, I had not come out yet, and I quietly observed as most of my family and church friends thanked God and the California government. I felt horrible inside””like somehow being gay was inferior, dangerous and wrong; that being gay made me less of a person.
But after this week’s ruling, some of those heavy feelings of self-loathing were lifted off of my shoulders. Not only did the Supreme Court remove the ban on the “defense” of marriage in California, but this decision has empowered the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community””people just like me. I can only speak for myself when I say it feels wonderful that I can gain a smidgen of normalcy in a country that chooses to deny it widely.
Although I won’t be in West Hollywood or in San Fransisco’s Castro District rallying and celebrating, I know my cheers will be well heard. I’ll be in Boyle Heights with my parents and my neighbors””just acting as if it were any other day. But I know that once I leave here, lead a fruitful life, and come back, I’ll be a strong and jovial young man. But I can only speak for what I feel today: I was only nineteen when one of the most influential states entered the pantheon of states that enforce progress and equality.
It is only the beginning of the future for human rights in the United States and it will set precedent for the issues that may arise tomorrow.
I haven’t an idea of what it felt like when segregation ended or when women gained the right to vote. But I do know it must have felt something like this. It feels like I’m recognized””both as a person and as a gay man.
I have yet to explore all the facets of my identity. And while the struggle to be open with who I am continues because my parents do not accept my sexuality, at least today, I can be me a little more freely.
The pride flags will wave. And the momentum will continue until this entire debate is merely a historic blemish that no longer shapes the future of California and the United States.
This author has chosen to remain anonymous.