(I’m half-way through this post and I’m returning to the top here to warn, this will be a long rambling hashing-it-out post.)
When we lost the first battle for legal equality in California and the LDS church was involved, it didn’t bother me for very long or with much potency. I figured it was just a bump on the road to inevitable justice. Sure, we lived in Ca, but both Rob and I had jobs and our own health insurance. Most importantly, we weren’t parents. I see now that was key.
Everything is difference now. Having children changes everything, and I’m still ashamed to say I was not nearly as involved in the gay rights movement before we brought our boys into their nursery for the first time. I was up for a fight but complacent and, ironically, it was having to take care of a stay-at-home parent, and our children that made me into the radical gay activist I am today.
Now though, these losses and fights get to the heart of me, of what I’ve become as a parent and a husband. They harm my primary purpose, not just another aspect of myself, like being gay. They make me feel powerless in a whole new way, and they make humanity seem so much less civil, less hopeful under our veneers; like respect for equal rights is just a polite illusion, love is just a PR device, and any person can be defined away from justice by vote, and it could all just crack and crumble given a shake of this house of cards. Ugg, too dramatic? But what you gonna do? That’s emotions for ya… With the loss of Prop 8, I can actually feel the chemistry in my body changed. As I said a couple days after the vote, I’ve been feeling defensive, isolationist, and more worried about what might happen to my family even outside gay politics. I’m sure my stress hormones have been up.
A month later, I’m feeling them ebb, thankfully; I feel good today, if not a bit tired. I was waking up every morning around 5 from a dream argument, facing that frustrating wall all true-believers have, and all those lies that were used against us in the Prop 8 fight. Some of the dreams have been about people taking our boys to live with “ideal families”, or attacking our boys and me being unable to stop them. I’ve had such dreams before, but not one right after another, not like this. I’ve been starting each morning feeling unable to protect my family from this tide of anti-gay memes that is so widely spread by the predominant culture here in Utah, and spread under a denial of the harm done to us, or even being “anti-gay” at all. I’m sure that’s a good sign that some people couldn’t do this to their neighbors otherwise, but such feel-good denial increases the frustration and makes the problem seem that much more intractable. But it is ebbing and I finally went a couple days without such dreams.
So here’s my problem. All this is calming down and I’m feeling almost back to normal, but something is lingering this time; my heart hurts. It literally hurts. Each time I woke from one of these dreams I woke with my heart pounding, and now it feels like a sore muscle in my chest even when I’ve calmed down and realized I’m no longer in need to fight for my home. I remember the research on the chemicals that cause such a reaction, and I am under the impression they are deleterious to the vasculature in the long run (right?). I’ve worried that Utah may be bad for my health before--yes, I'm repeating myself--but is this hard evidence? Something I can’t ignore?
If so, we can’t stay here. I want to be the man who can suffer losses for his family without physical effect, but maybe I’m not that man. I want to be the man who can fight back and defend those who are where I was two decades ago here in Utah, without getting hurt. I remember being that man, before I had kids. I could tell the other guy to f*beep*ck off in his ignorance and remain calm in the assurances that right will beat their might, some day. Only the death threats used to bother me. But, with kids, that doesn’t work anymore; some day isn’t soon enough for my family. Maybe that unmovable man, as a father, doesn’t exist; maybe, if he did he’d be a poor, detached father and husband anyway. I don’t know.
So how much time of my life does it cost to live in Utah with the stress of all this, with watching our legislature do what they do to us each session, and having such a strong anti-equality force running our local culture and politics and repeatedly defaming our home? How does a person measure this? Will it cost me a year? Two years? Could I be at greater risk of dying before I see our grandchildren? Before I see our boys graduate? I’d spend a year or so from my 80’s for what we gain for living in Utah, near so much family, but not time from my 50’s, not while they still need me; not when we could move to a place where I can protect my home like any other man. If we move, I can get my spouse on my health insurance, I can live in a home zoned for us, he could inherit our possessions without so many strings, and I can be sure, if something terrible does happen, my family will be treated as family; none of this legal limbo crap. That sounds great. I can move us to a place where we’d be much less likely to be treated like a second-class family, both in law and culture. But I’m still stuck here by the fact that, heck, we’re doing good here, in our circle, if not politics or the broader culture. Most all friends, family, teachers, and our children’s classmates are great. Our boys don’t see a problem; they’re just two happy little Utahns… People who know us treat us good and so why leave?
But if this fight is going to rage here in Utah and if it does cost life (but does it?), then we can’t stay here. Funny, maybe if I could become less defensive of my family I could protect them better, or longer. Can I change my concerns here? Should I try to ignore them? I don’t know. Will I be able to better understand of the consequences of two trails ahead of us in another month? Two months? Shouldn’t I wait to see what this new administration accomplishes? After all, our Ca marriage woudn't be legally respected in UT anyway, until DOMA is gone.
There I go again, though. Putting it off. I’m beginning to think all I need to know about these complicated decisions is the simple sliver-like sensation in the left side of my chest. Right now, at that thought, if I had a job lined up in a friendlier jurisdiction, I think I’d be telling my family to pack our bags ASAP. That’s it; I’d wave the white flag, and retreat to a civilization that counts my family as a valuable piece as well. My work here and the bad economy probably means we have to stay and fight for a good while… but I’m going to significantly step up looking for out of state options, and I’m writing this down to make sure I’ll do that. Hold me to it.