Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Harvey Milk Saved My Life

Two days ago we went to the Christmas celebration at our local club. I've been to this particular party ever since I was our boys' age. Now we take our children; we go as a family, they all know us as a family, and I never think twice that people may object to a gay couple attending in such a conservative part of town.

And aren't the boys getting to be little gentlemen:
Most in my family have no issue with us either, and I too often don't take the time to say how lucky I am to have all those people in our lives. Sure, the family members who fight against my home hurt me in a unique way, but they weren't there and, really, they are the minority.
(yeah, the purple; that was my sister's idea... She's always been 100% there for us and so I'd have put us all in pink if it made her happy.)

Yesterday morning we sent the boys off to their grandparents and my husband and I wrapped presents in front of the tree and a cozy fire in the fireplace. We talked and joked and fought over the tape. Cliche, but it's true; he's my best friend; he knows me better than I know myself. We're closer to two decades together than one and we still ain't tired of each other's company :-). In fact, each year brings us closer, and to not be deeply in love with him would mean to not be myself.

In the afternoon we all went out for Mexican food at one of our favorite spots. We sat and ate together; I think it's clear what our family is to any waiter or anyone paying attention. Our kids out us everywhere we go and I'm sure our body language does too. But that's not a problem; I usually don't even think of the fact that there's some political controversy surrounding us while we're out.

Grandma collects nutcrackers and so the boys bought an unpainted nutcracker to give to her for Christmas; after dinner they selected the colors and we all got to work.
Once our masterpiece was done, we all went into the living room and sat on the couch and put on The Curse of the Were Rabbit. I fell asleep with my legs on Rob while the kids sat on my back, like I was a booster seat. It must not have been uncomfortable because I fell asleep before the movie ended. When I woke up I found my husband had the kids in bed and was just telling them goodnight. I kissed them both goodnight and sat in Alan's room until he was out, feeling very lucky.
But it's not truly luck, right? I don't have such days by chance, even though I happen to be a gay man; I have them because of a lot of hard work by people I'll never know.

One thing thing I left out between wrapping presents and Mexican food was the fact the Grandparents agreed to watch the boys for a couple more hours and we finally got to see Milk. I'll have more to say about the film than what I'll put here (probably over at isocrat after Christmas, though).

I just want to express my gratitude for now. Maybe it's the season, but I've been quite emotional with hope and gratitude since leaving that theater all puffy eyed.

Sure, I don't much identify with the 1970's gay scene in San Francisco. My last two days would probably be alien to those gay men too, if not outright boring, campy, or conservative. Also and of course, Harvey Milk and many of those other activists of his day were not perfect people, and the film made that clear. There was a good deal of sex and drugs and politics. But the only "perfect" hero is the hero to whom we've done a disservice, dehumanized.

The fact is my life would be unrecognizable today without those men and women three decades ago; I would not have had the last two days without those folks standing up for my rights, when I was still in the womb. I'd probably be single in "therapy", under the weight of superstitions and self-hate, thinking there was something wrong with me and especially with gay people who were out and proud. I may be desperate in some LDS therapist's office undergoing shock treatment like so many other men of that day I now know. If people like Briggs and Aneta Bryant were left unchecked, and no one stood up, things would likely have stayed at that awful level or gotten worse.

That world that could have been, where I couldn't see there was a solution... it seems unbearable enough to make me feel, at a gut level, it's impossible, as though the very laws of physics could never allow such a thing. I suppose there is actually an upper limit to human loss before a person collapses under it's weight, into suicide, and I've seen that happen enough times to know it's another could-have-been for me and many others.

All that could have been, and yet it isn't, and I think it's pretty clear why things changed for gay people. Simply, my life, either in full or in great part, was saved a long time ago by people I'll never know. I can't thank them enough. I can only hope this generation of GLBT is doing as good of a job of addressing today's hurdles and bigots for the next generation. I know I have a debt to them I've not nearly repaid.

8 comments:

invisible said...

Thank you for sharing this. I don't know if you realize this but the fact that you have the life that you do with a man that you love and the two beautiful boys that you do gives me hope for my future... so if it means anything -thank you!

Evan said...

Scot, do you know how many people would read this, gay or straight, and be absolutely jealous of you?! To many of us, the life you are living is our goal. Happiness is evident in your life.

And I am glad you finally saw the movie. I really wish we could have a Harvey Milk today... I think that is one of the main differences between now and then. We have no real key gay rights figure that I know of.

Captain Midnight said...

I would say that I'm jealous of your life, except that my life is probably heading in a similar way. I really hope that my boyfriend and I can have a family like yours someday, we've been together for a year and have started talking about marriage and building a life together. I'm so happy for you, and I'm glad you shared this.

J G-W said...

We saw Milk a week ago Sunday. I think there wasn't a dry eye in the theater at the end, least of all on our row. You've pretty much summarized my own feelings about the film. We stand on the shoulders of many others; the key is to make room on our shoulders for the ones who come after...!

Damon In CO said...

Scot,

I have to echo what Invisible says...your life, your relationship and your children give me hope to.

I am sure you didn't set out to be an example. I think the real examples never do. So again in echo, thank you!

I loved MILK. I never knew much about Harvey Milk. I walked away thinking our community really REALLY needs another similar to him now. The movie was touching. I also realized I need to learn more about the history of my gay culture.

I hope you and your family have Merry Christmas.

~Damon

Alan said...

True, and touching. We all owe many such debts, and it is good to be reminded. Thanks Scot.

Over the Rainbow said...

Thank you for your courage to live a life outside of your community's box and for sharing your strength and blessings with those who are still not at peace.

Scot said...

Invisible: "so if it means anything -thank you!"

Thank you Invisible; it means a lot to me to think I've helped here. There is much reason to hope, but before I get a big head :-) I have to say that I think families like mine are result of those reasons. Getting married and having children and doing fun stuff on the holidays is what comes naturally; those barriers to that that were there for GLBT last generation were broken down for me by someone else.

Evan: "I really wish we could have a Harvey Milk today... I think that is one of the main differences between now and then. We have no real key gay rights figure that I know of."

I think you're right; we've got some great people fighting for us but we lack cohesion and some boldness. I see a lot in myself and in gay leaders in the owner of the Advocate portrayed in Milk. Heck, for our marriage amendment, my parents were in the commercials asking for rights for us. No gay family in sight because it didn't test well. When I was told that in an eerily similar scene to the one in the film, I was kind of surprised but just thought they knew better than me and said nothing. Which is odd because the most progress I see is face to face; we should be seen and they should know how we're being harmed.

Captain Midnight "I really hope that my boyfriend and I can have a family like yours someday, we've been together for a year and have started talking about marriage and building a life together."

Best of luck to you and your man. It's well worth the work of building :-).

J "We stand on the shoulders of many others; the key is to make room on our shoulders for the ones who come after...!"

That's so true. I kind of feel... no, I know I didn't do enough for the cause. Before we had children I was only an activist in my personal life. After seeing that film, I feel like I should double my efforts.

Merry Christmas to you too Damon! And thank you.

"I also realized I need to learn more about the history of my gay culture."

Me too; I've read a couple books of broad gay history and summarized such here, but I want to know more about the individuals. I thought I knew about Harvey Milk even, but had no idea about a couple items, like that heart wrenching scene with his lover.

And thank you for the kind words Alan and Over the Rainbow.

Merry Christmas All!