So it’s been a pretty dramatic few weeks, eh? For many of us, this past Thursday and Friday were very happy days as we saw the first few marriages between homosexuals in Mobile.
Even in my celebration of what I consider a great victory, I’m still struggling with a great deal of resentment about the way state officials handled the matter. Frankly it’s all been a tremendous embarrassment to the state in general, and it’s hard not to see much of the fighting as at least somewhat disingenuous.
Not to suggest I don’t believe Roy Moore and countless others truly have a moral and religious objection to homosexual marriage, but I don’t believe someone with as much judicial experience as Moore truly believes anyone in Alabama — even a unified majority — has a legal right to impose their personal religious beliefs on the private lives of other citizens.
As many before me have already suggested, Moore’s agenda very clearly seems like a losing battle given the larger political climate of America today. In that regard it seems like a tremendous waste of time and resources, not to mention yet another contribution to Alabama’s already undesirable reputation as a bastion of small-minded bigotry and fear of change. Personal views aside, that seems like a terrible way to attract the bright young minds and innovative businesses we’ve been working so hard to recruit.
As much as this has been a time of celebration for many, obviously it’s been a hard pill to swallow for plenty others. Reading through the online comments on various local forums lately, it’s impossible to miss the frequent expressions of disgust and despair, and even a few calls to secede from the union.
As painful and confusing as this may seem now for many who oppose the recent changes, take comfort it will all be OK. The sun will rise and set each day, just like always. And best of all, you still maintain your right to be just as offended and disgusted by that gay couple you passed holding hands on the street today as you were last month, only now that couple can enjoy the right to file taxes together and stand at each others’ bedside during times of grave illness.
Essentially, life in Alabama has improved considerably for some and really didn’t change much at all for the rest of us, and we’ll all be just fine. I realize there are some who will choose to remain offended and disgusted for the rest of their lives, and that is absolutely within their rights. Others will slowly come around as the years pass and homosexual marriage becomes increasingly common, and things won’t always seem so tense.
When I was growing up I don’t remember homosexuality being something that we really talked about much. I was aware it was a “thing” but really didn’t know much about it. To the kids in my class the concept functioned mostly as an insult. To call a boy a “queer” or a “homo” might mean you suspected he was homosexual, but more often (and more importantly), it meant that you thought he was a major loser.
It wasn’t until we started realizing homosexuals weren’t some strange and obscure “others” we might pass in a dark alley, but rather real people in our own lives that the majority of folks in my generation slowly began to accept and even truly embrace ideas that seemed pretty strange to our parents. Most of us in the under-40 crowd scarcely raise an eyebrow at homosexuality these days although it certainly wasn’t a smooth transition.
I was in the ninth grade the first time I realized I knew a gay person, when a close male friend “came out” to me for the first time. This would happen once more before I graduated high school, and in both cases my friends slowly opened up to others in the following weeks and months.
I would love to say Theodore High School was the equivalent of a big warm hug for a gay kid in the early ‘90s, but sadly that was not always the case. Both of my friends were bullied mercilessly after revealing their orientation, and one endured the humiliation of a group of boys urinating on him while bombarding him with verbal abuse. It was pretty awful.
Both boys struggled with severe depression and both admitted seriously contemplating suicide at some point. It was enough that they were terrorized at school, but the real rejection was at home, where they were told they were disgusting freaks by the very people who were supposed to love them most.
I don’t know what it feels like to be homosexual, so I listened pretty carefully the very first time they told me, “This is who I am and I can no more change it than you could ever change the way you feel about boys.”
Suicide is the leading cause of death for gay teens, with up to 30 percent attempting suicide by the age of 15. That should surprise no one who tuned in for the recent debate and saw the hateful sentiments that were shared. I can’t imagine anything in the world lonelier than being a secretly gay kid living in one of those homes, and it absolutely breaks my heart.
I realize I can’t tell other adults how to feel or what to believe, especially about something so personal, but I can say this to any young person who might be struggling with this issue: Please don’t ever let anyone convince you to give up on yourself. This city can feel pretty oppressive at times for people who are “different,” but I assure you it’s not like that everywhere. Even here in Mobile it won’t always be this way, and you won’t always feel alone. Just hang in there and I promise you, it gets better.