My own gay wedding is taking place next month in New York City—gay because we’re men and because we’re happy—so I’m especially delighted to mark the one-year anniversary of same-sex marriage becoming legal in this state.
Since July 24, 2011, I’ve learned how empowering it is to have the option to get married, to have that choice placed in my hands. Before it was possible for me, I didn’t think I cared about marriage. But freedom changed my perspective. As Mo Gaffney says in her play A Traditional Marriage:
It’s funny, when you grow up thinking there is no way a certain thing can ever happen for you, you belittle it, you make fun of it, you say it’s stupid because if it IS meaningful, if it does matter, then where does that leave you? I used to say a piece of paper couldn’t possibly make a difference in how two people feel. But then it did. It does. For me, anyway.
Damn right, sister. When you’ve got options, your life becomes yours, and it can be startling to realize how many things you suddenly care about, how many things excite you because they feel so specific to you.
For instance, now that we’re planning a wedding, my fiancé and I have discovered we’re passionate about silly things (wedding favors!) and meaningful ones, like the words we want to say to each other in front of our community. Recently, Fiona Apple captured the joy of a similar freedom in “Anything We Want,” a song from her new album about the way loving someone makes you want to follow your impulses and see where they take you.
But my fiancé and I aren’t the only gay men in America. New York isn’t the only state. So even as we celebrate what’s happening, we’re still aware of what’s left to be done. Because once you taste dignity, you can’t un-taste it. Once you know how it feels to be regarded as a complete citizen, you cannot return to a “less-than” mindset. You might lose a piece here and there, you might have something taken from you again, but you cannot forget the glory of wholeness. Even that memory can change the way you live in the world, and I want every queer person to have first-hand experience of what I’m talking about.
Lupe Fiasco gets at this idea in his song “All Black Everything,” which playfully (but somewhat mournfully) imagines a world where racism never existed:
“And I know it’s just a fantasy,” Fiasco says. “I cordially invite you to ask why it can’t be.” I will do my best to accept that invitation.
And call me Pollyanna, but I feel like when it comes to gay rights, a lot of us are accepting that invitation. There are gay people getting married this year that didn’t have that option last year. There areFrank Oceans and Adam Lamberts atop the charts, there are soldiers marching openly in pride parades, and there are presidents publicly saying they support gay rights. I know there’s work to do, but to paraphrase The Gossip, that feisty band of joyously queer rockers, I still think we’re moving in the right direction.
Previously: A Same-Sex Kissing Protest at Chik-Fil-A
Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBlankenship. He written about gay rights and politics for The New York Times, The Advocate, Out, and American Theatre