I am blessed. I am a middle aged, middle class, white male and yet a minority in my own country. I knew in the 2nd grade, I was not equal and since then, there have been constant reminders. I tried to be invisible whenever anyone would tell a joke. In the 1970’s, most jokes I remember were about blacks, blondes and gays. All were funny, even hysterical, unless you were black, blonde or gay. The TV news would cover gay-rights activists or a pride parade. They showed characters that I could not identify with, and with whom I feared being identified. As friends and family would curse and laugh at the queers on TV, I would simply pretend I was invisible. In 1980, I was as normal as anyone - a Junior Air Force Cadet in high school, a band geek, an honor student, campaigning for Ronald Regan, crazy patriotic, Catholic, working part time and deciding between the military, priesthood, or suicide. There simply were no other options – being gay was not an option. Being celibate was the only acceptable solution that would keep me out of hell. Suicide would mean hell too; hmm, life was hell anyway, but at least life is temporary and they say hell is permanent. All other matters took a back seat to the constant stress of denying this life I was given.
I got into college on an Air Force scholarship – excited to serve my country, a country that preferred I didn’t. I traveled to 19 countries and 23 states during my twenties, but was too fearful to live in or visit certain parts of my own country. The church I literally worshiped, denied my right to exist. I was reminded just how low I was, by parents who disowned me, friends who abandoned me and strangers who hated me.
In 1994, I was Regional President in a multi-national allegedly progressive company. I sat at the big boys table as the good ol’ boys club passed gay jokes about my friend and lesbian co-worker. They didn’t mean anything by it. I sat there, pretending to be invisible, but really just being cowardly silent. That same year, we celebrated the marriage of a fellow Regional President to a female manager in the company – it was called a “first” and garnered much back-slapping. My partner Sal held the same position in the company as the woman who married my peer. Sal and I had done a commitment ceremony six months prior but we were invisible, as we wanted it to be; as we needed it to be. This pattern of behavior was so normal, that I never thought it was a problem. In my mind, I was never oppressed, I never knew prejudice, I was never disadvantaged in any way. Ignorance really is bliss. I just played invisible, played small, avoided further corporate advancement, gave up on family bonds and long-term friendships. All this was “normal”. All this was ok, until it wasn’t. I somehow developed my own strength, and I was lucky that so many braver men and women fought a hard fight so that we can be free. I am grateful to our military veterans who make our freedom as a nation possible. To build on that foundation, the solders that allow me to be free, strong and confident today were the ones waving rainbow flags on TV when I was too scared to speak up. The fighters that make our wedding day possible on the 4th of July, 2015, were the brave LGBT men and women who paid with isolation, humiliation, imprisonment, and sometimes their lives. Death is not the ultimate price. Isolation is a punishment worse than death. We were created to be one. We come from one and we will return to one. Separation is as painful as it gets.
I forgive everyone who hates us and actively fights against us even today. They are not homophobes – they do not fear gays directly, per se. They fear isolation. They are isolophobes. They understandably fear being an outcast with their church, their family, their friends and there self-concept. Perhaps I understand better than they do, what it is like to be an outsider, so I do not blame them. I understand why they would not want to suffer that indignity, and the pain of isolation and disdain. I know many have deeply held religious beliefs and this is not about that. This issue of legality is about – well, legality, not religion. The only evidence that this is a religious matter is the Old Testament, which would mean that our law should be that a rapist must marry his victim, a widow must marry her brother in law and polygamy is God’s will. This is no more about religion than race or gender discrimination, which was also defended by religion – until it wasn’t.
A few remaining “leaders” are still afraid – perhaps they fear they will lose their base, their donors and their frightened flock. Perhaps they have stories and sins of their own that, in their mind, require some deflection.
When we learned of the Supreme Court decision in June of 2015, we were happy, but it wasn’t any really big deal. It was good news and we were thankful. Then it hit me. I cried. It is a big deal. It was officially declared by the highest court in the land, that I was okay all along. I am in fact, good enough, not less-than, I am equal in the eyes of the law. The real law, the law everywhere. I was born in Ohio, lived in FL, MA and NH. We live and work in multiple states and our families are in multiple states. We are not just Floridians or New Hampshirites, but Americans. We are just as American as any other American. I am proud of who I am, and I am grateful for all my experiences good and bad along the way, for they gave me the gift of understanding, empathy and love for anyone who feels less-than. I am grateful to be strong, capable and blessed enough to help others find similar strength and blessings.
This is a great time in American history. I am so grateful for all my gay brothers and sisters who went before me and paved the way that I can live in relative peace and now with the dignity of legal status and protection of a fully recognized American
Michael Kline is a Certified RIM Facilitator and Certified Success Trainer for personal and group transformation. You can reach him through his website www.intus.life, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.