Friday, April 19, 2013

Passing the Baton

(Image is of my hand shaking Delaware governor Markell's hand  April 11, 2013)

If there was one lasting image of my testimony in support of marriage equality yesterday at the Delaware State legislature it is the image of the young gay man who was waiting with extended hand to shake mine after my emotional testimony.  This young man, with nary a wrinkle on his fresh, young face; locked his laser stare on me, and a proud yet determined smile on is face that seem to say "Thank you for fighting the good battle against discrimination the last 50 years."  

I had wanted to make a quick exit (thank goodness the door was right behind me) after my emotional testimony because, quite frankly, I was embarrassed.  But this young man's fixed stare and smile said to me "Oh no, I'm going to thank you before you leave."  I hesitated and then shook his hand.  He smiled as I did.  

As I was waiting outside Legislative Hall for Bill to pick me up (we waited outside in the parking lot during my testimony), I thought of the me and that young gay man presented.  It's a shame my friend Mark H. wasn't around to capture "The Moment" but I have captured that moment in my mind forever. I have thus passed on the baton to a younger generation of gay men (and women) who will not have to go through what Bill and I (and thousands of other gay people) did up until this time, when gays are increasingly being afforded the same dignity and legal protections of other Americans.  

  • This young man can join the Army and not have to lie about who he is just in order to serve his county.
  • This young man can get a job anywhere and not have to worry about someday getting a boss who is a homophobe and fires him from his job for no other reason than he is gay.
  • This young man doesn't have to worry about where he can live.  He can live in a neighborhood where the neighbors don't encourage their kids to stand on the border of his property and chant "Fags get out!" as happened to me and Bill when we lived in Pennsylvania.
  • This young man can lay on the beach with his friends and not have to worry about a gang of young toughs threatening to beat them up just because he is on the beach with his friends.
  • This young man doesn't have to worry about drunken teenagers waiting for a gay bar to close so they can taunt the gay men and women coming out of that bar so they would have an excuse to "bash a gay."
  • This young man doesn't have to worry about a gang of young straight guy, fueled by too much beer and testosterone to try and hit him with their car as they yell "Hey you f--cking fag!"
  • This young man won't have to endure having his parents trying to hospitalize him to "cure" him of his "gayness" like I did.
  • This young man won't have to see some of his former friends make fun of him when they have a birthday party and all the candles don't get blown out on the birthday cake and one of them says "Hey, maybe we can get Ron to blow them out, he knows how to blow!" and then everyone laughs.
  • This young man won't have to suffer the embarrassment of having some of his former male co-workers make a visit to his apartment on a Saturday night after they found out he was gay.  

All these things and many more have happened to me, including the disdainful, disgusted looks and expressions from to many of my relatives when they found out I was gay.  Maybe, just maybe he won't have to live through the 71 years of being considered "less than."  Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?

I have been very blessed to live the past 49 years of my adult life in a loving and committed relationship with my longtime partner and friend, Bill.   Both of us have had to lie, hide and always structure our life to minimize the danger to us both physically and economically.  We have lived most of our life in fear and lies.  Looking into that young man's determined eyes yesterday, as he shook my hand, I knew that he would not have to live that life.  And that my friends gives me a wonderful feeling.  

I always knew there was a reason why I was born the way I was born.  I never regretted being born gay.  My only concern was how to survive.  Never once did I not want to be what I am.  Many of us have wondered what our purpose in life was.  I've often thought the same thing myself.  I keep coming back to the same answer.  Love.  Yes, folks it is all about love.  And yesterday that is what I saw.  And I am so thankful that a confluence of serendipitous circumstances permitted me to be a part of that change.  

Yesterday with that handshake I passed the baton to the next generation of gay men and women. The phrase that comes to my mind now is "my work here is done."  I wondered where that came from.  First thought was "The Lone Ranger."  And guess what?  I was right!

Here is the quote:

"At the end of every episode, the Lone Ranger would say "my work here is done now" and then he'd slip off and we'd hear the iconic "Hi-ho Silver away!" line as people are left asking who that masked man was."

I can now rest.  I can go home. "My work here is done now."


Tony said...

what a great moment, and so nice that he did not let you get away before expressing his gratitude. while it is not a safe world for gays yet, it is certainly safer. we all create a legacy with our lives that lives on after us, and yours is making quite a powerful and inspiring impression already! additionally, it is important that younger folk know what came before so that they can appreciate the changes--sounds like this young man does just that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being a trailblazer. This was a great post!

anne marie in philly said...

my friend buddybear at "one step at a time" has a similar post for today. I told him to drop by your blog for a look-see.

gay (or str8) people should not be subjected to constant bullying. I too am the victim of bullies, from my parents and "friends". took me 4 years of therapy to finally grow a pair and put an end to the bullies. I dropped such individuals from my life, and it's been a weight off my shoulders ever since.

Ron said...

Anne Marie,

We have both learned the hard way to put a stop to the bullying. I am proud of you.


Ron said...


I always knew there was a good reason why Bill and I have been together for so long.


Ron said...


That was a very iconic moment. From the look in his eyes I knew he wasn't going to let me leave the room before he "thanked" me. He understood.


Raybeard said...

Well articulated and deeply expressed post, Ron. I hope that young man manages to search out this posting. If he does he's sure to be doubly impressed with you.

Btw: Just picking up on one of the several worthy points you've mentioned - "I never regretted being born gay" Me too 100%. One of the most irritating reactions I had when I came out was the assumption that I'd wish that I WASN'T gay. Even when trying to put them right they'd have that look on their face which said that they didn't really believe me - and that I secretly envied the 'normal' hetero lifestyle. Even these days one does occasionally hear those gays who actually DO say the latter (film director Terence Davies, for example - who "absolutely LOATHES being gay!"), which must be music to the ears of those gay-hating religionists. I put forward my theory that what these gay-frustrated gays actually desire is their not to have the discomfort of being confronted with homophobia, rather than their professed wish to settle down with someone of the other sex and raise a family. I can't help if there was global homoPHILIA then these same gay moaners would be much more accepting of their natural state.

Amanda said...

Bullying is the right term. I have no idea why people are homophobes; probably fear (of what?).
I am so happy to read about the wonderful day you had yesterday. You are an inspiration!

Ron said...


I never understood why people felt the need to bully. I first witnessed this when I was in grade school. Even at that time I knew that wasn't me. I didn't see what happiness or enjoyment there was in bullying someone considered weaker than me. I saw others do it and wondered "what is wrong with them?"

Today's not so good Nadege. I'll write about it later. Too much going on today with the medical and upcoming trip. Never a dull moment around here at Casa Tipton y Kelly.


Ron said...


You bring up a very good point about being born gay. Never once did I regret being born gay. It just was. I certainly never wanted to be straight. Even with all the homophobia I've faced as a gay man I've always felt I was given a special mission in life if for no other reason than being "born gay." I know there are plenty of self-hating gays but I'm not one of them, never have been


Buddy Bear said...

Ron, you are a true 'gay pioneer' ... proudly and bravely out at a time when it was unsafe and illegal to do so. And anne marie, thanks for your words of support, but I am just starting, just taking "baby steps" in the area of gay advocacy.

Jon said...

Hey, the Lone Ranger visited both of our blogs!! This is a fantastic post.
I was raised in Southern California, where gays abound. I lived in Hollywood where nearly 50% of the men admit their gay and the other 50% are lying (smile). I never realized the prejudiced attitude toward gays until I moved out of California. In Springfield, Missouri a gay friend of mine was severely beaten by a group of teens. He was discovered unconscious, with several of his teeth knocked out. I never realized there was so MUCH intense hate and homophobia in our country. This homophobic attitude is rampant here in rural Texas, too.....