|Bill and Ron Milton, Delaware - 2011|
Today I got that "funny feeling" again. Three times in my life I've gotten this "funny feeling."
It is hard to describe this "funny feeling" but I'll attempt to do so now. Have you ever read about those near death experiences in which the soon to be deceased see the "light" at the end of a long tunnel. The light is always described as emanating a feeling of total love and acceptance. The feeling is one of comfort and peace.
Maybe it is a stretch to describe my feeling as heaven but I don't know how else to describe it.
The first time I experienced this feeling was on a cold February night in 1963. I had just completed a three years in the Army working at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland. During that time I had to keep my homosexuality totally in the closet because I didn't want to lose my top secret clearance and get kicked out of the Army, which is what they did in those prehistoric times of the Fifties and Sixties.
|Bill and Ron Pennsauken, New Jersey - 1964|
After returning to my home in Downingtown, Pennsylvania I took a bus to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to spend a weekend with my friend Sal. Sal was a cook in the Air Force also stationed at Ft. Meade. His tour of duty ended a few months before mine. Sal was also gay. Visiting Sal was my "coming out party" so to say. Sal and his friend Howard were going to take me to my first gay bar.
Of course I was very nervous. I didn't know what to expect. Sal lived in Elizabeth, a suburb of Pittsburgh. That cold Saturday night we were going to visit a small local bar in the nearby town of Clairton, which was the hometown of Sal's friend Howard.
The straight part of the local bar was downstairs in the main entrance to the building. The gay bar was accessed by a fire escape in the back of the main building. We climbed the fire escape to the gay bar.
As we entered the darkened bar from the metal fire escape steps, butterflies were swirling around in my stomach. The first thing I saw after my eyes adjusted to the darkness was male figures slow dancing together to a jukebox record. I forget the name of the song but I will never forget that sight. The wild butterflies in my stomach disappeared immediately and were replaced by a calmness and warmth. I was "home." I no longer felt ALONE. I no longer felt like a criminal in hiding. I no longer felt the heavy oppression of shame of being homosexual. There were others like me and they looked normal! I didn't see one man dressed as a woman. The sight of those men slow dancing that night in that small town bar in Clairton PA opened a whole new world to me.
|Ron and Bill Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 1974|
The second time I experienced that funny feeling was the first time I visited Provincetown, Massachusetts. I had heard a lot about "P-town" as the gay resort destination of America. I was curious and decided the summer of 1974 to take my vacation in Provincetown. I wasn't as nervous this time.
From my first experience in 1963 to this time eleven years later in 1974, I had been a regular weekend bar hopper to the most popular Philadelphia gay bars. I was also in a committed gay relationship since 1964. This July weekend in 1974 my good friend Bob and I were going to see what all the fuss was about in P-Town. We weren't disappointed.
We made the twelve hour trip in Bob's pickup truck driving from my center city home in Philadelphia, PA through New Jersey, New York, Mystic, Connecticut and then finally to the tip of Cape Cod where Provincetown is located.
|Ron and Bill Downingtown, Pennsylvania - 1978|
We arrived in town on Commercial Street on a Saturday evening. P-town was packed. As our truck inched it's way through the Saturday night crowd, we realized we were at someplace special. Walking, strolling and laughing in the streets were all kinds of couples. Straight couples, men and men couples, women and women couples. Everyone was so relaxed. For the first time in my life I felt the tremendous burden of oppression lifted from my being. This must be what straight people feel like all the time! Freedom! Now we knew what all the fuss was about in Provincetown. Every summer from that date on I spent at least one week of my vacation in Provincetown, ending in my last visit which lasted three weeks in 1986.
Today was the third time I felt that special "feeling." This was when I learned that President Obama announced publicly that he supported marriage equality. In other words, he fully supports same sex marriage.
I never thought I would experience this feeling again but I have and it feels damn good.
Maybe, just maybe in my lifetime Bill and I can get married for real. Not any of this civil union or domestic partnership second- class make-believe marriage but a real marriage. You know, just like the straight people with all the benefits, protections and respect. If and when then happens I will have realized my life long dream that only a few years ago I considered impossible during my lifetime. Bill and I will be married.
In a few months we will celebrate our being together for forty-eight years. Maybe by the time we celebrate our 50th anniversary, during the second year of the Obama administration with a Democratically controlled House and Senate, Congress will repeal DOMA.
The question is not "Is it going to happen?" but "When is it going to happen?"