|(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."