28 June 2009


Here is an e-mail I've just sent to Sonia:

Howzya doin?

Looks like we have something in common...We're both getting ready to leave on the 4th! Of course, that's when I'm going to Colorado for my surgery, which is scheduled for the 7th.

It also just happens to be my birthday. If you're really good, I'll tell you how old I'm going to be!

Anyway...I walked in the Pride March. This is the first time I've done it in a couple of years, and I couldn't help but to notice a change: no hecklers. Other marchers, some of whom have been part of the movement for much longer than I've been, noticed the same thing. Maybe the would-be hecklers went to the beach because it's the first really summery day we've had. But I'd like to think that there's a sea-change happening in people's attitudes.

So it was very interesting for me to read the articles you sent my way. Like Frank Rich, I didn't hear anything about the Stonewall Rebellion until many, many years after it happened. I thought about that as we marched past the eponymous bar and found myself holding hands with and kissing fellow marchers as well as spectators whom I'd never before met. Those homeless teenagers, drag queens and lesbians who were in the bar that night forty years ago had only each other. Most of them had been ejected from their homes or left them because of the violence they experienced. I think of that midwestern teenager who called Harvey Milk, wondering what he should do next. Milk's advice (in the movie, anyway): Take a bus to any really big city. That was a few years after Stonewall; on the night the rebellion erupted, about the only places in the US where gay and transgendered teenagers could be themselves were the Village, the Castro district and the French Quarter.

The teenager who called Harvey Milk ended up in LA, where he found a community, which is to say a family. Fast-forward to today: The first generation of kids who were raised by same-sex (mostly lesbian) couples is coming of age. That, I think,is the reason why more people support LGBT rights and gay marriage has passed in all of the New England states except Rhode Island and in--Who would have guessed?--Iowa.

In other words, LGBT (perhaps Ts to a lesser extend than the Ls, Gs or Bs) have what African-Americans and women have: parents. I mean this in the literal as well as the metaphorical sense. Great minds can argue the morality or logic of civil rights for us or anyone else, but in the end, the public sees us as equal when they see us as their daughters, sons, or other family members. Every parent who accepts, and better yet shows support--as my parents, especially my mother, have done--for his or her LGBT child is one of the real heroes in our fight for equality.

And, I realized as I walked by the Stonewall Inn, that is the difference between me and those mostly young people who fought the cops who raided one of the few safe havens they had on that night forty years ago.

Oh well. Off another one of my soapboxes. I'll write again soon.

At the march, I met one of the librarians from the college in which I work. His gayness is an open secret: I've heard a few people mention it, and a few others asked me about it. Whenever anyone asks me, "Is so-and-so gay?," I respond with, "I dunno; maybe you should ask him." That is a surefire conversation-stopper.

Three other faculty members have also told me they're gay. Of course, I'm not going to reveal their idenities to anyone else. One is a long-tenured prof; another is a relative newbie who wants to get tenure.

So I am living in a very, very strange world: I'm in a world where at least some people are willing to accept LGBT people. In that world, I'm in a country in which, according to polls, the majority of people support gay marriage and an even larger portion of the population thinks the military should lift its ban on gays. But I work in a place in which all of the LGBT people are in the closet. In fact, it's the only college in the City University system that doesn't have an LGBT organization.

Yet people there know about me. Some, including the librarian, know about my upcoming operation. He has been very supportive; in fact, he even asked for the address of the hospital so he could send me a card. But to some of the faculty, and a number of people in the administration, I am the in-law to whom nobody wants to admit being related. And, sometimes, I am simply a thorn in their sides: I don't try to make them look like fools and hypocrites, but I do.

They're the sort of people who tell you not to call attention to yourself, but who call attention to you. In other words, they want to keep you "in your place" but want to make other people think that they're really on your side.

People, including me, have wondered how gay marriage could pass in a place like Iowa but not in New York. Well, I've never been to Iowa, but I think I might know why. It comes down to something someone told me early in my transition: That honest working people will like you as long as you're honest and true to yourself, and them. "It's the professors and those prissy office workers that are going to give you trouble," that person told me. And she's been right: The best friend I've made since I started my transition has been Millie, who goes to church every week and didn't finish high school. On the other hand, I've had run-ins with people who've mastered all sorts of arcane theory but can't understand these simple truths: I am the daughter of two people who love me. I am the sister of three men who are good providers, fathers, husbands and citizens. I am a friend--and I try to be the best one I can be--to people who are loving, caring and intelligent in all sorts of different ways. And I am a colleague of people who are respected in their careers. All I want is to be seen and treated as a human being.

I suspect that all of the people with whom I marched would say something like what I've just said. And I believe, or at least hope, that most of the spectators were there because they understand and believe it.

In all, it was a fine day. Only nine more till my surgery.