The Day DOMA Went Down
The night of the SCOTUS rulings on DOMA and Prop 8, my husband and I celebrated with dinner at Brooklyn Fish Camp, the restaurant we stumbled giddily into after filing for domestic partnership in 2007. (We subsequently married in San Francisco during the window period of 2008.) Announcing our federally married bliss we struck up a conversation with other diners seated at the bar. As a straight couple quietly exited our waitress told us that they had paid our bill. We caught them and had a nearly wordless exchange, the two of us trying to express our gratitude while she with tears in her eyes conveyed her deep understanding of the day’s significance. Stunned by their generosity we neglected to ask their names. For two middle-aged gay men so accustomed to defending the legitimacy of our love, the evening confirmed that we will need time to adapt to the realities of acceptance.
A Momentous Day
Today the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) paving the way for gay marriage. I am exhilarated and so deeply moved that it will take me some time to process the significance of this event. I would like to write a few immediate thoughts as I take in the ramifications of this day.
On a national level the ruling raises the concerns of LGBT people to their rightful place in the discourse on human rights. And, on a very personal level, it means that my marriage is now federally recognized.
Yet, there is so much more.
I am deeply grateful to Edith Windsor. In fighting for her rights as a married woman, she took up a cause that will have implications for all of us. I applaud all the activists who participated in this case and who are fighting for LGBT rights in so many other battles. There are too many people who continue to experience the pain of abuse and oppression.
When I heard the news my mind went immediately to my lover who died of AIDS in 1991. He participated in changing his world for the better and I think he would have been so proud to know how far we have come. There is a long history of activism in our community that has led to this event, and I want to honor those who came before and are not here to reap the rewards.
In my psychotherapy practice I often have to help people through feelings of sadness that accompany a joyful event. They wonder why they should be crying when they are so happy. I let them know that it is normal to feel grief when we get what we want. We are encountering the feelings of loss that have been kept at bay when we couldn’t have what we were longing for.
As with any change, including changes for the better, there will be a period of adjustment. For many of us this ruling will create shifts in how we relate to ourselves and others. We must reexamine the walls that we created to protect ourselves from the homophobia of our pasts. We might find that defenses that were necessary at the time may no longer serve us. As someone I spoke with today said so eloquently, “I need to learn how to be accepted.”
I feel such love for my husband. I have to wonder whether the lack of recognition of our marriage might have affected the quality of our relationship and how this judgment could offer us an opportunity to deepen the commitment we have to one another.
I’m glad to be alive on this momentous day, to learn and grow. Lets keep the conversation going and help each other adapt to the changes ahead.
Hide/Seek at the Brooklyn Museum
I don’t think I could have been more proud of my cultural history as a gay man than I was last Saturday on Queer night at the Brooklyn Museum.
What could be more empowering than to dance to Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel,” with hundred’s of LGBTQ people of diverse ages, ethnic, and racial backgrounds surrounded by priceless works of art in one of the oldest and largest art institutions in the United States?
The evening was to celebrate the ongoing Hide/Seek exhibit, and I knew it was going to be special as I entered the building. The museum, which I have been going to since I was a child, seemed transformed by the energy of the crowd. People were milling about, laughing and expressing affection with ease. There were two venues for music, live and DJ. And, although I usually hate standing in line, I waited patiently to enter the exhibition, feeling like I was part of something monumental that night.
HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture is billed as “The first major museum exhibition to focus on themes of gender and sexuality in modern American portraiture.” It was originally exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, National Portrait Gallery with some controversy and will be on display at the Brooklyn Museum until February 12, 2012.
The exhibit documents the contributions of LGBT artists from the 19th century to the contemporary era. It was a lesson in art history, and I learned not only about the impact of LGBT artists, but that many famous works were created by artists that I never knew were gay. The works included in the exhibit tell us the story of gay life through the eyes of great artists of their day. For example, I was struck by the soulful expression in “Arnold Comes of Age,” Grant Wood’s self-portrait (the painter of American Gothic). He shows us how difficult it is to be a gay man in Middle America in 1930. A walk through the exhibit documents the pain and suffering, joy and daring these great gay and lesbian artists endured through their work. As the exhibit moved into the contemporary era, the impact of AIDS and works of current artists, I was able to reflect on my own life as a gay man, and could see how my experiences fell into a context of gay liberation and identity formation documented in art.
And, later, on the dance floor I felt deep gratitude for all the LGBT artists, activists, and people from all walks of life, who through their work and existance helped create a world where I could hold my husband’s hand at the Brooklyn Museum and feel proud of being gay.
To find out more about the exhibit go the the Brooklyn Museum.