Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Gay Rights Matter To You

Well, here we are again - it's been another three months and I'm finally sitting down to write another blog entry. Every time, I promise myself that I'm not going to leave such a big gap between posts but then life gets in the way, and . . . voila, there I am - not writing! I can't imagine anybody is racing to their computer each day to see if I've posted something scintillating, but I do enjoy hearing from the few people who pass by and take the time to leave comments. So once again, three months on and I promise to endeavour to write more routinely. Perhaps after this post I won't have the thoughts and passions that thinking about writing this essay has weighed on me the past months, and I'll be more apt to write trivial, less thought provoking and more fun topics.

As I said, I have been thinking about writing this post for a long while now, but have found myself too angry to write in my clear head about it. In fact, I can tell you right now that this will certainly not be my most eloquent entry, but I feel the need to post nonetheless. The reason for my anger is the vitriol and invective spewed as of late, in the States in particular, on the subject of Gay Rights. I am by no means an expert on this subject, but it means so much to me because I have many gay friends, as well as a few people I am honored to call friends within the transgendered community. A woman who was very influential in my young life as an actor and whom I often refer to as my second mother is in a very long term same-sex relationship. So to are many of the wonderful people who shaped what kind of actor, and by extension, what kind of person I am, growing up in the theatre. These people are very important to me and I love them all, and let me be very clear to anyone who would do them harm for the way they live their lives: you hurt the people I love, and I will hurt you!

I am straight, not that that matters, but I mention it for one reason: as a counterpoint to the idiotic voices who bleat on that gay people teaching our children or raising their own will somehow turn them gay. I started acting when I was nine years old, which means I have been taught by people who live their lives as gay men and women since I was nine. I'm now 35. This means that after 24 years of close relationships with these wonderful folks I'm still the same person I was born to be. I am married and have two children. My wife and I would like more. My children have been around my gay friends and my wife's gay friends since they were born, the same way they're around our straight friends, and you know what? They question of everyone's sexuality hasn't come up! Because it doesn't, does it? In your day to day life, unless you're ridiculously crass, your sexual life doesn't enter into how you do your job, it doesn't affect how you order coffee, it doesn't make a difference to how you breathe. You are a human being. We all are.

I truly, TRULY, believe that love is such a hard enough commodity to come by in this world that no-one should have the right to tell you who to love. Gay or straight, two grown, consenting people should be able to love whomever their heart and soul tells them to love. People who have committed to spending their lives together - their one life on this Earth - should be able to hold one another's hand when they pass. They should be able to decide who their benefits go to, who their common children are raised by. Two grown, consenting people should be treated like Adults. The irrational fear of so many is so childish that it honestly boggles my mind. I just don't get it. Pure and simple. I mean, I simply don't see how it affects anyone outside of the relationship. I understand that there is a religious component to this hateful stance, but I've got to tell you - I grew up going to church. I don't buy this argument. I've said it before and I will say it again: homosexuality is mentioned only twice in this allegorical tome. Thou shalt not kill / steal / lie / covet etc. are COMMANDMENTS and no-one is protesting lying, or mounting propositions in California to ban coveting!

Okay, so I promised to tell you why Gay Rights matter to you, and I'll tell you. These rights should matter to you simply because they are rights, human rights. Why should anyone have to march to ask people to stop hurting them? Why should people have to fight governments to be allowed to file a common tax return? Why should people have to fight for respect and freedom in this day and age, and in a country as great as the US? I will say right now that the USA is better than hate, it's better than narrow-mindedness, and it's better than Proposition 8. I cannot imagine being barred from having my wife at my side when I slip into the great beyond, or Heaven forbid - vice-versa. My wife is my life, and one of the best days of my life was becoming her husband. Why anyone would want to stand in the way of that happiness for others in a marriage that has literally zero impact on their lives escapes me. In a society where marriage numbers are dropping, I find it beautiful and reassuring that so many are willing to fight so hard to enter into the bonds of something that gives me so much strength. Far from undermining traditional marriage, I think gay marriage strengthens a time honored institution because it speaks to humans' quest for meaning and love in a world that feels so devoid of it.

As to the human rights component I ask: perhaps it's gay marriage and gay rights today, but what if it's something that affects you tomorrow? What if the pendulum continues to swing and States start introducing Propositions banning cigarettes? Probably a good thing, they cause irreparable harm and cost the tax payer millions. What about banning alcohol? Fine, I don't drink so it doesn't affect me. How about a Proposition requiring people to submit to DNA sampling? Curfews? Modest dress? It is about your rights as a human being living out your one life in a country overflowing with wealth and freedom. I go on a lot about the idea of only having one life to live and the fear of wasting it because of my own experiences, but the concept is a solid one: you have one opportunity to live to the fullest, and any missed chances stay that way, missed. There is a great line in an Anglican creed that reads: "I confess that I have sinned by what I have done, and by what I have left undone." We all deserve the chance to not miss any chances. By that same token, to stand by and do nothing as others suffer is as great a sin as inflicting the suffering itself. I see my friends suffer. Not just because they are being denied something as basic as marriage, or because of the efforts expended fighting injustice, but because they are being told daily that they aren't equal to the man or woman standing beside them. They have been told this all their lives, and not only by random, hateful people holding up signs, but sometimes by their own families and former friends. It is embarrassing as a society to see this in the mirror we hold up to it.

I don't live my life as a gay man, but I can't imagine that's it's any different that the one I live with my wife, but as such I can't speak to the intricacies with any authority. I can only write this as an interested and concerned outsider. However I can certainly hold forth on the issues of rights, and I have. I feel that you're born the way you're meant to be born. What gets you going in the bedroom doesn't define you outside of it. I'm happy to see that the people who have been fighting for so long have so much more support today, and I believe that hate and narrow-mindedness are dying out with each successive generation. Eventually we'll get to a place where we look back and are shocked by how long it took for equality to be truly bestowed on this group of people, the same way we are to look back on the Suffragette movement and the Civil Rights movement.

As I said, I have two young children and am hoping for more. I can tell you that if any of my babies tell me some day that they are gay, I will take them in my arms, hug them as tightly as I can, and tell them how proud of them I am that they want to live their life as the are made. And if anyone hurts my little ones for that, I will hurt those people back.