“Can’t you just be happy?” is a question I’ve been asked, a lot.
The answer is always the same.
“Yes, but only after I’m sad.”
Now is no different.
I can’t stop tearing up.
My heart is heavy. Yes, I feel the explosive rainbow firecrackers going off after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling.
But I’m torn too between the present joy and the pain-filled past.
I’m thinking of the people who couldn’t adopt openly, easily or at all because they chose love and be in a partnership and be out. Because of who they are, they may not have ever heard the words Mommy and Mama or Dada and Dad.
I’m thinking of the people at the prom who went as a straight couple when they were not straight. I’m thinking of the teens who had best friends who were more than best friends and did not get flower corsages or photos or the pride of beaming relatives seeing him and him and her and her looking grown up and in love.
They did not get prom pictures on the mantle and couldn’t exchange kisses or dances pressing into one another during slow songs. Maybe they made love under the stars or in a car or at a beach. And maybe they had to do so in secret, hiding the “sin” of loving the same sex at a time when that was no less common, just far less accepted. Maybe they felt afraid of being caught and had to lie to themselves or others.
I’m thinking of the people who had their sexuality bound in ways that kept it from growing. They jammed identities into postures and shoes that didn’t fit in order to be socially acceptable. They couldn’t freely wiggle or feel fresh green grass or the dew in the soul center of sacred sensuality.
I have a tween. I do not know or presume to know her sexual orientation and it’s not my business until and unless and only when she shares that with me. It is joy to live in a time when as a parent I can ask about crushes and have no gender attached to that question. None.
Being in Massachusetts where marriage has been legal her whole life makes this possible.
But I can’t not know that there were countless tweens not allowed an open answer to the question, “Who do you love?”
They mattered too.
Some had to choose between being out and being employed, being out and getting to keep a faith community, being out and staying connected to their family of origin.
Those are not true choices.
There are rainbow sunshine joys right now, but there is also loss.
It is not only a happy day of rainbows and sunshine.
People have died and anguished and been persecuted, fired, and not granted full access to the law. And that’s still true for many gays.
Yes, I yelled to my daughter, “Have you heard? Gays can marry in any state. It’s the law.”
“Oh yeah,” she said, “I heard,” completely unfazed.
I get to be mother to a daughter of color who has seen a black man become president and a woman in the running too.
And still I do feel heavy hearted.
For those who were entitled to but did not get this rainbow bliss.
For the souls who suffered or took their own lives or lived half lives—they are not without pain.
For the activists and allies who worked for a better world and died before this victory day.
I think of them, and so the rainbow is faded by eyes grey and clouded with tears. The camera lens isn’t big enough to capture the depth, scope and expanse of the arch it stretches across, crossing over from past to future.
For the lives changed or ended or unable to bloom before, who might have made it to now if now got here sooner.
For the trailblazers and activists who gave hours and years and saw little reward.
Let us remember them too.
They came first. Their battle was less bright and hopeful but it was no less important, urgent, necessary and in part responsible for this now.
I’m not trying to be a kill joy. I’m not trying to be negative.
Audre Lorde the poet, feminist, black activist writer wrote, “Revolution is not a onetime event.”
I’m thinking of those who had part in this revolution who don’t get to cheer, applaud, see this change in the law of the land.
The joy belongs to them. This right was denied them for no good reason.
They too mattered. They were deprived not for who they were or were not—gay, lesbian, transgendered—but because of who we were not: just, fair.
I feel a bit repentant.
Don’t we owe an “I’m sorry” too?
For the lost lives, days or good years? For our failure to make this happen sooner.
I cry for them and hope they feel the rainbow too, from another place, and know they are remembered.
They paved the way or suffered or sacrificed or failed to bloom full.
Let’s remember and do better sooner and faster in all the subsequent battles—in their honor.
Author: Chrsitine “Cissy” White
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Stig Andersen/Flickr