a child, I had no idea what homosexuality was. I grew up
in a traditional home Catholic, conservative, middle
class. Life was relatively simple: education, work, family.
I was raised to aim high in life, even though my parents
hadn't gone to college. But one thing was instilled in me.
What mattered was not how far you went in life, how much
money you earned, how big a name you made for yourself.
What really mattered was family and the love you had for
one another. The most important day of your life was not
graduation from college or your first day at work or a raise
or even your first house. The most important day of your
life was when you got married. It was on that day that all
your friends and all your family got together to celebrate
the most important thing in life: your happiness
your ability to make a new home, to form a new but connected
family, to find love that put everything else into perspective.
as I grew older, I found that this was somehow not available
to me. I didn't feel the things for girls that my peers
did. All the emotions and social rituals and bonding of
teenage heterosexual life eluded me. I didn't know why.
No one explained it. My emotional bonds to other boys were
one-sided; each time I felt myself falling in love, they
sensed it, pushed it away. I didn't and couldn't blame them.
I got along fine with my buds in a nonemotional context,
but something was awry, something not right. I came to know
almost instinctively that I would never be a part of my
family the way my siblings might one day be. The love I
had inside me was unmentionable, anathema. I remember writing
in my teenage journal one day, "I'm a professional
human being. But what do I do in my private life?"
never discussed my real life. I couldn't date girls and
so immersed myself in schoolwork, the debate team, school
plays, anything to give me an excuse not to confront reality.
When I looked toward the years ahead, I couldn't see a future.
There was just a void. Was I going to be alone my whole
life? Would I ever have a most important day in my life?
It seemed impossible, a negation, an undoing. To be a full
part of my family, I had to somehow not be me. So, like
many other gay teens, I withdrew, became neurotic, depressed,
at times close to suicidal. I shut myself in my room with
my books night after night while my peers developed the
skills needed to form real relationships and loves. In wounded
pride, I even voiced a rejection of family and marriage.
It was the only way I could explain my isolation.
took years for me to realize that I was gay, years more
to tell others and more time yet to form any kind of stable
emotional bond with another man. Because my sexuality had
emerged in solitude and without any link to the idea
of an actual relationship it was hard later to reconnect
sex to love and self-esteem. It still is. But I persevered,
each relationship slowly growing longer than the last, learning
in my 20s and 30s what my straight friends had found out
in their teens. But even then my parents and friends never
asked the question they would have asked automatically if
I were straight: So, when are you going to get married?
When will we be able to celebrate it and affirm it and support
it? In fact, no one no one has yet asked me
people talk about gay marriage, they miss the point. This
isn't about gay marriage. It's about marriage. It's about
family. It's about love. It isn't about religion. It's about
civil marriage licenses. Churches can and should have the
right to say no to marriage for gays in their congregations,
just as Catholics say no to divorce, but divorce is still
a civil option. These family values are not options for
a happy and stable life. They are necessities. Putting gay
relationships in some other category civil unions,
domestic partnerships, whatever may alleviate real
human needs, but by their very euphemism, by their very
separateness, they actually build a wall between gay people
and their families. They put back the barrier many of us
have spent a lifetime trying to erase.
too late for me to undo my past. But I want above everything
else to remember a young kid out there who may even be reading
this now. I want to let him know that he doesn't have to
choose between himself and his family anymore. I want him
to know that his love has dignity, that he does indeed have
a future as a full and equal part of the human race. Only
marriage will do that. Only marriage can bring him home.