Marriage Equality in Indiana

Love is all we need

Marriage is not about religion…Atheists marry.

Marriage is not about procreation…the infertile marry.

Marriage is not about finance…it can weave poverty.

Marriage IS about LOVE.

 

June 25, 2014:

“U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that the state’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause because it treats couples differently based on their sexual orientation.

Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”

It’s been over 12 hours since I heard the news of this. It still has not completely sunk in yet. Could it really be possible that I live in a state where I could legally marry another woman? WHOA!!

When I first came out just over 17 years ago, I didn’t even think about the possibility of marrying another woman one day. I honestly did not think it would happen in my lifetime. After all, why would we fight for something like that when we were still (and are still) trying just to be considered normal by the majority of others? Having legal same-sex marriage was ‘pie in the sky’ thinking back then.

Now it is here, even if it might be temporarily put on hold, in a state where I reside?! Unbelievable!!

As a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was being considered by the state legislature earlier this year in Indiana, it felt very personal and was now very close to home. I’m not in a relationship and have not been for a few years now, but I still found myself feeling obligated to try to educate those around me. It might not have had a physical impact on my life right at this moment, but it definitely had an emotional impact.

I had some great conversations with friends. Often I would hear that they are okay with something ‘like’ marriage but want it called something else such as a civil union. Those ideas immediately make me think of the concept of “separate but equal.” We all know that that has not worked in public education in regards to segregation, integration and even Title IX. Why do we think it would work with marriage? Also, what is the point of calling it something else? Giving it a different name would simply imply that it was different and therefore not equal. If it is meant to grant all of the same rights, just call it by the same name.

So, what rights would we get by having same-sex marriage legal?

“The General Accounting Office in 1997 released a list of 1,049 benefits and protections available to heterosexual married couples. These benefits range from federal benefits, such as survivor benefits through Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks. They also include things like family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. Civil Unions protect some of these rights, but not all of them.” http://lesbianlife.about.com/cs/wedding/a/unionvmarriage.htm

Some might say that same-sex couples can have an attorney complete wills and powers of attorney for the couple. Yes, this is true…but not guaranteed to be followed. Wills can and often are challenged by family members who disapprove of the relationship. Not to mention the cost to do this. Why should same-sex couples have to pay considerably more for fewer rights that might not be guaranteed?

Having same-sex marriage legal could have had a HUGE impact on my life back in 1999. I will share more at a later date, but when my first partner died suddenly, I was left out of all of the planning of her services despite the fact that we had been together for two years. Yes, we had separated a couple of months before her death, but we still saw each other every day and were still very much in love. Had we been married, our divorce would not have been finalized and I would have been the legal next of kin.

Legal same-sex marriage is about more than just having the same legal rights of other married couples. There are other, more emotional, benefits as well. A legal marriage has the possibility to also bring about more acceptance and respect for those in same-sex relationships. We would be able to hold our heads higher and over time lower our guard a bit more. With time, we won’t be considered “less than” to the degree that we are now.

Remember, my friends, it is all about L.O.V.E.

Gay marriage will be universally accepted in time. But if I may be so bold as to say to gays and lesbians, don’t wait for that time to arrive. Just as my father and his generation did not ‘wait’ for their civil rights, nor should you. The toothpaste ain’t going back in the tube. The tide has turned.

John Ridley

(John Ridley won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for 12 Years a Slave, making him the second African-American to win the award.)

 

 

It Took Over 26 Years…Part 2

My earliest memory…something I remember without reading from a journal…of being attracted to another woman was in 1996 or early 1997. This was just months before I would finally let myself believe that I was gay. I was at Barnes& Noble browsing the books and this person came up and asked if I was finding everything okay. Without looking up right away I answered that I was. By the time I finished answering I looked up and saw who was speaking to me. To just say that I got butterflies in my stomach would be an understatement. I had a whole, freaking migration of monarch butterflies in there! Then I realized it was a woman speaking to me!

WHOA! Wait just a minute, here! What the…was going on here?!

Up to that point, I had never had such a strong physical reaction to seeing another woman. (As it turned out, she was a golfing buddy to my first partner.)

As I mentioned previously, this was not the first time I had reason to question my sexual orientation. It goes back to at least high school days. Apparently my best friend and I would have words about the fact that I was attracted to other girls. I have no idea what I would say, but she did tell me later that this happened on more than one occasion. This is one of the instances of ‘filing’ away that information for another day. I suppose since my comments did not meet approval, I figured I shouldn’t share them again.

I never really dated boys in high school. I did have a crush on a couple of them but the most that happened was one buying me a mum for homecoming and me getting him a garter. (This is a Texas tradition that you can read more about here and see pictures here.) We didn’t even go to the homecoming dance.

In my senior year, I did have a “relationship” with John. I put that into quotation marks because I’m not sure exactly what to call it. We were best friends and we did kiss and make out; but we never went on a traditional date. I would go to his apartment…yes, he was nine years older (oops)… or we would go for a drive. We would talk on the phone for hours. Besides kissing and making out from time to time, that was the extent of anything sexual between us. We never declared ourselves to be boyfriend/girlfriend. When I left for college, it became very ‘on again, off again.’ We just couldn’t let go of each other completely. I still believe to this day that if we had gotten married, we would have stayed married until the end because we got along so well. Other than those two, there were no other boyfriends. (A note about John.  He died in January of 1997. I truly believe it was his death that finally freed me to finally accept that I was attracted to women.)

It wasn’t until about my junior or senior year of college that anything more happened with men. I still did not have a boyfriend, or date guys; but I did have experiences with guys…multiple guys. I ‘messed around’ a lot with mostly married men. I did everything but have intercourse with these men in one-night stands. After all, I was a good Catholic girl…I couldn’t have intercourse, that would be a sin! For the record, I do recognize that being with married men is also a sin, but in my mind at the time it was less of a sin. Doesn’t make sense to me either!

For many years after coming out, I joked that I was simply “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I viewed these men as being safe because there could be no long-term commitment.  Now, after spending hours reading old journals and processing it all, I realize that it was an attempt to be more like my college roommates…who were all attracted to men. I didn’t know it, but I think I was trying to make myself ‘straight.’ I was doing my own version of reparative therapy.

One affair lasted several months and went on during the first year of my graduate studies. At some point after this ended, I must have been questioning myself again as I tried to talk to one of my undergraduate professors about being gay. She did not take too kindly to my assumption that she was gay and would not have any kind of conversation with me related to homosexuality. While this bothered me, I just mentally shrugged it off and once again ‘filed’ away the idea that I might be gay.

Near the end of my graduate school career, I had to write what was called an ‘Annotated Autobiography.’ At the end of the writing, I addressed sexual orientation in the family. I commented that both my sister and I had questioned our orientation ‘but I had not to the extent that my sister had.’ Again, I had ‘filed’ this away and dismissed any notion that I might be gay.

What amazes me about all the times I would ‘file’ away any thought of being gay is how I didn’t seem bothered by my questioning. I know it is easy to repress memories as part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but I guess I feel I should have been more bothered by not being able to get answers to my questions. I suppose it was just my mind protecting me until I was truly ready for the answer.

Throughout all of this, I was still very active in the church. I attended on a regular basis and was somewhat involved at the Catholic Newman Center on campus. As I finished graduate school, I became involved in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and was a sponsor for a friend of mine to complete the sacraments to become a full Catholic. Even after I moved 1.5 hours away, I continued to drive to San Angelo every other week to be with her during the meetings. In the fall of 1996, I got involved in a local RCIA in hopes of continuing to help those that wanted to become Catholic. Shortly after signing up, I found it difficult to get myself to church on Sundays. Nothing had happened at church…no upsetting homilies, no run-ins with staff…nothing. I just could not get myself to attend. Soon, I was no longer involved. I couldn’t understand what was happening.

Within a year, I would come to understand what was going on inside of me.

questioning

This Is Our Church

So many of us that have come out have also had to struggle with the teachings of our churches. I was no different.

Susan Cottrell & FreedHearts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“The singing was the most beautiful sound in the world! More than once, I had to stop singing and just listen. I couldn’t get some of the words out through the tears. Some would say that in those moments, our sexual orientation didn’t matter. For me, though, it did.”

Yesterday, I shared the first part of Criselda’s moving story. Today, I am honored to continue to share that with you, in her words, from her heart…

I was raised Catholic, with strict Catholic rules. One that stuck with me for many years is: “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” So, when I realized I was gay, my struggle with the church really began.

I attended mass with my partner but did not receive communion, because I knew I was not living according to the church’s teaching. Finally, I quit attending. As much as I longed to be in church, I…

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It Took Over 26 Years…Part 1

I originally started writing my full coming out story to share with someone I consider(ed) a dear friend of mine. In that process, I realized how valuable it might be for others. Prior to putting my story on paper, I spent many, many hours in prayer asking for God’s guidance in finding the words to write. I asked for God’s guidance also for what he wants for me in my life. Ultimately, here is what I was called to write.

How do I know that being gay is normal and not a sin? Well, my coming to this conclusion is not completely based on studying the bible, but more based on my experiences. I think this is important to consider since homosexuality is not an abstract concept. It is something very concrete and involves real, current, living humans with a face. It involves people you know and love dearly and many, many others whom you have never met.

I remember years ago when many people thought that the rate of child sexual abuse was on the rise. What many studies would end up saying is that it wasn’t the rate that was increasing, it was just the number of people coming forward and speaking up that was increasing. The same can be said for homosexuality. There are not more people ‘choosing’ to be homosexual, it is just that more and more are being brave and speaking up honestly earlier in life about who they really are and their attraction to someone of the same sex. We also have to consider the impact that technology and media has played in us hearing about both of these topics more than we did just 20 years ago.

I think it is important to consider the definition of homosexuality. According to Merriam-Webster, the first part of the definition, which for me and many others is the way we define homosexuality, says that it is being sexually attracted to someone of the same sex. We simply cannot control who we are attracted to in our lives. It is not possible to train oneself to NOT be attracted to someone. We have no control over those butterflies we get when we see someone for whom we have an attraction. Not only that, but to the best of my knowledge, attraction is not discussed in the bible except in regards to lust. And, just because we are attracted to someone, it does not mean that we lust for them in the way the bible talks about lust.

If you are someone that believes that just having attractions to someone of the same sex is sinful, I have one favor to ask as you read through my experience. I ask it not in an effort to try to change your beliefs, but instead to allow you to read this with a more open heart. I ask that just while you read my posts, you put aside what you were taught to believe the Bible says about homosexuality. I ask that you put aside anything you may have read previously and dismissed as being shallow or self-serving. I ask that you read every word. I ask that you picture your dearest friend and imagine it is their story. If you find yourself wandering back to your current beliefs, stop yourself and put that aside just for the day, then continue reading.


First, some background…

I did not fully accept that I was attracted to other women until I was 26. However, since coming out, I have learned that I apparently made comments or asked questions that would lead me to assume I knew something internally much earlier. I believe my coming out was hindered by two main factors: 1) I have many repressed memories that have only come to light as I’ve read older journals and 2) I had heard my mother and a sibling speak negatively about a relative that was questioning their own sexuality and I feared what might be said about or to me.

I am so grateful that I am a sentimental fool. If not for that fact, I might have thrown out my many journals over the years. Thankfully, I have them to bring much needed clarity which helps piece the puzzle together. They also help explain how I got to be the person I am today.

I got very good over the years of ‘filing away’ certain thoughts and questions I had regarding my sexuality. For example, there were times when I would have questions but nobody was there to help sort them out so I just ‘filed’ them for another day. One journal helped trigger the following that I sent to my therapist in 1997:

“I remember when I was younger that I found a ‘girly’ magazine in my brother’s room. I was fascinated by it and even got a little aroused at that time…I can think back to about high school graduation thinking about women. My best friend and I used to have disagreements all the time over this. Not that I was attracted to her, but that I was the least bit attracted to women at all.”

A possible bigger factor that kept my sexuality hidden from even me was what happened at home. Once in high school, I overheard my mother and a sibling saying ugly and disapproving words about a relative that was ‘experimenting’ while questioning their own sexuality. I suppose this really caught my attention because of my own same-sex attractions I had during this time. If they could say these hurtful things about someone else that we ‘loved,’ what might they say about and to me? Could I end up being completely rejected if I shared my own attractions?

As I mentioned above, I was 26 before I finally accepted and understood myself to have same-sex attractions. I will share more in my coming posts how that came to be.

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June: Pride Month

Pride-Flag

Everyone has people in their lives that are gay, lesbian or transgender or bisexual. They may not want to admit it, but I guarantee they know somebody.  -Billie Jean King

June is Pride Month for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. This month, I will share my struggle with accepting my sexual identity, life since coming out and some of the history within the LGBT community.

For those who have been following me already, don’t worry, I’ll finish my story of my experience with depression as well this month. 🙂

 

Here is the brief history of Pride Month from eHow:

Unofficially, June was known as Gay Pride Month for many years after the Stonewall riots. Gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals would frequently schedule parades or festivals in June to commemorate the event. In June 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June to be Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. Nine years later, close to the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation that June was Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

 

Gay rights advocates march by the White House in Washington, on

Below is the 2014 Proclamation from the White House:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

May 30, 2014

 

Presidential Proclamation — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2014

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2014

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect — our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, we celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.

Last year, supporters of equality celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling which, at long last, gave loving, committed families the respect and legal protections they deserve. In keeping with this decision, my Administration is extending family and spousal benefits — from immigration benefits to military family benefits — to legally married same-sex couples.

My Administration proudly stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights. Here at home, we have strengthened laws against violence toward LGBT Americans, taken action to prevent bullying and harassment, and prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals. Despite this progress, LGBT workers in too many States can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And in the years ahead, we will remain dedicated to addressing health disparities within the LGBT community by implementing the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy — which focuses on improving care while decreasing HIV transmission rates among communities most at risk.

Our commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community extends far beyond our borders. In many places around the globe, LGBT people face persecution, arrest, or even state-sponsored execution. This is unacceptable. The United States calls on every nation to join us in defending the universal human rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

This month, as we mark 45 years since the patrons of the Stonewall Inn defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement, let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way. Following their example, let each of us speak for tolerance, justice, and dignity — because if hearts and minds continue to change over time, laws will too.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA