A Letter From a Gay Son to His Dad
I saw your recent post on Facebook “liking” Mitt Romney and had to write. (Admittedly, I’m still getting used to my 66-year-old father using Facebook, but given what I’m about to write, I assure you I’m quite supportive of it.)
Though your public support for Romney doesn’t surprise me, given how open you’ve been about your dislike of President Obama, it does bother me. Since coming out to you and mom 19 years ago, I’ve watched you vote for the Republican candidates in every major race. Save for the occasional mealtime argument or sarcastic Fox News barb, I’ve held my tongue, despite the hurt and anger that came from watching you vote for a party that has made a sport out of demonizing gay and lesbian people, like me, for political gain. I did so because I never had a solid enough argument that the Democratic Party was wholly different. They often stopped short of institutionalizing discrimination of gays, but were sadly lax on standing on principle and advocating for its eradication.
For the first time in our nation’s history, a U.S. President and his party have publicly stated that gays and lesbians are equal citizens and should be such under the law. I know you’re aware that Obama believes gays and lesbians, like me, should have the rights and responsibilities of marriage and that the 2012 Democratic Party Platform will include marriage equality as one of its tenets. You will never know what it is to be gay in this world at this moment, but I’d bet at some point in your life you’ve known how it felt to have your essential worth validated by someone with authority. I can’t overstate the power of having my president and his party say to me, and the nation, that I am not less than, but equal to, and validate my inherent right to pursue my life with liberty and unimpeded happiness. Never before has this happened. So, never before have I made the argument that you should vote for the Democrat. But, today’s a new day.
Four months ago, I sat at my younger brother’s wedding and watched you well up, speaking publicly with pride for the man he’s become and the woman he chose. His life, though certain to have unexpected turns ahead, has a clear path, one available to him simply because of his sexual orientation at birth. Mine has never been so clear. Oftentimes, being gay feels like being a salmon swimming upstream. Our relationships aren’t supported by tradition or institution, any models we may have remain hidden, as openness invites derision, and the pressures to carve a life out with another person, minimally as equally affected by the ever-present fear, instilled in us from our earliest memories that we’re different and unlovable and bad, can often be too much to bear. And yet, not always. The resiliency of my community, in the face of such misunderstanding and hate, is astonishing and inspiring. They’ve taught me to think twice before underestimating the will of the human spirit in its slow march toward progress, whatever the circumstances.
I’m almost 40. Both of my younger brothers are married, enjoying all the rights and responsibilities of that government-issued status. Do you want that for me? Do you believe I should have someone beside me on life’s journey, legally recognized as my spouse, able to visit me in the hospital, able to make my end-of-life decisions, with whom I’m able to build a financially interdependent life? I have to believe you do. I have to believe you’re too good a man not to. Because if you don’t … if, like the candidate you’re supporting, you believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman, I feel sorry for us both: you, because it means you’re on the wrong side of history and your own son’s happiness and me, because it means my father does believe I’m “less than.”
In any other election, given any other choice, I’d stay quiet. If you, and others like you, wanted to believe the worst about Obama – a good man, trying to do good work – and vote against your interests (Romney’s tax and Medicare plans won’t help you), I’d shake my head in wonder and watch you do it anyway. But this isn’t any other election. This election presents a clear choice between two people whose policy beliefs directly affect the course of my life. Let me be clear: A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote against me. There is no argument to counter that fact.
You might want to argue that you’re not a single-issue voter, but when the single-issue is your own son’s equality under the law, I wouldn’t recommend that argument. You might want to argue that, because you live in New York State, your vote won’t ultimately matter since Obama will carry the state anyway. You’re correct. He will. In that way, I suppose, your vote won’t matter. But it matters to me. You might want to argue just because you don’t like the idea of your son telling you what you ought to do. But, whatever else, you know I’m a good man. It’s been said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing;” and I’m a good man who’s never been good at that.
Will I change your mind? I hope so. I’m sure mom would tell me it’s a lost cause. And maybe she’s right. But that would be sad. Because it might be nice to one day have my father stand up at my wedding, realizing he helped make it happen.
UPDATE: My dad’s reply, in part: “I will honor your request because you are my son and I love you. I do support the Democratic position on gay marriage … I hope this is a position that they really stand for and not just a political statement for votes.”