When I came out in 1976, there were no gay celebrities, no gay politicians and no gay sports figures. I didn’t even know anyone who was gay. Gay people were portrayed in books, magazines, movies, TV, newspapers, and conversations as sick, perverted, evil, sad, predatory, oversexed, pedophilic, obese or hyper-skinny effeminate freaks, weirdos and monsters. It was almost impossible to find any cultural touchstone that identified positive attributes to those who had same-sex attractions.
It’s no wonder then that it was so hard for my parents, my friends, and even me, to accept that I was gay: I was nothing like THEM. Or so we thought. My parents cried the entire night after I told them the truth about who I was; they feared for my very existence and dreamt nightmares that had been fed to them their entire lives. How could they not be afraid?
It is hard for me to imagine then, the depth of their relief now, 40 years later, knowing I live a life that, as I am so often told, is to be envied by 99.99% of those I share the planet with. Michael, my husband, partner, best friend and I have shaped a rare, exemplory life over the past 30 years, a life that we so often share with our extended family and many friends and associates. It’s a life viewed as even more extraordinary when juxtaposed against a backdrop of cultural bigotry and legislated obstacles that have only, very recently, subsided.
Despite that, during those past 30 years, Michael and I have remained, very open, kind, generous, socially gregarious and optimistic. We’ve ignored much of the negativity that our culture has blasted at us, and have for the most part, surrounded ourselves with people who believe much as we believe: when you leave a room, make sure it’s a better place for you having been there.
For the very first time in my life, that optimistic, deeply held, core belief has been shattered. The rooms that I walk into seem to be now filled with narcissistic, selfish, negative, unpleasant folk, who no longer focus on helping those around them to live happier, freer, lives. Rooms are filled with people hunching over their mobile devices, looking for “likes.” Over the past several years, as we’ve hosted dinner parties, yacht parties, ballgame suite events, beach parties, cabana, charity, and holiday bashes, reciprocation has all but dried up. Conversations have largely become more myopic and pessimistic, happiness and joyful outbursts have all but disappeared from personal interaction.
For a long time, I’ve thought that maybe there is something wrong with me, with us, but no, I am the same; Michael is the same. The world has changed. You dear friend, you have changed.
In July, I travelled to stay with a close, life-long friend. Inevitably, the topic of the election came up. I was flabbergasted by the enthusiasm she felt for Donald Trump. She and I have held a shared morality for nearly 45 years, and yet I felt a loss and a betrayal that I can’t remember ever feeling before. I pointed out Trump’s bankruptcies, his numerous lawsuits, the cheated business partners, his unpaid bills, his infidelities, his statements about minorities and women, his choice of Mike Pence, a life-long vehemently anti LGBT politician as his running mate, his pledge to overturn every one of Obama’s pro LGBT protections, and his promise to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn same-sex marriage and relationship laws, recriminalizing same-sex relationships and allowing for widespread discrimination against LGBT folk in employment and housing. My best friend’s response: those rights were not given fairly. The American people were cheated by not being able to decide to give me rights by popular vote. Extremist judges had overstepped their bounds and Donald Trump would restore balance to the judiciary. She idolized him and his children, said they were a bright, shining example of everything she wished her family could be.
I reminded her that the Supreme Court was designed as a balance to an overreaching presidential and/or legislative branch to guard the people against tyranny. In my case, a tyranny of a majority that felt I deserve less rights than she. LGBT citizens still have no right to a job or housing, but at least now we can choose who to build a life with, and be protected by the same 1000+ laws that she and her husband were.
The man that she idolizes, if he were to become president, has vowed to reset my world. It will be reset to 1976, or worse: 1950, a world where gays were rounded up and thrown in jail, routinely lobotomized to remove sex drive and personality.
How then, could she consider herself to be my friend? How then can you? The Republican Party platform promises to revoke same-sex marriage and a thousand benefits that other opposite-sex married couples benefit from. That same platform would allow any one to claim religious exemption to deny me housing, a hotel room, a table at a restaurant, a job, a loan, a purchase from any store or online vendor, creating an unstable environment to live in.
I realize you have many reasons to vote that have nothing to do with me. Just don’t kid yourself though, that we can remain friends. The world has changed, and if Donald J. Trump is elected president, one way or another for you, dear-Trump-voting friend, you will have voted for a world that has no rooms left for me to improve.