- February 15, 2013
Post submitted by Katherine Dickinson, guest contributor
When my husband and I were crafting our wedding ceremony in 2004, we felt compelled to include an acknowledgment that, as a straight couple, our decisions to get married and publicly proclaim our love for one another was completely easy and socially accepted, and to express a profound wish that one day, all loving couples who wished to take this important step together would be able to do so. My youngest brother was 12 at the time, and I’m not sure whether he heard this particular message, but our family’s belief that “gay is okay” was consistently present as he was growing up.
During Christmas break of his freshman year of college, my brother told us that he was gay. Our family threw him a “coming out” party, and his high school and college friends (all of whom he had told a few months before he told us) supported and embraced him with open arms. Without exception, those closest to him made it abundantly clear that we accepted and loved him, and that we were incredibly proud of him for being honest with himself and with all of us.
It’s hard to imagine a more seamless coming out story, or a community better matched to the needs of a young gay person. And yet, in talking with Logan about his experience, what struck me was how difficult this experience had been. Despite all of our best conscious intentions, Logan was surrounded by mixed messages. We earnestly expressed support for gay rights, but with no close gay relatives or role models, “those people” remained some foreign, other, unknown bloc worthy and needing of our “support,” but apparently not a living, breathing part of our community.
Meanwhile, the stated and unstated messages we gave Logan about himself and his future clearly painted a picture of who we wanted and expected him to be: “When you grow up and get married [to a woman]….” And beyond his immediate family, the messages were even clearer. In 2009, when Logan came out, same-sex marriage was only legal in four states, and every time the issue had been put to voters in a referendum, it had been clearly defeated. Collectively, despite our best intentions, the message Logan was receiving was that being gay might be okay for other people, but it was not something that was okay for him. The conflict between this message and his growing realization of who he was led to bouts of depression. Fortunately, his strength of character and the support of his friends won out, and at the age of eighteen, with his whole life ahead of him, Logan was able to say the words, “I’m gay.”
It broke my heart to learn how much my baby brother had struggled with his identity. Adolescence is hard enough without adding all of that on top of it. Now, as the mother of two young children, I am determined to do everything I can to “make it better” for my kids, no matter who they are or who they love. At home, when I talk to my girls, I do my best to paint pictures of their future that leave all options open: “When you get older and fall in love with a boy or a girl….” I am thrilled that they will grow up with a wonderful gay role model in their Uncle Logan.
But I also know that having a supportive family isn’t enough. As long as our society tells us that only straight couples are entitled to have their relationships recognized and celebrated, we are continuing to give our children the message that their worth is contingent on one tiny yet fundamental part of their being. To me, that message is unacceptable. That is why, I took my girls to the state capital for “LGBT Lobby Day” to urge our state senator and representative to support Colorado’s civil unions bill and other pro-equality legislation. I hope that all Coloradans will join me in the quest to build a more equal and inclusive future for our children.
Colorado House will now vote on the civil unions bill, after the legislation fully passed the Senate on Monday. Help pass civil unions in Colorado by contacting your state representative today.
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