Dear President Obama:
Yesterday morning I woke up to learn that a majority of North Carolina voters cast their ballots for Amendment One and I became sad and angry at the animus directed at lesbian and gay people who simply want and deserve equal rights. Then later in the day I became proud that a sitting American President had the courage to publicly affirm the belief that every American should be afforded equal rights to marriage. Knowing that a a serious commitment I may make, and hope to make one day, to a man I fall in love with being equal in your eyes made me proud and hopeful.
Back in 1967 I was nine and my father worked as a car salesman. He’d had other jobs and been fired for being an alcoholic. He was also what was quaintly called a womanizer. In less polite terms, he consistently cheated on my mother during the first eleven years of their marriage. I remember overhearing him talk one day after work. He was angry at having to sell a Cadillac to “some uppity” black people who, as the racist cliche went, didn’t know their place. Only he didn’t use the words uppity or black. In that moment I knew my father was a bigot, and if a parent, even one who is an alcoholic, philandering son of a bitch, hated someone for simply buying a car from him because of their skin color, then what chance for his love and respect did I have? I’d been trying to conceal this secret that I had no word for other than sissy after hearing another relative say it three years before. I felt alone inside and fearful that horrific things would happen if anyone learned of my feelings. As I came to understand how and what my feelings were the reality of finding someone to love seemed impossible from the perspective of a teenager living in a small, blue collar town whose sole claim to fame is having been christened by its namesake President Lincoln before his presidency. Thankfully nothing horrific happened when I came out to my parents, accidental as it was, but I never trusted my father to know the real me for the rest of his life.
As an adult I’ve been in love and relationships and I bear a large responsibility for their failures. In the years following my HIV diagnosis on March 5th, 1996 the ideas of love and a relationship remained just that – ideas and elusive ones at that. HIV is not one of those qualities most people search for in dating prospects.
Then after your historic announcement I was introduced to a man whose kindness, thoughtfulness, and smile charmed me within minutes. It’s very likely I read too much into his words and facial expressions and a part of me doesn’t care if I have misread because to allow myself to experience the thrill of simply the possibility of dating him makes me happy. And then in my dreaming I went further and wondered that marriage might now one day be possible for me, and every American, not just those lucky few, because you took a stand. If you can take a stand for which you will be praised and criticized, then maybe I can finally gather up the courage again to ask a man for a date.