I honestly don’t know where to start with this post because I want this one to be personal – so I may ramble a bit. I have spent time on here advocating and trying to educate people about the trials and fights that those in the LGBT community face. I have shared some personal stories to illustrate my points, and thankfully – you all seem to appreciate that. What I want to do today is not focus on what the end of DOMA means for America, for the LGBT community, or the legalities of what happened yesterday; I want to share what this decision means for me personally. It isn’t even about marriage per say, it is about being equal. It is about being extended the same rights and freedoms that I served and vowed to protect for others, but never received myself. It is about having my love and relationship acknowledged. It is about being recognized as a full citizen in my own country.
Yesterday was probably one of the most emotional days I have had in a long time that wasn’t negative. Usually when I get emotional it is from being overwhelmed, upset, sad, or feeling hopeless. Yesterday, I started my day anxious, sad, and hopeless – then at 10am I watched live as the DOMA ruling came in, and I wept. I cried easily for the next three hours as I watched Prop 8 fall, and watched as the Internet went rainbow. I cried as I read story after story about the celebrations. People who have dedicated their lives to each other – some for 50 years or more, who were finally allowed to marry. I cried as our allies in the country celebrated with us. I was able to laugh at the scorn and ridicule instead of feeling sadness for the people who will not or can’t bring themselves to understand. It was like I was issued an insult proof vest by the Supreme Court. I felt invincible yesterday. I felt vindicated yesterday. I felt hope and joy in such a pure way that I can’t even begin to describe it. Hope my friends is powerful, and my hope has been restored.
Then through all the tears of joy, and all the Facebook posts and news stories – I realized something rather profound. I, for the first time in my adult life – genuinely entertained the idea of getting married. I also realized that my tears were not only from joy and hope, but from an even deeper place that I had managed to disassociate myself from; Yesterday, I became an American Citizen – well that is how it feels anyway. Yesterday, my country said that I had equal protection under the law and that for the first time I am entitled to the same rights and privileges as everyone else. Now I know we aren’t done. I know that there are 37 States that don’t think I should have those rights, but 13 States will welcome me tomorrow if I want. I don’t need the States – I needed the federal government.
Now as a Soldier, I attended several naturalization ceremonies. I have watched hopeful immigrants become U.S. citizens and I have seen the joy and relief on their hopeful and joyous faces. I know what they went through to gain that status – American Citizen. Some of those people have served in our military, some have lived in our country their entire lives, but on that one day, they are recognized, they are told that they are now equal citizens no matter where they hail from, what job they do, or how long they have been here. They studied, they marched, they filled out form after form, they fought. Some of them risked their very lives to get here to be a part of the promise of America. Then one day it is complete. In one day their fight for citizenship is over and they are in that moment equal and free. I have always cried with them. I have always watched them raise their right hand and pledge to uphold the ideals of or nation. I never once truly understood how that felt until yesterday. I have always empathized – but to truly feel that relief, that hope for a better life, that joy in being a part of something so much bigger than yourself – well I never imagined I would ever be in a position to NEED to feel that way. I had referred to myself as a second class citizen, but I don’t think I ever knowingly internalized or understood how profound that is, until that status was lifted from me. I now understand those tears that they shed – because yesterday, I shed those same tears for the exact same reason. It is that day when America acknowledged that I am equal.
I stopped the little girl dreams of my wedding day when I was about 16. Once I realized that I was a lesbian, I also realized that any wedding or marriage I would have would be in action only. I never pursued a civil union with a partner, and I never talked about our future wedding day. There were jokes occasionally about me getting married and having groomsmen instead of bridesmaids, wearing a tux instead of a dress etc., but it was never a real plan. It was never a real dream. I actually used to get mad at weddings. I hated going to them because I knew that I would never be able to do that and have it be real. I realize now looking back at all those weddings I have attended and I realize now that I have been jealous. I get mad because of envy. I dissociated myself from that too until yesterday. On June 26th, 2013 I for the first time really started thinking about marrying the woman who I love and who I want to spend the rest of my life with. Then, I cried some more. We can get married! I can stand in front of my friends and family and profess that I will love and honor this amazing woman for the rest of my life. I can entertain the idea of changing my last name and feeling attached to it (that’s a long story too – I have always hated my last name). If we marry, I can stop worrying about what will happen to me if I am ever in the hospital – part of me marrying my Army husband was for that reason, he knows to allow Stephanie in, and he knows to allow her to make any health related decisions. Of course – she would make those decisions and have to tell him, so he could make sure my wishes were followed. Silly isn’t it? All of a sudden all those visions I had as a little girl about my wedding day came flooding back to me. All those thoughts I had shoved down – evaporated with one sentence; DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional. That day when America acknowledged that I am equal.
I have always been a patriot. I have always loved my country. I have always wanted to be a Soldier. I have always had faith in the ideals of our country and that we could be the greatest in the world. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We the People. Lately – I haven’t felt that pride I used to feel. I have felt like it was stolen from me by greedy politicians, corrupt public servants, corporations and disgustingly wealthy people fighting to limit rights for ‘the little guy’ the people who built this country. Yesterday though, my pride was handed back to me in the form of a Supreme Court decision. That day when America acknowledged that I am equal.
While I want to enjoy this feeling for more than a day, I know that the fight for equality is still waging. There are those who will spend the next 20 years fighting this decision – even though it has no affect on them. I know that my country still isn’t safe for me to walk hand in hand with my partner. I know that hate is far more prevalent than love right now, and I know that we still have a long, long way to go. However, for the first time I really feel hope that as country we are headed in the right direction, at least on this issue. I feel like I am allowed to imagine that American dream of having a family and having that family treated equally – at least under the law. I will obviously continue to speak out, but I feel I will do it with far more confidence going forward.Yesterday, I stopped disassociating myself from the dream, and now can fully entrench myself in this new reality where America started to acknowledge that we are equal.
So Dear Readers, thank you. No matter where you hail from around the world, you have read my feelings politically, and even some of the emotional battles. You have joined me in a small way on this journey for equality. It isn’t over yet. As I said, we still have work to do. We still have second class citizens in our country and my hope is that one day everyone will be able to feel the joy of oppression lifted from their shoulders. It is my hope that anyone who shares a faith in the ideals and dreams of America will be able to one day know how it feels when that day happens for them that America acknowledges that we are all equal.