I left the States earlier this month for a combined business trip/vacation to Frankfurt, London, Windsor, and Sussex. In addition to the highly useful work parts, Liz and I took a week in the middle to put wedding planning on hold and travel the UK. In the course of eight days, we hit the Royal Ascot, the Harry Potter Studio Tour, Abbey Road, and over two dozen pubs. After pint upon happy pint, Liz returned stateside, and I hung around for work.
I arrived back home on Friday, leaving Heathrow mid-morning and landing in San Francisco mid-afternoon. As wheels touched down, I casually fired up my iPhone. Before texts or emails had a chance to load, I opened Safari and searched for “Supreme Court.” I knew in the back of my mind that the ruling might come out, but I honestly didn’t expect it. (I was secretly planning to have some sort of SCOTUS breakfast next week: get up early when the courts announce, invite over some sympathetic friends, and provide lots of coffee and bacon.)
The first headline I saw was CNN’s simple and factual truth: “Supreme Court rules for same-sex marriage nationwide.” The announcement was so fresh that my newsfeed was not yet subsumed by opinion articles and teary pictures of couples kissing. It was just a simple fact.
I showed my seatmate. I took a breath. And then I started bawling on the airplane.
Even now I’m surprised and self-judgmental about my reaction. I haven’t been fighting this fight my whole life. While I lived for years with questions and uncertainties, they didn’t subsume my ability to live as myself. Today I’m more likely to feel the oversight of someone’s assumption (“Your fiancé, what does he do for a living?”) rather than the bone-pain of overt discrimination. And though I was hurt by not being able to marry in Michigan, preparing for our California marriage looks and feels a lot like our opposite-sex couple friends.
In my head, my emotions were not qualified by the discrimination I experienced. I didn’t deserve to react the way I did. Crying like that? Who did I think I was?
Beyond external pains, reflection tells me that there was more subtly meaningful happening when I read that decision. This is well-illustrated by what happened on the rest of my trip after Liz left. So let me tell you a little story:
One of my major failings in life is a complete inability to put myself to bed. I loiter on Facebook, linger over work, and dally over emails. But more than anything, I troll the web – from HuffPo articles to Buzzfeed links. Happily, when I’m home with Liz, I follow her nightly routine and, blessedly, go to bed by 10PM. However, when I’m on the road by myself, like the last week, I end up plummeting into a late-night clickhole. It’s such a problem that one of my colleagues once gave me a book that she used to read to her child: The Going To Bed Book. I needed it far more than her toddler.
I bring this up because it’s during those wandering, lonely nighttime hours that I’ve been circling this issue – at 1:28AM at the Piccadilly Meridien, with piles of white hotel pillows around me and a computer screen illuminating my face. It’s then that I’m knee-deep in the National Organization for Marriage, Savage Love, Huffington Post’s Gay Voices, Focus on the Family, Marriage News Watch, and even the SCOTUS site. I read the smart arguments about equality, but reflect even more over the voices – both explicitly hateful and lovingly dissenting – who question my rights.
When life is private and secret and lonely, I step into my quiet, underlying question of “Am I really okay?”
We all have reasons why we might not be okay, why people might not love us, and, most scary of all, why we might not be deserving of love. While my waking life abounds with love from family and friends, I find plenty of lurking evidence to feed my fears during these nights. Here are all the reasons I’m unlovable, writ large in a national political debate.
Maybe that’s why I was so casual about searching out the SCOTUS answer in the daylight. My daytime self is strong; I know my worth. My daytime self smiled and shared the SCOTUS decision with my seatmate. But after a moment, when the truth filtered through to my fragile, nighttime self, I cried with relief. There’s something at the vulnerable core of me that’s validated by this decision – not because it makes my marriage legal, but because it makes me okay.
What is Friday about to me? It is primarily about the love within same-sex marriages and, specifically, the love that I share with Liz. But, beyond that, it is also one more step towards better loving myself.