I looked at a ‘share’ in my Facebook newsfeed, sometime in the last 16 hours. It was a story being passed around that told of a gay couple kissing in the parking lot of a store; a man cried out that they were disgusting, using expletives, turned to a woman who was nearby with her four year old son and demanded umbrage of her for her child having to witness such an appalling sight. Before the mother could reply, the four year old raised his voice in opposition and told the bigot that it wasn’t disgusting, that it was love. The proud mother acknowledged that it was, indeed, love and who was he to spread hate. Then the mother went home and posted the story on the internet, proud of her child, hoping the story would bring smiles to faces. It has brought smiles and tears of hope to many.
My cherished friends came to the opening of our film last weekend. They drove from New Jersey with their small child. The parents are both men and the child is a little boy of (I think, though I can never tell) 5 or 6 years of age. Our film is about marriage equality and, on the drive home, the son asked his fathers why we had to go to all those different places to get married; and the fathers spoke in frank terms about the world and bigotry and love and change. The little manboy asked his parents “Why do we live in New Jersey if you can’t get married there?”
Some years ago, Pat and I were in our home state of Texas for the Yuletide holidays. He stayed at his family home and I stayed at mine. It wasn’t because we were hiding anything and, therefore, afraid to sleep in the same house and bed; it was so that we could achieve maximum visitation with our kinfolk. At my family homestead there was a full fledged reunion as my brother and his family and my sister and her children all converged upon my parents’ house for Christmas. My nieces were very young at this point. I think the oldest of them may have been 8 or 9. Her little sister was about 4 or 5; and their cousin, my sister’s daughter, was about the same. Sadly, during that trip, I got a bad case of walking pneumonia and was unable to play with the little ‘uns. I had two options – lie on the sofa under a blanket or sit up, in the rocking chair, under a blanket. On Christmas Eve, Pat came to visit from his family homestead. When he walked in, the littlest girls ran to him, crying “Uncle Pat! Uncle Pat!” They hugged his legs and then sat on his feet while he walked them around the room. They lined up the chairs from the table and made a choo choo train. They played with him while I watched and then Pat pulled a chair up beside me and we watched them together, he in his straight-back chair and I, in my rocking chair. After awhile my mother said “Girls, it’s time to go to bed, Santa Claus doesn’t come until you are asleep!” and, with that, all of the children ran from the room as Pat and I beamed from ear to ear. Seconds later, my sister’s daughter came running back. She took my right hand and put it on the arm rest, she took Pat’s left hand and put it on top of mine, she wrapped her tiny hands around our two hands together and squeezed with all her might, bonding the flesh of her two Uncles, with love. Then she looked into our eyes, smiled and left the room. No words were spoken but her message was loud and clear. She saw us. She knew who we were.
She saw us.
The young people in our lives, these last 26 years, have never questioned who we are. Our friends on Long Island have three children – twin boys aged (I think) 7/8-ish and a girl who is (I think) a teenager now. They have always called us Uncle Pat and Uncle Stephen. My girlfriend and her husband have three sons named after Catholic saints and they are a Texas based church going family. Those boys have always called me Uncle Stephen and I am Facebook friends with one who is now in college (ps. I did his birth announcement photo, how old do I feel?). My own nieces and nephews on either side of the Mosher and Dwyer bloodline have always called us Uncle Pat and Uncle Stephen. They have all seen us embrace, they have all seen us hold hands and some of them appear in our film Married and Counting. My goddaughter and her older sister are the children of actors, so they have been around gay people their entire lives. They think nothing of it, except that their Uncles from the theater community are the ones to go to when they want to Fabulous out or kvetch about mom and dad. Of course, people often hear me speak of (or read my writings about) Nate and his brothers. From the first moment we met, I was Uncle Stephen and Pat was Uncle Pat. They know who we are.
Our niece on Pat’s side of the family was unable to attend any of our weddings because she was justthisclose to giving birth to her first child. So she sent a letter that was read at our New York wedding. In it, she said:
“I mostly want you to know that you have been two of the greatest role models for love that I’ve ever had.”
These children in my life (whose names I have, discretely, left out of this story for the sake of privacy on the internet) have been my greatest teachers and my greatest hope for the future. They don’t look at Pat and I and see anything over which to find disgust or even wonder. I would like to think that they see cool Uncles; but, mostly, I think they probably just see a couple of old guys. Not a couple of gay guys… just a couple of guys. They know we are in love and that we stand by each other, take care of each other and protect each other. That is what good couples and good people do. We exist and we care for one another.
The man in the parking lot is defined by his bigotry. He is governed by his hatred. A lot of people are in this unfortunate club of humans who are ruled by societal training based on ignorance, bigotry and hatred. I’m sorry for them, for it is so much more comfortable (and fun!) and healthy to live in the light and to always come from a place of love.
Yesterday my friend told me that his sister actively asked him to not engage in public displays of affection with his spouse, during a visit home this weekend. Her reason was that she was trying to be good Christian parents to her two daughters, 8 and 5. She told him that they all loved him and his spouse; but that their occasional affectionate touching made people uncomfortable. When he told me this, my heart sank for him. For I know he loves his sister and her children. He cherishes his visits home. Having this kind of thing said to you usually sparks a kneejerk reaction (which I have had before, based on my father and his reactions to my sexual identity): “I’m not coming home again.” My friend did not react this way. He said “let’s talk in a day or two”, which is the grown up thing to do. I hope and pray that they can all find a grown up resolution to this problem. I wouldn’t know what that feels like, never having been a grown up, myself. I only know that we all deserve to not be discriminated against, we all deserve to not be diminished. We all deserve to be loved, unconditionally. Not being granted unconditional love by a loved one, by a family member, is painful and diminishing.
I was reminded of a husband and wife, friends of Pat’s and mine from a time when all the people I have mentioned above were, themselves, children and none of us had children. Now we all do – be they children by birth, adoption, surrogacy or circumstance. During a visit home a couple years ago, this couple said to me, “come for a visit, you and Pat, and stay with us! Use the pool. Hang with the kids (three – two boys and a girl, ranging in age from 8ish to 17ish) and us while we barbecue and stuff!” I had noticed that there was a bible on every table and on every bookcase. I knew the kids went to a Christian Academy. I told their parents that I appreciated the offer and would love to; but I wondered what they would say to their kids about the two men sharing the bed in the guest room. They said this to me:
“Would you like to know what we have taught our children? Love God, Love people. And: Never make your light brighter by diminishing someone else’s.”
These people I have written about in this story are good, nay, great parents. They all have different parenting systems; and yet, they all have children growing up free from bigotry and hatred. They, these parents AND their children, are my heroes. I believe that children are born with a clear vision of what is right and what is good and that society UNeducates them and makes them hate mongers and bigots. These parents have helped their children to stay pure and to grow into people of character and integrity. The children are crusaders of love and acceptance. The parents have made the future better; for they are sending people of good will into the future.
To see clearly, with open eyes and open heart – that is the gift God gives us, at birth.
To retain that clarity of vision – that is the gift our parents can give us, at their will.