Listen, I have plenty of GLBTQ friends — (gay, lesbian, bisxual, transgender, queer) — Really, I seem to meet and get along with non-hetero folks pretty danged well. I don’t necessarily go out looking for gay friends, I just end up being friends with people who are “gay” —
Our second trip to New Orleans is a perfect example… we were looking for a warm and affordable vacation from a very cold and snowy winter, and when we got to New Orleans, we found our tribe. We didn’t plan to, but we ended up spending several wonderful evenings sitting on the sidewalk on pleasant March evenings making new friends — lots of them turned out to be GLBTQ or whatever (non-hetero is actually easier, and a more precise description). We laughed, agreed, disagreed, shared secrets, told jokes and stories — and overall became very good friends very quickly (I’m told this is common in New Orleans — they’re shocked at our northern reserve… ).
As I talked with my new friends, I became acutely aware of how the world is different for them than it is for me and my friends in Minnesota– most of them grew up someplace in the south…. the gay-hating south. Many of them came from families that rejected them because they weren’t hetero. They came from communities in which being non-hetero was something to be ashamed of. They were raised in churches that taught them, their parents, their siblings, their grandparents and the rest of the members of their community that being non-hetero was a sure path to HELL. period. end of the discussion. When they got kicked out of the house for being non-hetero they found it hard to finish school and go to college, so they had to find different paths to success.
For the most part, that isn’t the case in Minnesota — sure, there are pockets of ugly here too, but for the most part we’re pretty accepting of non-hetero folks up in these parts. So much so, that I found myself startled by their stories — because my underlying set of values is that people are people, no matter who they love. It’s startling when you see the ways that a contradicting set of values impacts people, real people.
Many of my New Orleans friends had to leave their homes to find a place where they could be themselves — and they ended up in the Marginy neighborhood in New Orleans. They gravitated to a place where (if you’re a woman) you could talk openly about your girlfriend and nobody thinks you’re talking about a good (platonic) friend. In fact, if your girlfriend is working, you can feel free to show photos of her to new folks –just to show how hot she is 🙂 — They gravitated to a place in which going to a bar frequented by other non-hetero folks won’t get you beat up in the street. They gravitated to a place that has a lively drag scene… and they gravitated to a place that felt like friends are family. Or, friends are like family should be, not like their families ARE.
When they got to this place, they met new folks — they found places to live, they got jobs, made connections and put down roots. They joined causes they feel strongly about and generally they created a community in which they feel comfortable. It turns out that they also got serious about romantic relationships and wanted to form long-term partnerships with other people — who happen to have the same sex as they do listed on their birth certificates. In my home state and, (as of today) 19 other states, they could just go out and get married. In their new home, they cannot. In their new home, the law doesn’t recognize the right for them to be married in their own state, and it doesn’t recognize marriages performed in other states.
In a ruling today, a judge in New Orleans told my friends that their right to get married isn’t deeply ingrained enough to be fundamental. He told them that their desire to marry the person they love is the first step on a path to relatives marrying, to more than two people getting married, and to people marrying pets etc. They told my friends that they couldn’t enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as me and my husband. They can’t marry who they love because they fell in love with someone whose naughty bits are the same as their own. Really — that’s what it comes down to — matching or non-matching naughty bits.
I think it’s disgusting. I think such an attitude is just ass-backward and I don’t like that my friends have to live in a state in which a judge’s personal opinion keeps them from choosing to marry a person they love — someone who, in all likelihood is already their life partner, with whom they are already building a family, with whom they are already having marital-like joys and sorrows…
I should be clear — non-hetero folks have the same problems as hetero folks — someone doesn’t do enough of the housework, someone may spend too much moneyd, forget important dates, cheat, lie, steal, abuse or whatever… turns out those are HUMAN problems when you’re living with someone else. My first marriage lasted 20 years — I’ve seen a few of those things first hand (not the really bad stuff like cheating and abusing, but more like the irritating stuff — lots of it..). I’m sure that if my current husband were my current wife, we’d have some version of those marital sorrows as well. Because, as it turns out, non-hetero people are — after all — PEOPLE. Not perfect, not always neat, clean, smart, articulate and funny like the guys on the old show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” — because, nobody’s really like that.
So, tonight my friends tell me there’s a rally in Jackson Square in the French Quarter. I wish it wasn’t 1500 miles away, I’d be there with them — having a good time telling the people in power how wrong it is to NOT recognize the marriages of non-hetero people. I’m sure it will be memorable, and I hope all of my friends are safe at the end.
love ya — miss ya — I’ll be “home” soon as I can…
This is our favorite place — the corner of Marigny and Charters –in the Marginy-Bywater area of New Orleans —
Me and Lee — one of many good friends I met in New Orleans…