"I Just Know," Ctd

A reader writes:

That e-mail you highlighted struck a chord. I am 39, straight and happily married for 21+ years to my high school sweetheart. Since my childhood I have always defended gays, even before I knew who among my close friends were gay.  For this I was ridiculed and rejected by many - including members of my family - but mostly I was myself labeled gay by these critics.  Being called effeminate and gay was something that, as a sensitive, artistic kid, I had dealt with plenty growing up.  Honestly, the label was meaningless to me since I didn't associate homosexuality with anything bad.  That and I knew who I was.

As a tenth-grader I met and fell in love with my soulmate.  It was a strange period, though, and shortly thereafter I dropped out of school to become a hairdresser.  At cosmetology school I met an incredibly gifted hairdresser with whom I clicked and left home to move in with.  That he was gay made no difference to me or my girlfriend, who was a regular fixture at our house.

Salon life surrounded me with gay men and women.  My bosses were gay.  Encircled by creative people I felt I had at last found my people; that most of them were gay, of course, didn't matter to me.  My dad, on the other hand, really struggled to understand my comfort in that scene.

A few of my early salon colleagues became very close friends to my then-fiancee and me.  In time I asked three of my closest friends, those whom I thought best understood what marriage represented, to be my groomsmen, regardless of the fact that two of them were gay.  That those fellows immediately and graciously accepted didn't strike me as exceptional at the time.  But as I look at my wedding pictures today and see these guys standing next to me (babyfaced, just a month after my 18th birthday), their hands on my shoulders and beaming smiles, it is bittersweet.  I will never accept that these men could participate in my wedding, but that I might never have the honor and privilege of participating in theirs.  Particularly since these men were the ones who so clearly illustrated for me the value of monogamous, supportive and positive relationships.  My own parents divorced before I was one year old.

To me this debate is about how comfortable America can pretend to be while marginalizing a group of its citizens on the basis of bigotry.  Arguments made in defense of traditional marriage are a type of sophistry designed to legitimize a repugnant view that we have otherwise worked so hard to shed.

As a man who has cherished his so-called traditional marriage for more than half his life, let me state clearly that shutting out gays from this essential cultural institution is out-and-out wrong.  I don't just know it; I live it.

(Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty)