On Wednesday, the Supreme Court made two decisions that constituted major victories for the gay rights movement. In my neighborhood in Uptown San Diego, rainbow flags are a permanent fixture; but between June being Pride month, and the celebratory mood after the SCOTUS decisions, the area was positively festooned.
I sat on my friend Jimmy Arrowsmith's patio and talked with him about the new developments in gay rights, and about his experience as an 83-year-old gay man who has witnessed the evolution of attitudes toward the LGBT community for nearly a century.
I asked him if the SCOTUS decisions would affect him in any way, and how his life might have been different had same-sex marriage been an option when he was growing up. Although he's ecstatic about the progress that he's witnessed in the last decade or so, and he's generally one of the most positive people I know, he's a bit wistful about the past. "I felt like I grew up as a criminal," he said.
Jimmy was born in central Kansas in 1930, into a family of Southern Baptists. His dad was a roustabout in the oil fields, and his mom was a homemaker. They followed the oil rigs around Kansas, and Jimmy never stayed in one town long enough to finish the school year. Shortly after his father died when Jimmy was 14, Jimmy quit school and went to work delivering dry-cleaning to support his family. His mother got remarried shortly thereafter, to a man who treated Jimmy like a servant, and charged him for room and board. Jimmy realized that it would be cheaper to move into the YMCA; so, after completing, for the last time, his Friday chore of washing and polishing his stepfather's car--this time "polishing" it with sandpaper--he packed up and moved across town.