What Rob Portman Means For Parents

Rob Portman, Will PortmanAs a gay man, I’ve always felt like parents were my enemy — politically, at least.

Whenever someone felt it necessary to identify themselves as a parent in a debate about gay rights, it was almost always as a shield for their homophobia. The gays they talked about were coming to get their kids, convert them to homosexuality, teach them about sodomy in schools. We were boogeymen Karl Rove could use to manipulate paranoid moms and dads into voting his way.

The term “family values” seemed designed specifically to exclude those of us at the wrong end of the Kinsey scale. Our values, it barely needed to be said, were distinctly anti-family.

This is what’s so significant about Rob Portman’s change of heart on gay marriage. A family values conservative, a co-sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, has acknowledged that treating gay people equally is a family value. He did so suddenly and decisively, without “evolving” or obfuscating the way many other politicians do. Why? Because he was able to present his reversal as something deeper than a mere political calculation. It was a gesture of love from a father to his son.

Portman certainly didn’t have to change his position. When his son Will came out to him, he could’ve supported him privately, while publicly pandering to his constituency. He wouldn’t be the first politician to do so.

What Portman’s reversal seems to signify is a broader change in thinking. No longer are gays seen as “others” out to hurt our kids. Now, gays are our kids, and moms and dads are the ones with the potential to hurt them. Gays aren’t the monsters anymore. Parents who turn their backs on their children are.

Portman has taken a lot of criticism for not supporting gay marriage until it affected his own son. It’s a fair point, but it misses the bigger victory in this story, which is that now, fewer people might need a gay son or daughter to change their mind on this issue, because anyone can see their own family in Rob Portman’s. Anyone can imagine their own kid as the next Will Portman. Nobody wants their kid to be the next Tyler Clementi.

Even more importantly, what Portman’s shift signals is that politicians no longer feel beholden to the image of the gay boogeyman. It’s not that family values no longer matter to voters. It’s that more voters than ever acknowledge that gays are part of our families. According to Buzzfeed, representatives from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage spoke to a nearly empty room at CPAC this week, while a panel on increasing tolerance in the GOP was standing room-only.

The message Rob Portman’s action sends couldn’t be clearer: supporting same-sex marriage is good parenting. Increasingly, it’s good politics, too.

A Happy Election Day, At Last

I don’t know why I like Election Day so much.  It always lets me down.

In 2008, the passage of Prop 8 pretty much ruined whatever excitement I had about Obama winning the presidency.

In 2004, I was so angry with the results, I wrote this.

Let’s not even talk about 2000.

Still, something about the interactive maps, the endless statistics being churned out and the pageantry of democracy always brings out my inner patriot.

I try not to take the results personally.  After all, who wants to be one of those jerks who’s proud to be an American only when things go their way?  That’s not the point of democracy.  We all vote, not just you, so if you don’t like the outcome, well, you had your shot.  That’s what I tell myself, at least: Don’t take it personally.  It’s not about you.

Still, for all of my voting adulthood, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this country.  I love it; it hates me.  At least, that’s what I always seem to come away with after Election Day.

The first time I was old enough to vote for president was 1992.  Bill Clinton won, and he supported letting gays and lesbians serve openly in the military.  I should’ve been ecstatic.  But the same night I was celebrating his victory, Colorado’s viciously homophobic Amendment 2 passed and let me know where I stood in society.  We all know how the gays in the military thing turned out, too.

It was such a relief this year that neither candidate talked much about gay rights.  The president was on record as a supporter of gay marriage.  I just want to type that again: the president was on record as a supporter of gay marriage.  And his opponent barely brought it up.  Occasionally some old video would surface where Romney would show his disgust about gay parents or something like that, but for whatever reason, the new Romney was mostly keeping his bigotry on mute.

Still, my guard was up.  Something would spoil this.  It always did.  With four states voting on gay marriage issues on Tuesday, there would be plenty of opportunities for a punch in the gut.

Then, minute by minute, the news kept getting better.

Barack Obama Re-elected.

First Openly Lesbian Senator Wins Election in Wisconsin

Openly Gay Candidate Wins Congressional Race in New York

Openly Gay Candidate Wins Congressional Race in California

Maine Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Maryland Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Washington Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Minnesota Shoots Down Amendment That Would’ve Banned Same-Sex Marriage

Four ballot measures, four victories.  In one day, four states agreed that gay people are as good as anyone else and deserve the same rights.

This was only 4 years after Proposition 8.  9 years after the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws.  13 years after Maryland got rid of its sodomy law.  It was 20 years exactly after Colorado’s Amendment 2, and I couldn’t help thinking back to that election.

In 1992, I was in college — and in the closet.  The end of college was looming, but the end of my fear and self-loathing was nowhere in sight.  Today, I’m totally open about who I am.  I even write a blog about it.  I have children with my partner, and I have the right to marry him in more places than ever.

This Election Day, there was no down side.  Voters embraced gay rights and gay candidates like never before.  As the statistics poured in, I could geek out and enjoy the night without feeling like I was crashing someone else’s party.

So I’ve decided to take the election results personally again.  And I want to say thanks.  Thanks to the people who voted for equality yesterday and to the people who believe in it in their hearts.  Thanks from me and thanks from that scared kid from 1992, who never thought he’d see this day.

Thanks, America.  I’ve always loved you.  It’s nice to know the feeling is mutual.

An Open Letter To Everyone With a Vote

Look, I know no one needs me to tell them how to vote.  I’m just a guy, like you, and while I’m full of opinions, I know the cool thing about opinions is that everyone’s entitled to their own and that if I don’t like yours, I can clasp my hands over my ears or put down my newspaper or click on one of the other ten gadzillion blogs written by someone I don’t really know and go, “Hmm… I wonder what they think?”

Besides, if you’ve read my site before, you probably can probably guess how I’m voting tomorrow.

I don’t want to talk too much about this, because I know some people I care very much about will be voting a different way from me.  Let me first tell those people no, I won’t hate you forever.  Some other people I care about have been arguing very vehemently that Romney is so anti-gay (which he is) that voting for him amounts to some kind of personal attack against every gay person you know (which it isn’t).  I mean, it sucks.  You want to vote for Romney?  Yeah, that bums me out.  But I’m not going to take it personally.

I’ve written before about how I don’t want to be anyone’s token gay friend, and I stand by that.  But I’m not looking to shun half the voting public forever.  So if you support my equal rights but you’re voting for Romney anyway, that’s OK.  Just don’t tell me that you’re voting for him in spite of his stance on gay rights — tell him.  Tell everyone you vote for.  Make sure politicians of both parties treat this as what it is — a human rights issue, not a partisan one.

If you live in Washington, Minnesota, Maryland or Maine, you can do this tomorrow, because your state has a ballot measure on gay marriage.  I’m sure you already know this because you’re probably sick of all the TV commercials, flyers, yard signs and personal haranguing you’ve been subjected to over the last few months.

Yeah, I’m sick of all the hype about this subject, too.  I wish we didn’t have to debate it again every single election day.  But the only way that’s ever going to stop is if people support gay marriage sooner rather than later.  The homophobes aren’t going to stop fighting until they realize they can no longer win, until the millions and millions of dollars they pump into fighting my equality every chance they get nets them exactly nothing.

So far, they’re undefeated.  Every time gay marriage has been put to a vote, the public has voted against it.  And that’s the #1 argument against gay marriage.  Most people don’t want it, they say, so vote against it.

Well, now’s the time to tell them you’re not falling for that argument anymore.  You know what’s right.  You believe in equality.  You may still be uncomfortable with gay people personally, maybe your religion assures you all gay people are going to burn in Hell, but you believe in the ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  Yes, I know the Declaration of Independence says “All men are created equal”, and there was a time when they did mean “men” only.  White men, even.  But you know what?  That was wrong, and so is limiting equality to heterosexuals.  Over time, America has gotten more fair, not less.  Let’s keep moving forward.

And to those of you who aren’t cool with gay people, who worry what will happen to this country you love if you vote to support gay marriage, let me give you a glimpse of the future as I see it.  I know the TV commercials are telling you that legalizing gay marriage will lead to kids being indoctrinated in the mechanics of sodomy in preschool, but I’m guessing that’s a bit of a stretch.

You want to know what “the gay agenda” really is, what kind of world us radical homosexuals are hoping for?  Well, here’s a glimpse of a world where gay marriage is legal, as I see it…

- Every kid probably has one or two classmates who have gay parents.  Maybe those parents are cool, or maybe they’re weenies who smell of scented candles and you’ll try not to get stuck sitting next to them at PTA meetings.  “Yikes, here come Mindy and Jill!  They never shut up about their Labradors!”

- By kindergarten, most kids know some people have two mommies or two daddies or that Uncle Dave and Uncle Joe are in love, just like Mommy and Daddy.  They still don’t know where babies come from or that the Tooth Fairy is a crock.

- The gay people you know are more comfortable with themselves, more open about who they are and your relationship with them is closer than ever.  Guessing who among your friends is closeted is less fun than it used to be because almost everyone is out.

- The topic of homosexuality is raised in high school health classes, by a teacher who’s just as uncomfortable discussing it as he or she is talking about heterosexuality with a bunch of horny teenagers.  But all the kids, regardless of orientation, learn how to protect themselves from STDs, which makes the world safer and healthier for all of us.

- If your own kid turns out to be gay, you can be comfortable knowing that they’ll grow up with all the rights and opportunities you had, and they probably won’t kill themselves before they’re old enough to vote.

That’s it.  That’s our endgame.  If you vote to support gay marriage, that’s the world you’re voting for.  Notice nothing happened to your marriage or your rights in that scenario.  That’s because gay marriage does nothing to infringe on the rights of straight people, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a shameless, unprincipled liar.

I’m lucky enough to live in New York, one of the states where gay marriage is legal, and the world I just described is pretty much what it’s like in my town.  It’s nice here.  People are happy.  I’m happy.

If you live in one of the four states that’s voting on gay marriage tomorrow, do the right thing.  You really can’t have it both ways on this one.  You can’t say you support me and my equality and then vote directly against it.

So vote like this chart says.  Do it for me, do it for your gay friends and family or your favorite gay celebrities.  (You don’t want to hurt Neil Patrick Harris, do you?)  Just do it.  And spread this message to everyone you know in Washington, Maine, Maryland and Minnesota.  Tell them you care about this issue, and that they should, too.

Regardless of whether you’re red or blue, tomorrow, let’s paint a couple of states pink.  Let’s show people that a world where gay marriage is legal is nothing to be afraid of.

My Son Wants To Wear a Dress

If you’re wondering whether gay parents are more likely to raise gay kids, you should know that my 2 1/2 year-old daughter has already announced that she wants to marry a boy when she grows up.  No particular boy, not at this point, just “a boy”.

Where did she get this crazy idea that you can marry, you know, people of the opposite sex?  I blame Disney movies.  Ariel and Eric, Tiana and Naveen, Beauty and the Beast.  Daddy and Daddy just can’t compete with love stories like those, especially without any Menken-penned showtunes of our own for her to dance along to.

I’ve even reminded her that girls can marry girls, at least here in New York.  No thanks, she’s marrying a boy.  And her brother is going to marry a girl.

So she says.

Like most boys his age, Bennett hasn’t shown much interest yet in marrying anyone, of either gender.  But he does want to wear a dress.  Badly.  Lately, he’s been asking me every day.

I read absolutely nothing into this, of course.  It’s not like either of his dads was ever into the drag thing, but he certainly hears about dresses an awful lot.  His twin sister is obsessed with them and gets a lot of attention for them, so I don’t blame him for thinking something magical will happen if he puts one on.  He’d definitely get a lot of attention.

Of course, that’s my fear.  I don’t care if the kid wears a dress, whether or not it ends up being something he wants to do when he gets older.  But I know if he wears a dress to the playground or the zoo, some schmuck kid (or, perhaps more likely, grown-up) will feed him that nonsense that “boys don’t wear dresses”.

If that happens, it might not be a big deal.  He might go, “Oh, really?  They don’t?  Why didn’t you tell me that, Daddy?”  Then again, he might cry.  I’m just not ready for the world to teach my kid shame.  I grew up in the closet myself, albeit a slightly different one, and I don’t want that to happen to him.  For now, I don’t even want him to know there is a closet.

So when he asks me to wear a dress, I don’t say no.  I tell him he can do it “later” (as in when we’re not going outside for a while).

“Later” also means when he’s old enough to understand how other people might react.  And if he wants to wear dresses anyway, then I’ll have his back — plunging, ruffled or otherwise.

I’ll also remind him that he can marry whomever he wants, no matter what society – or his sister – might tell him.

cameron

I Won’t Be Your Gay Friend If…

English: English: Actor Kirk Cameron, at Calva...

Image via Wikipedia

“I’ve been encouraged by the support of many friends (including gay friends, incidentally).” – Kirk Cameron

It’s become the latest cliche of homophobia that every time someone in the spotlight spouts something anti-gay, they’re quick to point out that they have gay friends. Really? I wonder if any of these people actually know what being a friend means.

Take Kirk Cameron, for example. He said a bunch of crazy stuff about homosexuality, then acted surprised that gay people took offense.  He has gay friends, after all.  Or so he claims.

Now, let me just state up front that Kirk Cameron’s or anyone’s opinion of homosexuality means about as much to me as my kid’s opinion of eating broccoli, which is pretty similar to how Kirk feels about the gays, actually.  I mean, it’s not like Tina Yothers condemned me.  Then, I’d be crushed.

But how does this guy develop such bigoted views and still think he’s admired by the people he’s bigoted against?  That’s when I realized what’s going on:

You guys, we’re being too nice to Kirk Cameron.

Sure, he thinks he has gay friends.  Most gay people I know are pretty cool.  They’re not going to spit in a former child star’s face just because he grew up to be an insane, reactionary a-hole.

Take me for example.  I’ve scooched over on the train so a bigoted person could sit next to me.  I always let bigots get off the elevator before I get on.  I’ve dropped pennies in the “take a penny, leave a penny” tray knowing that whoever takes my penny may have voted for Prop 8.  What can I say?  I’m very tolerant of people with different viewpoints than my own.  But please, bigots, don’t mistake any of that for friendship.

Just so we’re clear, there are a few dealbreakers to us being buddies which you may not be aware of .  Let me spell them out for you as clearly as I can before you go telling the media that I have your back.

I won’t be your gay friend if…

- You’ll let me cater your wedding but not have one of my own.

- You don’t think I should be able to adopt children because I might be “attracted” to them.

- You think merely saying you love everyone is equivalent to actually demonstrating that love.

- You use your religion both as a basis to attack me and as a shield to defend yourself from my rebuttal.

- You would treat your gay child with anything less than complete acceptance, unconditional love and a raging desire to kick the ass of anyone who made life hard for them.

- You joke in some movie that electric cars are “gay” and expect me to laugh.

- You still wish Will & Grace had hooked up at the end.

If any of those apply to you, that’s fine.  You have every right to be exactly as horrible and wrong-headed as you want to be.  As I said, though, don’t expect me to be your gay friend.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to address those people who actually are my friends, because clearly we’re giving those other guys the wrong impression.

So here’s what I propose:

If you see Kirk Cameron, Sarah Palin or any other blatant homophobe, don’t be nice to them.  It confuses them.

Don’t shake their hand.  Don’t style their hair or do their interior design or perform “Rent” for them.  And for the love of God, don’t play your 1970s classic rock hits at their wedding, Elton.

Just cut them off and say, “Sorry, I only do that for friends.”

It’s not polite and it’s not subtle, but I’m afraid it’s the best course of action from here on out.  Sometimes the only way to get through to these people is to be a complete douchebag.

You know, like them.