Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"I don't understand what the big deal is. It's just a word."

That is what a mother who has a gay son said at a PFLAG meeting last month. But what was so jaw-dropping and upsetting (for me) was that this was an educated and very intelligent woman who obviously loved her son so much and so unconditionally that her passion seemed to ooze out of every pore of her body when she spoke of her son. This was a woman who knew her son was gay at an extremely early age (long before the child himself could have known) and he is now in his early 30's. She has had years and years more than me to watch and realize the challenges and bigotry her child would face merely for being different. And yet, when the subject of marriage equality came up towards the end of the meeting, she actually said, quite passionately btw: "I don't understand what the big deal is. It's just a word."

I confess, this really, really upset me. I cannot stop thinking about it. And it has been almost a month now. I was so flabbergasted, so speechless, that I could not even get my head to stop spinning long enough to put together a coherent response. And since she made this statement at the very end of the meeting (in fact, she got the last word), I never really got the chance to say anything. So I have spent the last month beating myself up, reliving the moment over and over again, and standing in front of the mirror saying what I didn't say when I had the chance. It hasn't helped. I am still ticked at myself. It was a missed opportunity and I blew it.

How on earth could someone who has seen, up close and personal, the challenges and prejudices the glbt community faces on a daily basis not understand that the word "marriage" is NOT just a word? How? I simply cannot understand this.

I don't want to beat up on this mother, but I can't help beating myself up for not having a ready answer. At the very least I should have been able to say that the difference between the words "Civil Union", "Domestic Partnership", and "Marriage" is this: "Marriage" provides somewhere in the vicinity of 1,400 legal rights, which are conferred upon married couples in the U.S. Typically these are composed of about 400 state benefits and over 1,000 federal benefits. Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships confer nothing close to what Marriage does. Talk about being "just words".

And for those who argue that most rights and protections can be privately arranged with legal contracts, I say NO, they cannot. I know of 2 different couples, in two different states, who spent thousands of dollars to protect themselves, their assets, and their businesses. One of them told me they were so paranoid, they actually carried the plastic tub holding the many, many documents for each and every protection for which they'd paid dearly, in the trunk of their car. And yet, it still wasn't enough. The families of both deceased partners still won out, leaving the surviving partner with nothing. And if there are children, or one of the partners is not a citizen of this country, well ... good luck ... both situations can have horrifying consequences because the rights and protections of marriage have been denied them because they are same-sex couples.

NO, "marriage" is not just a word.

I just wish I could show the clip below to this mom. It really riled me up and my bet is it would her too. And I think it would explain better than I could have why "marriage" is indeed a big f'ng deal.

Watch it, but grab a tissue first. I don't know why, but this clip hit me harder than I anticipated.



Xiaochen Zhang said...

Why stop posting new stories?

Anonymous said...

Why stop posting new stories?
Its a very nice blog.

Anonymous said...

You've been quiet for a long time. I've missed you. Hope you're okay.

Seething Mom said...

I am coming back. Just needed the break and time to take care of some personal issues. I miss you guys too.
Thank you for caring. Kim