Friday, March 13, 2009

The Human Face

"Defend America. Not Homophobia. Repeal DADT."

Those were the words on the shirt of the older gentleman who asked to take our picture as we stood on the lawn in front of the capital with our American flags and Freedom to Serve signs. We had just come from the first half of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's Lobby Day to convince our representatives to co-sponsor the Military Readiness Enhancement Act that would repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. It was me and the babe and two other girls, one of whom is currently a plaintiff after having been discharged under DADT.

He seemed to be on his own, and I thought it was a little weird that he was so excited to be getting our picture. And then he asked if he could get in a picture with us and exclaimed, "My wife will be so excited!"

Later he came up to the babe and me.

"You know, somebody told me that military nurses...I know someone who is one...and I guess they're probably mostly women...anyway, someone told me that about half of them are gay."

The babe and I agreed that didn't seem all that surprising.

"What do you think would happen if they just got up left? Just weren't there anymore?"

I complimented him on his shirt. I could see that it was homemade.

He told us that he carried a little notebook with him and wrote down these t-shirt ideas when he came up with them. I wondered if he was just somebody who loved causes, who liked to go to rallies and fight for things. I was very curious about him.

I learned that he used to work at Circuit City until it went bust, that he was jewish, that he had 3 children - 2 boys, one married and one not, and one married daughter. That his daughter was married to a Japanese man and that it had been very difficult for his wife to accept her choice.

He talked about the horrors of discrimination, the idiocy of hatred.

He told me about the experiences that he and his wife had as they traveled around Maryland putting up Civil Marriage is a Civil Right signs.

Finally, I asked. "What brought about your interest in gay rights?"

He seemed surprised by the question.

"My brother. He was the smartest guy you ever met - 4th in his class at Harvard. He almost finished his degree at MIT, but he stopped to take some time off. Everybody knew there was something a little bit different; we talked about it. My parents always seemed really good - like they didn't really have a problem with gay people. But then...well, they just went crazy. It was awful. Anybody else, but not their son...

Have you seen Prayers for Bobby?"

I told him that I hadn't, that I hadn't heard of it.

"It was on lifetime about a month ago. It was about a boy who killed himself, threw himself off a bridge. His mother was really religious and just wouldn't accept him. She made him feel awful about himself... It's a book too. I bought it used for five dollars. I could send you a copy if you want."

I wrote down the title and assured him that I would find a copy of it.

The first speaker came up to the podium, and the rally began. I told the gentleman to have a nice day, that I needed to head back over to my friends. He wished me a good day.

I watched him walk around and take pictures. I realized that I didn't even know his name.


Virgin In The Volcano said...

Love this. Btw, what do you think Obama's going to do about federal benefits for gay spouses? A few of the 9th circuit guys are bypassing DOMA to make sure the court's employees get their health care--the pressure cooker's cooking.

Anonymous said...

great story. sometimes, when we take the time, we can meet such interesting people. and sometimes we are *that* person for someone else. thanks for sharing your story!

(In)Sanity Gal said...

Virgin - i hope that Obama will continue with his commitment to equal rights for gays and lesbians, although i know either way he decides, he's going to upset some giant demographic.

Laughing said...

Oh, oh. This made me cry. You have such a way of capturing the feeling in what is said and unsaid. After a friend of mine committed suicide for similar reasons, the only way I could get peace with it was to think of it as something that was done to him: he was so marginalized, so rejected by his family, that it finally just pushed him off the edge. I'm glad that this stranger seems to have reached a sort of peace too, and I love that his peace comes with such boundless enthusiasm. Thank you for this story.

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