Happy Independence Day to my fellow American readers! On this day 239 years ago, the original thirteen American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence that declared them a new nation, and therefore completely breaking ties with the British Empire. As is traditional with every Independence Day, more hotdogs will most likely be consumed today than any other day of the year, parades are likely to take place in varying cities big and small, and of course, there’s also the round of fireworks that will engulf the sky and put my poor dogs through sheer hell.
I look to the events that are to come into fruition within the next 12 hours or so with not only expectancy, but also with irony. I find it pleasantly ironic that we are celebrating our country’s independence when a little over a week ago, same-sex couples across the nation were celebrating theirs.
Unless you find residency under a rock, then you must have heard by now that last Friday, the United States became the 21st country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. This ruling came about only two months after the Supreme Court had taken on the Obergefell v. Hodges case, after 36 states had legalized same-sex marriage over the course of an 11-year period, following decades of hate and prejudice aimed at the LGBT community. Despite there being something present in our country’s laws now that says how people can now marry whoever they love- regardless of whether they are of the same sex or not- that doesn’t mean that attitudes have changed, and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing for those who have supported same-sex marriage long before the Supreme Court’s ruling. However, it’s a bad thing for those who think otherwise that same-sex couples shouldn’t have this basic right. We still have a long way to go, but I think it’s safe to say that a phoenix has been born, though not from the ashes, but rather from a newly laid egg.
I was on vacation when I got an alert from my phone saying that same-sex marriage was legalized and I was stoked. I may not be of the LGBT community, but I am a big supporter in everyone- regardless of who you are- having equal rights and been treated equally. But funny enough though, my thoughts about the LGBT community wasn’t an overnight decision either. What’s also is just as funny enough- though maybe not too surprising- is that I also have storytelling to thank for shaping my thoughts about the subject.
I didn’t know what it meant to be gay or lesbian until I was in high school. Ellen Degeneres had long since come out and “Will and Grace” was off the air by then, but these were factors that pre-date my time. And while there were same-sex couples at the high school I went to, I wasn’t really aware of it all until I saw the film version of Jonathan Larson’s rock opera, “RENT.” Seeing Idina Menzel’s character make out with another woman and a man dressed in women’s clothing completely caught me off guard. I just didn’t know what to make of it or how to comprehend it. That’s why for the longest time, I didn’t have an opinion about whether or not same-sex couples should have a right to marry, because I felt that I didn’t have a right to say anything about it if I didn’t know what to make of it.
But attitudes change, and sometimes for the better, and so as fate would have it, by the time my high school put on the production of “RENT” during the fall of my junior year, I was (and still am) very much in support of same-sex marriage. What made it really ironic about it all was that during the final dress rehearsals for the show, Proposition 8 passed in California. But fortunately, that too has changed since then.
Officially, it was a case that was in discussion over a two-month period that led to the Supreme Court to finally recognize same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. It was a couple’s story– and a sad one at that- that led to putting all arguments to rest once and for all. Even in the legal system, stories take effect on change, and it’s something that time after time again, I cannot help but be enthralled by.
There’s been a lot of change regarding laws and attitudes towards same-sex couples and the LGBT community in general. When comparing the media landscape in 2008 to now, there are definitely faces present that weren’t there before, and dialogues that have since been exchanged. Since 2008, other than the constant law changes in our country, a transgender woman has appeared on the cover of Time magazine, LGBT characters are being incorporated into TV shows (so much as to where that the most passionate fan base for a TV couple within the last five years was for a couple named Kurt and Blaine), a musical memoir about a girl struggling to come out of the closet was nominated for numerous awards at this year’s Tony Awards, and more. Even in the scheme of books, LGBT characters are popping up more and being represented better. I can recount many times I’ve read Haruki Murakami’s novels where he too would include LGBT characters, and still have them be normal human beings, and not to toot my own horn, but I hope I contributed something to the mix by having one of the first characters in my debut novel be an openly gay man.
Two years ago, I read a novel by Witi Ihimaera called The Uncle’s Story. It follows a man who, after being disowned by his parents after coming out to them, his aunt gives him the diary of the uncle he never knew he had, who discovered to be closest gay while serving the New Zealand army during the Vietnam War. There’s this one chapter where the uncle bikes to a Buddhist temple to help gain insight regarding his circumstance- his feelings for an American helicopter pilot- when he comes across a snake. Despite the snake having the ability to poison him to death, he finds common ground with it, for they are both feared by people. I found that to be an incredibly powerful scene in the novel. (Reading the book was another instance of interesting timing, for a few months later, New Zealand legalized same-sex marriage, and later that summer, so did the state of California).
There’s still a long road ahead, as far as attitudes towards same-sex couples and the LGBT community go. However, the fact that the Supreme Court has, at long last, have the guts to acknowledge same-sex marriage as a constitutional right is a very good start. I hope that the stories shared in the future to come prove to be just as effective as it was in this defining historical moment.
And with that I say, Happy Independence Day!
A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 7 reviews so I’m already past a quarter of a way to my goal).
Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.