Sunday, May 6, 2012
We hear many arguments regarding whether we should enshrine a prohibition to gay marriage into the State Constitution. I think it’s important to share my reasons for opposing this amendment. Not the usual arguments, but rather telling my own story and how it impacts me as a person.
Before I transitioned from male to female, I had lived as a gay man. Gay and transgender were my gifts for this lifetime it seems. Oh I had tried really hard to be straight. I even got married early on, but it was a relationship doomed from the beginning. But I sure did try. I dated some, but mostly stayed single for several years.
Then I met Skip. First time was at church. He was a greeter. We began chatting and soon we were jabbering away like two teenage schoolgirls. We agreed to see each other the next week, and soon it was daily and we could not get enough of each other and before long he moved in. Frankly I was gob-smacked over him and it was clear the feeling was mutual. Over weeks, then months, then years we just grew closer and neither the love nor the romance lessened one iota. I transitioned during those years to female, but he remained steadfast by my side. My sexuality saw a shift too and I began noticing women. But I loved Skip. Nothing would change that.
Skip had health issues. He lived with rheumatoid arthritis and over time it became worse. He reached the point where he could no longer teach, and he applied for social security. It took over a year to get him certified. Meanwhile the meds he needed and the regular doctor appointments with his rheumatologist and internist sucked up any extra cash we had. It was tough, but we managed, in part thanks to help from his sister.
The meds for R.A. are powerful, and have lots of side effects. One of them is the tendency to compromise the immune system. I’ll say more about that in a minute. First I want to talk about our relationship. One of the things friends in the apartments commented on over and over. Every day, when I would get home, he would be there standing, waiting for me, ready to help carry my brief or whatever. It didn’t matter how bad he was hurting and some days he barely hobbled out there. It was important to him however, and a smile would light up both our faces when I’d drive up and see him there. We knew each other so well, and would sometimes complete the other’s sentence, or communicate with only our eyes, each of us knowing the intent of the other. Long time couples understand that I think.
So one day, I could tell something wasn’t right. His voice would not speak above a whisper. The doctor decided to give him iv infusion therapy to rebuild his immunities. But it was already too late. I remember like yesterday the night he collapsed in the bathroom. Not long after that, in the hospital he was diagnosed with viral encephalitis, able to take over his body because of his failed immune systems.
Now ordinarily, without protections afforded by marriage for straight couples, I would need all sorts of legal documents. But as I explained, the money was not there, and we just hoped for the day when we could afford it. That day never came.
Lying there in ICU, though I was there day and night, and only then by the grace of his sister who gave the okay, the doctor couldn’t talk with me, but only to his sister. Even though we shared our life together, I had no legal status whatsoever. His condition got worse. Then came the day when the decisions had to be made to remove the support systems and just let him go. Again, though he was the love of my life, I had no say in the matter, except to the degree his sister would listen to me. Each passing day, I realized more and more what that marriage license really bestowed.
One night the hospital called me. I rushed in, and began our final few hours together. I sat there holding his hand even as his life slipped away. The nurse gave me a few minutes with him then the family was called in.
End of story? Not quite. Skip’s sister was engaged to marry in a couple of months. I’d lent her what little savings I had to help out. Meanwhile, her fiancé was showing some interest in property Skip and I had purchased together. Without a marriage, no community property applies. She asked me to go to the funeral home to help make arrangements. So I broached the subject of our joint property. I offered her the money I’d loaned her for sale of her brother’s part. We agreed and problem solved. Understand most of it the two of us had bought together, but in a court of law, I’d lose. So here I was, thanks to the quirks of the law, purchasing things we had already purchased together.
So fast forward a few years. I’d grieved and was ready to move on. I met Robin. She was not at all like Skip, but the love is just as real. Because of an isolated court decision in Texas, it appeared we should be able to marry. We went to the courthouse. I was told I could not marry her because we were a same sex couple. I then asked about the court case. They told me if I tried to marry a man, I could not marry him either! Imagine that! No marriage rights at all, to either a male or a female. So we got an attorney and went to the city where the court decision was made and there got a license..
So here’s the thing. In Texas, I’m legally female in a legal same sex relationship that is treated as an opposite sex relationship despite our legal status. In other states, I could only marry men, and on occasion no one at all. So if you are born with gender identity disorder, good luck. You’re on your own. Furthermore, the legal argument that formed that court decision was regarding chromosomes, and if that is considered, 20,000 or more marriages in Texas alone would be in jeopardy.
With Skip and with Robin, the marriage was a result of genuine lasting rest of our life sort of love. Robin and I have been together now since 1999 and we continue to grow together as a couple. Now Minnesota wants to pass this amendment. We have done the legal workarounds for our protection because we cannot be certain just what our legal status would be after all is said and done. In the case upon which our marriage was permitted, another transgender woman had her life long marriage dissolved by the courts. Could the same thing happen to us? Yes, we still would consider ourselves married. But the realities of marriage rights are not just about love, but about legal status as well.
I wonder sometimes how people I would otherwise respect be willing to take this away from us. It seems so very cruel. I hear the religious reasons, but then hasn’t marriage evolved considerably since the writers of the Bible? For one thing women are no longer property. The times have changed and so have our institutions. My love and my commitment is just as real, and my story is multiplied by so many others.
I know this. The current amendment is a hateful and spiteful one, and I will oppose it. I pray others will do the same.