It’s been a weird seven-day news cycle and I’ve found myself lately swimming in a strange hate-filled pool where racism and anti-Semitism meet.
Part of my daily work is wading through the most vitriolic online comments and moderating the words to a more passable tone, and this week more than any other in recent memory has left me feeling particularly low in terms of national and international news.
I have a fairly thick skin when it comes to these kinds of things, working as I do at an online news agency. There is never any shortage of unkind words aimed in my direction, whether I am reporting on something of real importance or something as mundane as the state of kosher butchering. But this week, the furor has been so singularly depressing—so strangely mired in religious persecution, Charleston, gun control and Caitlyn Jenner–that on several occasions I sat down to write strongly worded op-eds aimed at the most base of these Internet trolls, who have called me a fool, ignorant, and a “pathetic soul” because I reported, among other things, that Jewish groups support lowering the Confederate flag.
I didn’t publish any of these op-eds, ultimately recognizing them as little more than my own angry rants. But in opening my notes this morning I came across this sentence, which I quite literally wrote just yesterday: “I believe one day it will be federally legal for gay couples to marry in all 50 states.”
“One day” came so much sooner than I had anticipated.
The belief that gay people deserve the equal right to marry under the law is the first political ideal I ever formed. The second, that musical theater should be institutionally mandatory to attend, meant I grew up with like-minded peers. I watched friends, still in the throes of their adolescence, struggle with the awesome task of learning how to come out to their parents, of what it would mean to be a gay adult in a country where that was still not a safe thing to be. I knew what gay was before I knew that some people thought it was a dirty word. With gay relatives, my parents made sure that from my youngest years I understood and respected that some people choose partners that are a different gender than themselves, and some people choose partners that are the same.
As I got older, I learned that not everyone viewed it so simply. In my ninth grade art class, on the high school football field, from teachers and snide waitresses who were put off by the fake eyelashes and skirt my male dining companion was wearing. When I was younger, these reactions hurt my heart so keenly. I found myself more than once crying in the Steak and Shake parking lot, confused as to how something that was so non-threatening to me could make others feel so ill at ease.
I got tougher as I got older, and so did my friends. Our resolve didn’t come from acceptance of this bigotry, but from an acute understanding: This would pass. This would pass, this would pass, this would pass. I knew this truth the way I knew how to spell my own name, the way those who stood opposite me knew their messiah would punish us for this. Hateful intolerance cannot stand forever, it’s not strong enough, and for my entire adulthood I have firmly known that this day, this wonderful day, would come. In the history of human evolution, we have always—always—chosen to evolve forward.
In his majority opinion today affirming gay marriage as a constitutional right, Justice Kennedy wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
If you had told me even a year ago that I could become more committed to this belief I have had since my toddler years, I would not have believed you. But just two months ago I got married myself, and what it means to be and have a spouse has deeply changed for me. This choice, this personal, divine choice, is the most important familial decision an individual can make. To tell the world publicly, “I have weighed every opportunity available to me, and look at this amazing person I have chosen,” is something so fundamental to the human experience. That it ever occurred to us to tell others how to make this choice, well that feels repugnant.
There will be naysayers and I’m sure any minute now I will have to resign myself back into the fray of moderating the hate speech of those fated to be written about in text books as having been on the wrong side of history. I wish there was a way to imbue into these people what I’m feeling now, to let some of this positivity seep into them, to help them understand that heroism doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and one man’s victory doesn’t have to take away from their own personal religious or political conviction. The world isn’t made up of finite opportunities to spread goodness. Love is elastic, with the ability to expand and grow to include any who choose to put themselves in its path.
It occurs to me that perhaps there was a reason my angry writing went unpublished this week, a reason that I paused and reevaluated whether or not I wanted to print those sentences that were so clearly motivated by frustration. How much sweeter these words have been to write, oh how much prouder I am to publish them under my new, married name. In some ways it feels I have waited my whole life to write this missive.
It’s Pride weekend in New York, a time that turns our already electric city into an even more glittering example of progressive America. The Empire State Building will light up in rainbow colors tonight and outside my office window the car horns haven’t stopped honking. We’ve waited so long for this day, and today it came with little fanfare, with no more noise than the sound of a gavel. But this noise we are making in response—I doubt that will dull anytime soon.