Memorial Day

What should have been my first clue? Was it when he declared that his favorite movie was also The Philadelphia Story? Was it when, in the midst of an ongoing argument about whether or not I could have a chocolate wedding cake at my (our???) wedding, he called and left a message on my answering machine, saying that he had read an article in Brides magazine that stated uncategorically that one must have a white cake on one’s wedding day? Or maybe, just maybe, it should have been when we vacationed in New York City (in separate hotel rooms), and he got us tickets to Love! Valour! Compassion! (which was a great show, by the way) and he was waaaaaay more excited about seeing it than I was?

Well, after the NYC trip and a less-than-romantic supper cruise around the island of Manhattan (no offense, M), I realized that there was just no chemistry between us. I loved his intellect, his wit, his thoughtfulness, and his companionship, but I knew we were incompatible. I just didn’t quite know why (looking back on it 15-or-so years later, d-oh!) I broke it off, and he was really pissed at me for a while.

But I think he would agree that it all worked out okay. After all, the break-up led to his realization that not only was he gay, but also he was sick of being a lawyer, called (I mean, like God-shaking-you-by-the-shoulders called) into the ministry, and – gasp! – not a Republican!!!

Now, why am I writing about this after weeks of blog-free living? I have all these ideas entwined in my head like a tangled ball of yarn – unraveling one strand leads to another, then another. Now that school’s out, I have time to tease out each thread slowly and carefully, observing where it leads.

Try to follow this line of thinking:

1. Listening to the Glee soundtrack (yes, I am so unoriginally a Gleek!), I hear True Colors, and I think, “That was the ’80s, people!!!  Twenty years ago! You know ‘Your true colors are beautiful, like a rainbow'” and I think about how much that song must have meant to kids who were different and yearning for acceptance. And now it’s 2010, and one of the biggest hits on TV is a show about  a group of (mostly) misfits, and America loves it! But it’s 2010, and we are just now, mabye, fingers crossed, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We’ve come a long way, baby?

So these thoughts lead to:

2. Kurt’s dad’s monologue about how he won’t tolerate bigoted language in his house, at once a repudiation of the wrong-thinking that still pervades our culture and an impassioned defense of a son who always felt he didn’t measure up to his dad’s expectations. (The scene is from Theatricality, last week’s episode; unfortunately, there are no good quality clips of the scene available, but it’s about 25 minutes into the video.) Love the moment when his dad says, “The place looks great” and puts his hand on his son’s shoulder in that “guy pat” kind of way, and Kurt lightly lays his hand over his dad’s. That’s some hardcore acting.

And this leads me to thinking about other watershed pop culture moments in the fight for full inclusion of LGBT people in our society, including, but not limited to:

3. The scene in thirtysomething that depicted, for the first time on TV, two men in bed together post-coitus; Ellen’s Yep, I’m Gay! magazine cover; Seinfeld’s “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”; the awesomeness that was Will and Grace; how no one cares that Neil Patrick Harris is gay and plays a straight man on How I Met Your Mother – no one cares!

And I think about my friend, M, crazy-gifted for the ministry and how he is limited in where he can serve because of church-wide policies that continue to be “on the books” despite the efforts of many people over the years to remove them, and I think, “Aren’t we over it, yet? Aren’t we to the point where we can accept, even welcome and encourage, the contributions of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability?”

And then I read about this and this and this, and I realize – no. We aren’t over it. In 2010, despite shows like The Cosby Show (again, the ’80s, people!!!) and Modern Family, despite the fact that we have a former First Lady serving as Secretary of State, a woman who is the Speaker of the House, and a woman who could become (only) the fourth female Supreme Court Justice in our country’s 234 year history, despite the fact that we have an African-American family living in the White House, we – and by we, I mean the part of the country that is not white, heterosexual, and male (and Christian and conservative/Republican), which by now is most of the country – have not come a long way, baby.

My dear friend, M, finally came out to me late one summer night after we celebrated a mutual friend’s graduation. He told me that we needed to talk after he returned from a business trip, like, a month later, and I said, no, we need to talk now. And we did. And it was okay. He forgave me for breaking up with him, and I forgave him for being pissed at me. And then he went on to rewrite his story, to lean into the promise of a life worth living if he got off his “comfy couch” (as a young friend recently put it in her Youth Sunday sermon) and I am challenged by this and the LOST finale and this book by Donald Miller to think about my story and what I want the next chapter to say.

And that’s where the half-untangled ball of yarn in my crazy mind leads on this Memorial Day. Brave soldiers, men and women, black and white, gay and straight, Christian and Jewish and Muslim, have fought for our country, for their fellow Americans, for me – for our right to live out our stories as we please, penning an end to their own stories in the process. I feel grateful today.

For the opportunity for more yarn-unraveling and storytelling.

2 thoughts on “Memorial Day

  1. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just yay, for all of it.

    Except for not having come a long way. And the fact that the Presbyterian church is the pokiest institution on this inclusion business. Yes, the United States military is about to be more progressive than the PCUSA.

    A friend wrote today about how the church used to be edgy. Those were the days…

    1. I really wish the PCUSA could have been at the forefront of the inclusion movement. We almost were. Remember sitting in at GA for that vote in what, 2002?

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