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An Open Letter to My Son on Marriage Equality

Open Letter to My Son on Marriage EqualityDear Felix,

Your mom and I put off taking you for a blood test because, honestly, we figured you didn’t really need it, that the doctor’s concerns about the level of lead in your body were the routine kind of doctor’s orders we could ignore. (And we wonder where your stubbornness comes from.) Doc has since corrected us of that misconception, stressing the importance of the blood test. Ok, point taken. So, at least a year late, this morning we walked in to get your blood work done just as the waiting room television cut to the steps of the Supreme Court Building, where the announcement came that the Court had ruled 5-4 to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), declaring the law baring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

You’re four-years-old as I write this. You seem to react to adults who make good eye contact, speak with animation, get down to your level to talk to you, and ask you questions that you understand and then listen to your answers. You click with men, you click with women, and as far as I can remember you only asked once about why one of your best friends has two mommies. When I told you that couples come in all combinations — woman and woman, man and woman, man and man — you nodded and that was that. No big deal.

So sitting with you in the waiting room, I had one of those moments of double-ness that parents sometimes have, as I thought about the news and what it meant, watched the happy reactions from the crowd of marriage equality supporters, and wondered what celebration might be going on in other parts of New York City, all while talking with you about the upcoming blood test and reading you a story. I didn’t explain what was happening on the television, and you didn’t ask. I figured the time will come soon enough — probably too soon for my liking — when you’ll be aware of the politics around sex and gender and sexual orientation.

Or maybe you won’t. Hopefully, these issues will be moot in seven years time, or ten years, whenever you become aware of your sexual self (let’s go with ten years, eh?) and begin to find other people compelling in ways that will, at first, probably seem strange or mysterious. (For example, I didn’t notice girls had legs till eighth grade. Before then, I’m not sure how they got around, their mobility was no concern of mine. Suddenly, when springtime came and the skirts came out, their long, skinny, graceful limbs became vitally important. And yet I had no idea why. I just found them… fascinating. I knew they were key characters, I just hadn’t figured out what the story was about yet.) Maybe you’ll read about today’s decision in a history book and it’ll sound like a long time ago, the Dark Ages, when certain couples could marry and certain couples could not. You’ll feel comfortable pursuing whatever kind of partnership interests you, no matter the person’s gender, or color, or race, or class, or belief system, or whatever, and live in a country in which you can join in the legal state of matrimony with that lucky person.

I hope that by then American society will have a better understanding of what I saw all so plainly today. That if you prick our skin, the same red blood flows through all of our veins. These differences in appearance and behavior and belief in many ways are trivial, surface. How you treat other people, your stewardship of our planet and society and yourself as a functioning, contributing human on Earth, matters so much more than who you’d like to date, have sex with, or marry. As Kurt Vonnegut so succinctly put it, “You’ve got to be kind.”

Other than that? Have fun, kid. And while this marriage thing sure ain’t easy — in fact, I don’t wish it on anyone who doesn’t feel ready, 100% sure they want to make their commitment into a socially recognized, legal bond — I’m happy knowing that if, one day, you think you’re ready to take the plunge, you can do it with whomever the hell you want. And I’ll be right there (unless you decide to elope like your mom and me decided, which is totally cool too), cheering you on and wishing you well, no matter whose hand you’re holding when you say “I do.”

Love ya kid,

Dad.

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