Many people—both gay and straight people—think because gay people can be married in thirteen states that we have solved that problem, and, at least in those thirteen states, we can move on to other issues. That’s only partly true.
Think of the long fight for our civil rights as a war. During the time when we were actively fighting, many many people were wounded by the experience, by the cruelty of parents and friends and doctors and teachers and politicians. They are, now, similar to the wounded warriors to whom the Wounded Warrior program devotes its energies. That is, the gay people who fought bigotry and received psychic wounds that were crippling or disabling are now walking in our cities and towns and through the countryside, and while these walking wounded may not have lost a limb or bear physical scars, their emotional well-being has been crippled and their psychic health is lost and maybe permanently gone.
So when we consider the events of the last year or two—the revocation of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the repeal of DOMA, and, for many of us, a more openness to our lives—we must not ever forget how many of us still bear the scars of the way this culture treated gay people fifty and forty and thirty years ago and who walk along our streets with a severe psychic limp.
I said some of this on the beach at Race Point when C and I married, and a straight friend commented, “We don’t treat people that way any more.” Which is just the point. As the rest of the gay community moves on to marriage and military service and community respect—and the straight community moves back to thinking well of itself again—some among us remain permanently crippled by events forty years ago when we had neither marriage nor military service nor community—nor family—respect. These are the survivors, home from the war, walking with crutches.
We have to remember these wounded, who are going to be with us for decades. They deserve our respect and our memory of their wounds and of the battles they fought which wounded them.