On November 4 of 2008, my then-fiancée and I watched the television as states turned blue and, in a sidebar, the "Yes on 8" numbers climbed simultaneously skyward. Squaring a country rising above racism with its biggest state voting to strip gay citizens of legal marriage was really, really sad.
In the months ahead, I felt my neighbors' message loud and clear. As we planned our marriage — I mean, domestic partnership — we also began preparations to move back east.
Now that we're back on the East Coast, I watched New York's gay-marriage narrative unfold, and couldn't help but notice that the story taking shape is one of Republican lawmakers who risked their careers to vote their conscience. When questioned, again and again, politicians pointed to personal stories — often from their own gay relatives and friends — that made resistance impossible.
And isn't this what we want from the people who represent us? It is a cynical — though possibly true — view of politics that it is a world of ego and self-preservation over public service. But sometimes it's the duty of leaders to lead. There may be constituents in those Republican senators' districts who are afraid of what their gay neighbors' newfound freedom will mean for their own (seemingly fragile) families, but maybe now, instead of their elected officials pandering to their fears, they can look to their leaders and know that they don't have to be afraid.
So while I appreciate the addition of New York to the growing number of states that recognize queer relationships as legally valid, I am most impressed with the policymakers who have realized that it is time to stop interfering with the lives of private citizens in the name of — let's call a spade a spade — fear-mongering, politically powerful religious coalitions.
Meanwhile, after I change my sex legally, I will be able to enter into a federally recognized, opposite-sex marriage. However, lawyers advise that it would be best for us to marry in states that allow same-sex marriage — sort of a bulletproof plan to ensure that no one can challenge our marriage down the road if my trans status is "discovered." I was shocked by the implication — that, for trans people, the securities of marriage still aren't assured. There's always the nightmare possibility my marriage could be stripped away.
The legality of gay marriage does make my marriage more secure. But in a way, that's true for all straight couples. When you start cherry-picking peoples' civil liberties, it puts everyone at risk. At this moment, though, I'm not worried about being caught in Neimöller's chain of silence — New York legislators are speaking for me and my rights. Maybe someday we can all speak for each other.
Thomas Page McBee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.