By Thomas Cushman
Do you know who’s having trouble adjusting to our new gay reality? Here’s a hint: He doesn’t look like an FLDS sister-wife gone to seed in Kentucky, nor a chief bigot of the Alabama Supreme Court. Though, you would be excused if you thought Kim Davis and Roy Moore were the two people in the country most affected by gay marriage since our story is now being told almost exclusively from their point of view.
No, it’s me, an older gay man living in Utah, I’m the one having a little trouble adjusting. It turns out that the people most affected by the tsunami-like shift in same-sex marriage and the resulting tidal wave of LGBTQ acceptance are just … maybe gay people!
In one way it makes sense that we’re not the focus of our own story since LGBTQ folk make up only 3.9 percent of the US population (Gallup Poll, June 2016).
Now you and I both know that number is a little low. Sure, maybe only 4% percent of Americans are willing to self-identify to a pollster, but we all know there are at least twice that many other Americans who are only a six-pack of beer away from ‘self-identifying’ on any given Saturday night. But I digress.
Newspapers and cable news have to be profitable, so maybe it makes sense that they tell our story from the perspective of the other 96 percent, even if a lot of readers are older throwbacks — like me — who are having trouble adjusting to the direction this country is heading — though for entirely different reasons.
I get it. I get why those folks are a little uncomfortable with all this acceptance. I mean if you’re straight and 50 or 60 years old or more, the whole gay lib thing must have really come out of the blue. There you were minding your own Christian business, living with your opposite-sex partner and your 2.3 children (maybe 5.75 in Utah) in the lily-white suburbs (preferably not inner-ring) with your two-car garage (attached, please) and the most difficult decision you had to face down was whether to support Gerald Ford or Ronald Reagan in the 1975 Republican primary. Then suddenly its raining gay men right next door and the next thing you know two strong women from across the street show up to borrow your gas-powered hedge trimmer. The nerve!
Well I’ve had trouble adjusting too, Bubba. The new reality slapped me upside the head one night just after the first few states had legalized gay marriage — before the backlash. I was at a pleasantly small cocktail party with my then boyfriend, and I had closeted myself in the bathroom for a little alone time (it’s a bad habit of mine). Trouble was the bathroom was not well-insulated and I could hear every word being spoken outside. (Does that mean they can hear every noise going on inside the bathroom? I’ve always wondered this. But I digress.)
(But I sure would like to know.)
Anyway, I heard my then boyfriend asking the others in the room questions like, “What do you think Tom will say? Should I ask him? I’ve never done anything like this. Do you think he’d say yes? I should ask him, shouldn’t I?”
Suddenly it hit me like a three a.m. Trump tweet: He was going to ask me to marry him. I was equal parts horrified and terrified. Horrified because I’d already been plotting to gracefully end the relationship, terrified because I suddenly saw the possibilities; he could actually ask me to marry him and in an alternate reality I would say yes; we would actually, legally, pledge our lives, our mortgages and our bad moods to each other.
So, I formulated a plan as I finished quietly urinating (onto the porcelain and not into the water), I would say yes in the moment, so as not to embarrass him, and then on the car ride home I would gently break up with him, but tell him we could carry on the appearance of a romance for a few weeks until one of us suddenly moved away to take a better job — I had coincidentally just finished updating my resume anyway and I could even help him update his, and people would think we were star-crossed lovers because we were on the verge of eternal happiness when our careers tore asunder. Thus no one would be any the wiser and we (meaning he) could save face.
I may have been a little buzzed. And anyway, he only wanted to ask if he could get stoned. He’d never before smoked marijuana, and apparently he thought he needed my permission. I think you can see why we’re not right for each other. (Also, his parents had campaigned for Reagan while I came from an entirely Ford family, if that helps you to understand our difficulties.)
Nevertheless, for a moment, the possibility was there; after a life of never even thinking it possible, I suddenly had to confront the specter of a lifelong commitment. I mean, what happens if next time the bathroom walls are thicker and I don’t have time to formulate an escape route? One almost longs for the old days, when all you had to dodge were the eggs that straight guys would throw as you walked out of the gay bars.
Gay Writes is a DiverseCity Series writing group, a program of SLCC’s Community Writing Center. The group meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month, 6:30-8pm, 210 E. 400 South, Ste. 8, Salt Lake.