My friend, my brother, my equal

I sat at my desk on Friday morning, tears welling in my eyes. My news feed lit up in a celebration of rainbows at the same time the skies outside my office window let loose the joyous deluge that I fought to keep inside.

The Supreme Court of the United States had just made marriage equality the law of the land. My girlfriend texted me with her own excited tears, “Did you read the decision?”

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My emotion was not in celebration of personal triumph. I had nothing individually to gain by the court’s decision.

But Michael did.

On Thursday, Michael couldn’t marry the man he loves because he lived in Georgia, a state that didn’t allow same sex marriage.

On Friday, Michael’s life changed. The final arbiter of law proclaimed that Michael deserved the right to marry.

I cried for Michael, but I was really crying for myself.

I cried because I remembered my childhood days roaming through the neighborhood, a pack of testosterone-fueled boys of the 70s who threw around barbs like candy. You showed sensitivity? Gay. Didn’t want to play tackle football in the street? Faggot. Crying because you got hurt? Queer. I used these words, but I had no LGBT friends.

I cried because I remembered my high school years, where my primary awareness of gay men lived in demonizing news stories about HIV and AIDS that lumped them together with IV drug users. I heard these accounts, but I had no LGBT friends.

I cried because I remembered my college days at Notre Dame, where social standing in our all-male dorms was built (at least in part) on success with theopposite sex across the quad. Being gay on a Catholic campus in the 1990s? I can’t even fathom. I remember some faint rumblings about some gay and lesbian activism on campus, but I had no LGBT friends.

I cried because I remembered my first 20 years of adulthood, where many brave souls came out to their families and friends. LGBT activism and awareness entered the national mainstream, but I had no LGBT friends.

I cried because, in 2012, I met Michael in person for the first time at a blogging event in Arkansas. We’d met via social media, where our online personas found common ground, but a certain distance remained. I didn’t really know Michael. I didn’t truly understand him.

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There was a moment during that trip that forever changed me. Michael walked over to a horse and gently placed his hands on its bridle. He lowered his eyes, to humble himself and pray with this beautiful animal. At that moment, I understood love in a new and beautiful way. I understood Michael as a human being.

At age 41, I had my first LGBT friend.

I cried because the universe gave me Michael’s eyes to see the world in a new light. I now understand the damaging power that words can wield. I now see and feel the pain that laws can inflict.

Knowing Michael made the issue of marriage equality personal to me.

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I cried because I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Michael and his partner Darin together. It was just a short conversation over coffee, but I could see the comfort they give each other, the ease with which they interact, the beautiful ways in which they complement and support each other.

I cried because I found myself standing on the compassionate side of history. On the right side of humanity. I stand on this side because the universe provided Michael to teach me.

Michael is my friend. Michael is my brother.

I cried because Michael is now my equal in the eyes of the law.

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