About five years ago, an old school lefty activist I know, who also happens to be a straight, white male, told me that I was being impatient about gay rights, that change took time, and that I would just have to wait for things such as marriage equality to come to pass in America. I replied that, as a straight, white male he didn't have a hell of a lot of experience having to wait for anything, and that he could shove that bit of 'wisdom' up his ass.
Yesterday's news was and is well worth celebrating, but it is also a bittersweet victory.
Not being able to marry and live in the USA with the woman who I thought I'd be with for life kept me away from the United States for years. The fact that the committed and exclusive relationship I was in, which had been built on love and trust did not, for all intents and purposes, even exist, as far as the U.S. Federal government was concerned, forced me to choose between the country of my birth, and the woman I loved and with whom I was building a life. A move back to the states would have had to have been a move by myself. It was not an easy decision, but I chose a future, happiness, love. This choice - one she did not begrudge, because she wanted her child to be happy - kept me far away from my mother for most of the last really good years of her life. It kept me from doing my fair share to take care of her when she needed it - something I thought of not as a burden, but an honor and a duty. An act of love. Being forced to choose also meant missing so many important milestones in the lives of my nephews, who I love deeply.
I'm beyond happy about the SCOTUS decision, and it does my heart good to know that the next generation of American children will not even remember a time when same-sex marriage was not the law of the land. The truth, though, is that the bitter aftertaste left by my choice - by being forced to choose, as I waited for justice - and what that choice and long wait meant, lingers. It breaks my heart a little, even as I celebrate a victory. It's a victory that came too late for me.
The long wait was pointless, and even cruel. Gay people were ready for this years ago, and there was not one good reason to wait. Black people in America have waited MORE than long enough to get some equity. Hispanics have waited long enough. Women have waited long enough. Trans people are done waiting. When someone says that change takes time, and that you "just have to wait," what he's really saying is that HE is not ready to share his big, old piece of the pie.
My mother would have been happy about the Supreme Court decision. She would have been happy for me. She would have been thrilled to know that one of the justices who did the right thing was a Puerto Rican woman, that another was a woman from Brooklyn. She would probably have been out in the street making noise, banging a pot with a wooden spoon, in celebration. She can't. Justice waited too long.