Originally Heard on the John Selig Outspoken Podcast
Rodolfo and I recently returned from a long weekend in Halifax, Nova Scotia visiting my son, Nathaniel, and daughter-in-law, Doris, and we met our 5-week old grandson, Cameron, for the first time. It was an amazing weekend on several levels.
I have covered the gay parenting topic on a number of my podcasts as well as in print. You all know the importance I hold in my relationship with my son Nathaniel. That is one of the reasons that I was so deeply impacted by the sad death of NBC journalist Tim Russert two days before Father’s Day. I‘ve always been a huge fan of Russert, not only for his unique talent to hold political figures accountable for their statements and actions but also because of the amazing relationship that he had with his dad, Big Rus, and his son, Luke. No matter how many presidents he interviewed, or the size of his Rolodex, Russert always remembered that the most important part of his life was his family. I feel the same way and always have. My self-worth has never been tied up in my career. I have been fortunate to have had a top rate education and wouldn’t trade my time at The University of Chicago for anything. But my MBA isn’t what guides me in life. My love for Rodolfo, Nathaniel and Doris and now Cameron, along with my friends are what matter far more than my job title and income.
I have been a parent for over thirty years. I think I have that role down pretty well by now. However, it is different being a grandparent. I had heard about the differences from older friends and family members who have gotten their new grandparent titles before I received mine on May 3rd when Cameron was born. But I suppose I had to experience grandparenthood first hand to really know what it is all about.
I cannot adequately describe what it was like seeing our grandson for the first time. Here was this precious little guy who was so sweet and gentle. Holding him was beyond words. Seeing those big blue saucers for eyes staring back at me as I held him brought this big lump to my throat and a welling of tears to my eyes. I was overwhelmed with emotion at this warm being who has my DNA who weighted just over 10 pounds and whose head was so noticeably large. Cameron looked into my eyes and as I melted he saw deep into my being. I sat there wishing only good things for this precious boy who was immediately so important to me. It was hard not to cry as I held him. So much of Cameron’s time at five weeks of age is feeding and sleeping and yet Cameron is absorbing so much around him. What an experience to be with him. I hate living so far away. Halifax is half way to Europe from Dallas in mileage and only a few hours shorter than a flight across the pond. Rodolfo was also overcome and he couldn’t stop holding Cameron all weekend. Rodolfo doesn’t have any children so he hasn’t had the experience of parenthood. Nathaniel was no longer living at home when Rodolfo and I met. But I am so thrilled that he gets to share grandparenthood with me. We live too far away and I already mourn not being able to see Cameron more.
It is also so rewarding to see what Cameron means to Nathaniel and to Doris. My proudest accomplishment in my life has been raising Nathaniel. All of my accomplishments in the business world and as an activist and writer in the gay community pale by comparison. Seeing my son and daughter-in-law so happy is all that I could ever want as a parent. Seeing the joy that Cameron has brought into their lives put a smile on my face all weekend long.
The trip to Canada had another meaning as well. This was only my second trip back to Canada since Rodolfo and I married there in April 2004. I visited Nathaniel and Doris in Halifax last October but made the trip alone so this was Rodolfo’s and my first trip to Canada as a couple since we married over four years ago. Our relationship is valued much more in Canada than the United States. I felt that as soon as we boarded our Air Canada flight here in Dallas and looked at the Declaration Form for Canadian Customs that we completed for entry into Canada. The instructions read that one form could be completed for all people traveling who lived at the same address. We were able to enter Canada as a family and approached one agent at passport control. Not so for return the United States through U.S. Customs where we entered separately and had been told when we married that if we tried to come back as a married couple we would be harassed and not be allowed to do so.
Canadians have been so accepting of us as a married couple. When Rodolfo and I applied for our marriage license in Toronto a few days before our marriage in 2004, the clerk at City Hall in Toronto actually congratulated us and she had a smile on her face when she did so.
I have always felt that the strongest tool gays have in our fight for equal rights is to be as out as possible so when given the opportunity I always come out to people not only about being gay but also about being married to Rodolfo. During our stay in Halifax Rodolfo, Nathaniel and I went for a walk one evening. I walked into a shop to buy some water, as I was thirsty. I struck up a conversation with the clerk whom I paid. I bragged about being a new grandfather and told him that my husband and I were visiting our new grandson and my son and daughter-in-law. He didn’t raise an eyebrow and mentioned that he had a number of customers who were married gay man and also a lesbian couple who were married. Canada hasn’t disintegrated since gays obtained the right to marry!
The recent important ruling by the California State Supreme Court allowing same-sex marriage is a huge step forward in this country. The California State Supreme Court is the most respected state Supreme Court in the nation and its ruling will be cited in other cases around the country. However, there is a constitutional amendment on the ballot in California this November that is imperative for the gay community to beat. Regardless of where you live in the U.S. the LGBT community needs to get involved in this fight and send money to make sure the amendment doesn’t pass. Evan Wolfson, Founder and Executive Director of Freedom To Marry, suggests folks make contributions to Equality For All via their website www.equalityforall.com. They are the lead organization coordinating the fight against the amendment in California.
Since returning to Texas after our marriage in Canada in 2004 I have wanted to take legal action to get our marriage recognized in the State of Texas and by the U.S. government so that Rodolfo and I would receive the same rights as all other married couples (numbering in excess 1,100 such rights). However, as much as I want to do so premature lawsuits in unfriendly states and in the U.S. Supreme Court will actually set our fight for marriage equality back. A list of leading LGBT organizations have gotten behind the policy of “Make Change, Not Lawsuits” including: Freedom To Marry, Lambda Legal, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Equality Federation and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
So what can we do to help with the fight for same-sex marriage? First and foremost, come out to as many people in your life as possible. Share your life story and tell people about the discrimination that you face and the importance about gay people having the right to marry. Some how we need to get the people we know past the “ick factor” they feel about the sexuality of our relationships. They tend to focus solely on the sex part, which is only one part of any relationship. What they need to learn about is the deep commitment that same-sex couples have towards each other just the way opposite sex couples have.
When people hear me speak about Rodolfo and my relationship they get it. When I make an ass of myself for the umpteenth time Rodolfo still loves me. When I tell the same story over and over again he still smiles. When I had my surgery last year he was there for me as a pillar of strength, never letting on the inner panic he felt that I didn’t learn about for over a year after the fact from Gus, my best man at our wedding, who is a doctor. People who know me also know the importance that Rodolfo has in my life. No matter what kind of day I have when he is nearby, everything is okay. He may be on his computer in another room while I am on my computer or watching TV, but just knowing he is here makes life so much more worth living. Nobody has ever treated me the way he has. I have never felt for another the way I feel for Rodolfo. That isn’t about sex. It is about love and commitment and it deserves respect and validation.
Whether you want to get married yourself or not the right to marry is critical as so many other rights stem from marriage. Educate yourself on this subject by visiting www.freedomtomarry.org. Visit www.equalityforall.com and contribute funds generously to the fight in California. I know this is an election year and lots of campaigns need and deserve your contributions. However, winning the fight against this amendment is critical for the LGBT community and you can be assured that our opponents are organizing and fundraising nationally to try and beat us.
Now that we are back in the States, I miss Cameron, Nathaniel and Doris terribly. I had the great fortune to live near both sets of my grandparents as I grew up and my memories of frequent time spent with them are amongst my fondest. It breaks my heart that I won’t get to spend as much time with our grandson as my grandparents got to spend with me. Do I feel a strong temptation to move to Canada? You bet. Is it a possibility that we might do so? I can’t rule it out. However, I am not one to easily run from a fight. I was brought up by my parents to fight for what is right and to stand up against prejudice. I had many adjustments to make when I came out at the age of 37 in 1990 but the biggest adjustment I had to contend with was the amount of prejudice that faces the LGBT community. Things have gotten a lot better for us during the eighteen years since I came out but we still have a long way to go.
I have so many wishes for Cameron as he grows up. I hope that he is able to live in a world where he sees far less prejudice than in the one in which I grew up. I wish that Cameron has the opportunity to live a life where people are judged solely by their character, their kindness and their deeds and not by the color of their skin, their gender, their nationality or age, their religious preference, their sexual orientation or gender identity.
© 2008 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.