By: Shannon Ralph
Friday, June 26th, 2015 was an historic day. A day for jubilation. For contemplation. For commemoration. It was a day when Facebook exploded in rainbow colors and love flooded my Twitter feed. It was a day when my family was finally seen. My family was recognized. Legitimized. Sanctioned and admitted to the party. It was a day when love won.
It began like any other day. I awoke at 6am, made myself a cup of coffee, and trudged upstairs in my pajamas to my office. I am lucky enough to work from home, so pajamas are often my business attire of choice. At 7am, my three children began waking up, one by one. My youngest son came upstairs, kissed me good morning, and went back downstairs to play video games. The other two went straight to the video games without so much as a “Hey, mom.”
Like people all over the country, I spent the morning constantly refreshing the internet on my phone looking for any news of the SCOTUS decision as I sipped my coffee. When the news finally broke, my heart swelled and my chest filled with something (air? adrenaline? pride? love?) so intoxicating that I instantly became drunk with euphoria. My first thought was to share the exciting news with my children.
I rushed downstairs on jelly legs and proudly announced the news to my three kids.
“The Supreme Court just ruled that gay people can get married! Anywhere in the country! It’s the law of the land now!”
I expected shouts of excitement. I anticipated singing and dancing. At minimum, I figured I’d be jumping up and down crying for joy with my arms wrapped around my three beloved children.
My 9-year-old twins barely looked up from their Kindles, and my oldest son rewarded my enthusiasm with a forced smile and a, “That’s great, mom.”
“This is a big deal,” I explained. “This is a historic day!” I pleaded for them to understand. To show some inkling of comprehension about the enormity of the day.
Come on, guys, get excited!
My son gave me a half-hearted high-five and quickly returned his attention to his laptop.
I trudged back upstairs, deflated.
Don’t they understand? Don’t they care?
Initially, I was disappointed. Heart-broken, even. But the more I thought about their reaction, the prouder I became. That sounds strange, huh? They should have been thrilled. They should have whooped and hollered with joy, right?
My children are part of a new generation that thinks absolutely nothing of two women or two men loving and marrying one another. They have been raised by two such loving women. They have never had to hide who they are—who their family is. All of their friends know they have two moms and no one cares. Gay marriage has always been the norm in their world. I’m sure their only thought about the rest of the country finally catching up is, “It’s about dang time.”
I realize this is not the case everywhere. We live in a liberal enclave of Minneapolis, Minnesota where we are surrounded by people of all races, nationalities, and sexual orientations. My wife and I left Kentucky 17 years ago in search of a better place to live authentic lives. We chose this place to raise our children and we feel lucky every day that we had the opportunity to choose. But I have faith that the rest of the country is changing, as well. I just have to look to my children. To their friends. To the schools that teach them and the teachers who nurture them. They give me incredible hope for the future.
My children live in a new world where they don’t see things in black and white. They don’t assign pre-determined roles to people based upon the color of their skin, the language they speak, or who they love. My youngest son’s best friend is black, and I am not sure he’s even noticed. The first president my children will have known was a black man. The second might just be a woman. They know what it means to be transgendered, and think nothing of it. They are surrounded by both gay and straight people and do not differentiate between the two.
Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a day when black children and white children could play together as my son and his best friend do on the playground of their south Minneapolis school. He dreamed of the day when a person would not be judged by the color of his skin, but the content of his character. I would take that a step further to say that I dream of a day when people are not judged by anything but the content of their character. I think that we may finally be raising the generation of children that can make this a reality.
I only have to look to the day after the Supreme Court ruling for my confirmation. The universe aligned perfectly and SCOTUS announced their ruling the Friday of Pride Weekend. That Saturday, I loaded my children in the car as I do every year and carted them off to the Pride festival in downtown Minneapolis. The joy was contagious that day in the park. Between grabbing free bottles of mouth wash and sunscreen, my children adorned themselves with rainbow stickers and rainbow necklaces and rainbow tattoos. My 12-year-old son and his 12-year-old cousin walked through the park waving a rainbow flag, smiling at everyone they passed. Completely and totally lacking in any self-consciousness about the act. My son is not gay, but he did not care. He celebrated freedom. The freedom to have fun. To be silly. To risk being seen adorned head to toe in rainbow paraphernalia.
That is the world my children are living in. One we worked hard to create for them. A world where they are free to be their authentic selves. I can’t be disappointed that my hard work has paid off. They are living in the world every gay kid growing up in 70s and 80s wished existed. Through blood, sweat, and tears, my generation and the ones before me have created this world. I realize things aren’t perfect, but I am confident that my kids and their generation will continue the good work and we will get there.
So am disappointed that my children feel gay marriage is no big deal?