Thursday, May 14, 2009

What I wrote instead of a blog tonight.

A letter to my State Senator! More info here.

Senator Hannon,

You and I have had very similar lives. We are both graduates of Fordham University. We both received Marianist educations on Long Island (yours from Chaminade, mine from Kellenberg.) Both of my parents grew up in your hometown of Garden City, and I grew up just blocks away in Hempstead. In fact, we even both voted for you in the 2008 election (although I will admit, I hadn't really been following the race, but my grandmother, who I was helping to the polls, whispered "Vote for Kemp Hannon" into my ear before we split up to go to our respective booths.) 

I plan to, like yourself, marry a person with whom I share a mutual love and respect and return to my hometown with that person to raise a family. Unfortunately, despite our similar backgrounds, New York State does not give me the same rights that it gave you. 

When I came out as gay last year at the age of twenty two, I was overwhelmed by support from friends and family, but there was one phone call in particular that I will never forget. My grandmother called me and said that she had heard "my news." "Don't give it another thought," she said. "Be happy."

What my grandmother understood was that being gay is just a small part of who I am, and that I shouldn't have to be defined by it or live my life worrying about it. I'm a musician, a student, a friend. I'm a brother with the funniest, most loving siblings in the world. I get a craving for pizza at some point every single day. Most people don't think that I have a Long Island accent until I (apparently) mangle the word "drawer." I have the same brown eyes as my mom and my skin is so fair that I worry about getting sunburned walking from my house to my car. I didn't chose any of these things, but they all make me who I am. I would love being gay to be just another of these traits, but instead it is the one thing about me that causes my state to single me out as different. For as long as New York denies me basic rights, I can't ever be at peace enough to just "not give it another thought." I can never just "be happy." 

I've read your statement that you have heard a lot of concern from people in our district about the gay marriage bill. You say that they "aren't anti-gay," they are just in defense of "traditional marriage." Fortunately, we have grown more accepting as a nation over our history. It was only a few decades ago that people who happened to be born with different skin colors couldn't be legally married in many states because it went against the idea of "traditional marriage." This is the civil rights fight of our era, and my generation is so overwhelmingly in support of gay rights that I know gay marriage in New York will be a reality in my lifetime. Still, with all of the momentum in the gay rights movement this year, I've began to have hope that it could be a reality for much of my grandmother's as well. 

Studies have shown that people are much more likely to support gay marriage if they know an openly gay person. That is why I would love to meet with you to discuss this issue. You are receiving vocal opposition from members of our district on this bill. Instead I'd like to offer quiet support. The thousands of other gay residents of Nassau County and I, as well as our friends and family, don't want to have to fight. We just want gay people to be able to pursue the same dreams that straight people take for granted every day. 

While my schedule gives me more availability in the mornings, I would gladly adjust it if there was any time you could give me. Thank you, and best of luck.

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