First published at 365gay.com on December 18, 2009
Allow me to share a favorite holiday story.
It was late-November 1989, a year after I first came out. I had been dating a guy named Michael for over a month, which made him (in my mind, at least) my first “real” boyfriend. I was twenty and he was turning twenty-two, and we decided to drive into the city to celebrate his birthday.
“The city” was Manhattan. I was living with my parents on Long Island while going to college; Michael lived nearby. Together with his cousin and his cousin’s boyfriend, we piled into my 1985 Camry and made the trek west along the Long Island Expressway, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge into the Big Apple.
Dinner, then drinks, then dancing—or more accurately, sitting in the corner flirting while other people danced. It was the kind of young love (lust?) that makes one largely oblivious to one’s surroundings.
So perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised, upon exiting the club, to discover that it had been snowing for several hours—hard. No one had predicted a blizzard that night, and it wasn’t as if we could check the weather on our iPhones. (Remember, it was 1989.)
We rushed back to the car and headed slowly home. About a third of the way across the Williamsburg Bridge, traffic stopped.
We waited a minute, then five, then ten—and still no movement. The snow around us was blinding. Meanwhile, the cousin and his boyfriend were soundly asleep in the back seat.
So Michael and I did what any two young lovebirds would do in such a situation: we started making out in the car.
We kissed; we caressed; we cuddled. It felt like we were there for an hour, though again, we were largely oblivious to time and space. It was joyous.
Eventually the traffic flow resumed and we made it home okay.
Michael dumped me a few weeks later (Merry Christmas, indeed) and what remained of our relationship was more disastrous than that night’s weather. But two decades and numerous boyfriends later, I still count that bridge experience as one of the magical moments of my life.
It wasn’t just because it was new and exciting, or because of the Frank Capra setting (Snow on a bridge? Seriously?).
It was because, at a time in my life when I still struggled to make sense of being “different,” the experience sent a powerful, visceral message: Gay is good.
The message didn’t arrive by means of a philosophical argument or someone else’s testimony. It came through direct experience. Those once-scary feelings were suddenly a font of great beauty, and intimacy, and comfort. I had previously figured it out in my head. Finally, I knew it in my heart.
In this column I have often extolled the virtues of long-term relationships. I believe in those virtues—and am ever grateful for my eight-year partnership with Mark, the love of my life.
But I don’t believe that homosexuality has moral value ONLY in the context of long-term relationships—any more than heterosexuality does. That quick flirtatious glance across a crowded room; that awkward kiss with the cute stranger at the party—such moments make life joyful, and there is great moral value in joy.
And so, this holiday, I wish my readers joy.
It has been an incredible, fast-paced year on the gay-rights front. We gained marriage equality in several states only to lose it again in Maine; we had ballot victories in Washington State and Kalamazoo, MI; we elected a lesbian mayor in Houston and a gay City-Council President in Detroit.
There are reasons to be hopeful, and there is much work left to be done. We will keep fighting the good fight.
Yet let us also step back and enjoy the simple yet profound joy that is part and parcel of why we’re fighting. Kiss someone under the mistletoe, and remember that life is good.
Wishing you all the best in 2010.