“You are not a second class citizen.”
As I read the words from Kim, my professor turned mentor and friend, hot tears filled my eyes.
I was in graduate school, and I had sent Kim an e-mail telling her about an incident that had just happened to me.
It was a nice day, and I was walking down Parker Street, one of the main roads on campus, and I was enjoying a nice breeze and sunshine as I walked across the crosswalk to the Counseling Center where I was completing my internship for my counseling program. A car was going by, so I paused in the middle, next to some flowers in the median. A back window rolled down, and out of it, a young man yelled a word at me. Just one word.
Then, the car sped off.
Shaken, I hurried back to the counseling center, shut my office door and cried. I e-mailed Mike, who was my pastor, the lead administrator over the chapel I led worship for, and who had been a go-to in my role in student leadership. He told me not to report it, because nothing would happen. It was just one of many non-empathic responses.
Kim knew I was gay. She had walked through the valley of self-loathing with me when I first came out to her. She urged me to view myself with value. So, it was only natural that she was one of my people I could trust and talk to about this terrifying moment.
During my last semester of my internship, I brought up this instance again during a Counseling Center staff meeting. Through my tears, I was expressing my anger and sadness about how a psychologist that believes in changing a person’s sexuality was brought to speak on campus, in chapel – the one I led worship at. I didn’t tell them how many of my own therapy sessions I spent preparing for it or how my set list that day focused on God’s unconditional love because it was my one way to be vocal. But, I did tell them how hurt I was. How much I longed for social justice to be an issue, because LGBTQ people were experiencing a lot of pain, by the world, and by members of our campus community, and I told them what happened. Members of the staff cried with me, reassured me with a hand on my shoulder, and embraced me as one of their own.
I haven’t thought about this whole instance or the feelings I had around it in a while. But last night, I didn’t sleep much, and at 2 AM, it played over and over.
It’s no coincidence.
I’ve spent more nights crying in the middle of the night than not lately.
Because I feel like a second class citizen.
We live near the border of another state, my home state. We are expecting again, and planned to use the same hospital and midwife as before. I’m halfway through this pregnancy. But now we have to embark on finding a new midwife and new hospital – all because of a new law that, after talking with our lawyer, has the potential to cause us a litigation nightmare just to secure our names on our child’s birth certificate.
“So, just have the baby in your own state.”
“Just use the local hospital.”
“It’s not that big of a deal.”
Maybe it sounds over the top to say I’ve cried about this so much. Maybe it sounds like pregnancy hormones. That’s the excuse I used when I could barely speak through my crying when I called my midwife’s office last week.
But it’s so much more than that.
It’s the fact that me, my wife, and our children aren’t treated like other families. It’s the fact that even though we thankfully have marriage equality, we are still not seen as equals. It’s the fact that so many people want to make sure they assert to us and others like us, that we are, indeed, second class citizens.
UpWorthy posted a nifty video about religious freedom bills. It makes some really solid points from a philosophy professor. But, after I watched it yesterday, I thought of our own experiences.
Like when we went to a local jeweler for our wedding rings, and they “mistakenly” never ordered them. Or how after we did order from another online company, a different jeweler botched our rings when they engraved them, and the woman who was working the store when we came to pick them up told us “it’s not a big deal.”
I also thought about how we have had to call places ahead of time – “We are gay. Is that going to be an issue?”
Can you imagine?
Calling the place you want to stay for your honeymoon just to make sure that you won’t get kicked out when you get there? Or calling a pediatrician’s office to see if they will still see your child? Or telling your financial advisor – so you can make sure that you are treated fairly? Or making sure the hospital you go to is progressive so that no one will try to keep your spouse from you?
I’ve thought about the many times I was treated differently after people found out – like the entire group that refused to go to my baby shower, the faculty member that stumbled all over himself and has since ignored me after I said the words “my wife,” and the many former friends and family I have lost or had significant wounds from.
No wonder I have suffered from depression and anxiety for much of my life. No wonder the slumps and feelings of panic still return from time to time.
In the quiet of the middle of the night, I felt hot tears hit my face. A tiny hand kept reaching over to touch my hair and to put her arm around me. She had woken up very upset, and now was trying to go back to sleep in the security only her moms can give. I thought about how much she deserves to have her emotional needs tuned into. How much she deserves to be loved fully. How much she deserves to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. Which was quite the feat when you have toddler feet jabbing into your back and pregnant belly.
Surely, God looks on us and thinks the same.
Grief is such a difficult and long process. And it’s just one part of our process for justice – which is also long and difficult. I’m still figuring out the pieces and where I am.
I’m still figuring out where my citizenship belongs. But my hunch is, it’s inside of love. And real love has no second class citizens.