Second Class Citizen

“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.

“DYKE.”

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.

– C.

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Summitt

When I was in middle school, I saw approximately 2-3 hours of play time as a point guard for my church’s team. I drug my little round short self up and down the court every week for practice, and I was always lagging behind the others when we would run.

When I was around the age of 12, I played with an official NCAA Women’s ball for the first time. I couldn’t believe how great it felt in my hands compared to the ones we had at home, a full size, and a junior ball. A friend of the family who was a coach gave me the new ball. This family friend also had an adjustable hoop – the first time I ever saw one, and I thought it was the best God send ever to my less than 5 foot self.

But we never got one of those. Instead, I had the hoop outside our house, situated between the master bedroom and the gravel lot. Lot is actually a misnomer. It was more like just enough gravel space to park approximately 1.5 cars. When I faced the basket, a steep bank with clay and pines rose to my right, briars and woods and snaky overgrowth stood behind me, and to my left was a long, long, gravel driveway that descended at a grade notorious for causing falls and slip ups and my first fender bender when I accidentally went too far back, slipped up, and then came up the drive again like a bat out of hell into the back of my dad’s car. Sorry, dad.

As an adolescent, through middle and high school, I recall lots of hours “shooting hoops” and playing horse. I also recall running down that hill a lot to try to stop the ball from rolling all the way down the driveway, across the street, and into the field/fence that sat across from us.

Perhaps it was all that ball chasing that motivated me, but I actually got pretty good at shots. I would go down to the gym at church and play horse and could make 3 pointers, foul shots, and do pretty well over all with getting that ball into that net. I wasn’t a bad dribbler, either.

I sucked at running. Layups were a joke. And I learned very quickly on that middle school team, that I was not an aggressive or defensive player.

Still, I loved basketball.

More specifically, I loved Lady Vol basketball, and their coach, Pat Summitt was an icon to me.

I spent hours upon hours pretending I was on the team, trying to make a shot for Pat. Pretending I was on the court with Chamique Holdsclaw, “Ace” Clement, Tamika Catchings, and Michelle Snow. We were facing, UConn, of course.

I spent hours cheering them on through win after win on my TV screen. They were so unstoppable. Until that National Championship loss, and the streak was over. And I was beyond disappointed. I was bewildered. How was this possible?

I never got to see “my team” in person, but somehow I felt connected with them. The dream team all graduated. Some went on to play for the WNBA.

My life changed. My parents divorced. I moved a couple hours away from home. I got into the music industry, and my focus shifted. I still managed to catch a game here and there, but never at that same intensity.

Life gets even busier, somehow, after college graduation, and I hardly ever caught a game. But then I heard something sad and shocking on the news – Pat had Alzheimer’s.

How was that possible? Surely not.

My biggest regret has been that I never went to a game. Never sat there in that arena and cheered my dream team or my dream coach on.

I can’t explain why I have cried more over Pat Summit’s death than I have over any other celebrity. Yet, somehow, hot tears still fall from my eyes as I write this.

I think, as I have reflected the past two days – that Pat was a constant for me.

Pat pushed hard, played hard, and inspired hard.

Pat inspired my non-athletic self to get out and move and do the best I could.

More than that, I wonder – no, I know –

that dream team and Pat Summit allowed me a space to be me. When I thought about being a Lady Vol in my fantasy world, I was just me – all of me. The writer, the singer, the lover of basketball and women, and the dreamer, and the goofball. And it was ok.

I was ok.

When I watched those girls take charge of the court, empowered and taught by Pat Summitt, I felt like they were unstoppable, and I felt like I could be unstoppable, too.

I felt empowered to be a woman. I felt like women could really make a difference, and if there’s anything Pat taught us and did, it was to teach us that gender roles and stereotypes and limitations are hog wash.

I like to imagine that as Pat’s spirit was lifted, she could see the impact she has made on people she hasn’t even met along with those who knew her best and were touched by her.

I know that if that is true, that she saw a candle over my head, especially the 12-19 year old me, that felt a little more empowered, a little more free, and a little more inspired to be a woman, and to get that ball through that net.

Now, at almost 35, I’m sitting here moved, inspired, empowered – and I think it’s time I go over next door sometime soon and get that ball in that net again. It’s been too long.

Pat, you can’t read this, but hey –

thank you. Thank you for being an inspiration. Thank you for the motivation. Thank you for being you and being the only you that ever was.

You never coached me in basketball, but you sure as heck coached me in life though those lessons you talked about, wrote about, and displayed on and off the court.

We’ll miss you. I’m so thankful you shined your light.

Forever grateful. With love always,

C.Pat-Summitt-Icon

 

 

 

 

 

Five Year

On Monday morning, my wife and I got into the car, buckled our seat belts, and took our VW Jetta on one last drive. She’s had that car since she got it new, a 2008 model: “Smokey.” Tinted windows, cloth interior, charcoal grey on the outside, and seat warmers in the front seat. Those seat warmers are so great for sore backs, cold mornings, and practical jokes on your partner.

I asked D what her favorite memories were. They came easy – going to get the car. It was an upgrade from a 1980s VW Vanagon camper. She was amazed it had cup holders – cup holders! What an upgrade.

She also talked about driving out to North Carolina to go to art school where she learned glass blowing and pottery.

Five years ago to the day, she told me about going to that art school and doing glass blowing, as we were riding in Smokey, on our very first date. I silently mused “that’s kinda hot,” and I wondered more about this girl who was my first real date with another girl.

We talked about our favorite memories together in the car: driving to our first date together, driving home from our first date (the first time we held hands, while listening to “the everybodyfields”), driving home from the hospital with our daughter – a nervous wreck that we had a tiny human in the car!

We talked about no so good memories – like when I spent hours alone in the car, driving around North Georgia for in home counseling with kids and teens, and the drive to the hospital while I was in labor – an hour long drive of o.m.g.

We talked about hoping we will form new good memories in our new vehicle.

It was hard not to feel nostalgic. Here we were on our five year anniversary of our first date, driving our car one last time.

But also, Sunday held its own nostalgia. Sunday marked seven years since my grandmother Nellie passed away rather suddenly. I found myself crying that morning, remembering and mostly just missing her. Wishing she could have met my precious family.

I found myself crying again at the senseless mass murder of people like me, like my wife, like my friends.

I got word that my brother’s wife was in labor, and it looked like a new life would be born before the end of the day.

I played with my daughter during the day on Sunday, and as I watched her, I wondered what kind of world she, and the other new little one would have to deal with. I worried. I fretted. I looked at her again, and I found a sense of calm and peace in knowing that she is in this world. And that she will make it even better, and that I can make it even better.

I had picture texts of a precious new life on my phone before bed that night, and again on Monday morning, so here we were, and here I was – in a state of deep thought, remembrance, and wonder.

We had two stops to make on Monday before we could eat together for our anniversary.

The first one took about an hour, the second one took over two.

Before we went to eat, we took Smokey in and traded for a different vehicle, one that will be more reliable, and one that will make more sense for our family.

Before that, we looked at a screen in a doctor’s office. We saw my healthy ovaries, my uterus in great shape, and a beautiful gestational sac with perfectly formed walls,

But empty.

This was our third look. The second was the hardest. I didn’t cry this time. Not at the doctor’s office, anyway.

I listened and asked questions about the surgery I will need to remove it. D and I looked at each other, on our five year anniversary of being together, and all I needed to know I was going to be ok was to have her look at me with her caring eyes.

On our five year anniversary, we talked about my fears of anesthesia and fears about future attempts at pregnancy. We talked about our new minivan and how did two hippie/granola lesbians wind up with one. We laughed about some things, gave each other personal and reflective cards, and we were silent together in the way that’s an okay silence, the reassuring kind.

They call it a “blighted ovum.”

In the best of terms, it sucks.

As we let go of that dream and look on to the healing process and then trying again, I wonder at how the miscarriage of justice for the LGBT community is so similar.

Just when it looks like things are positive last year at this time, the backlash starts in the form of bills and rhetoric, and now a massacre.

There aren’t answers for why this pregnancy didn’t work. We even tested the embryo, and she was given a clean bill. One of the nurses said, “Sometimes you don’t know. There’s just so much wrong in this old sinful world.”

There is so much wrong. In this world.

But you know what? We have the power to make it right.

And love will make it right.

Five years ago from Monday, D looked over at me and said she’d like to go out again sometime. I said I’d like that, too. She also said that she wanted to look at some stars – the first time we found ourselves in a familiar place – not wanting our time together to end.

Now here we are, and there is no end in sight. And I like that.

With Love that wins,

C.