Guest Blogger

I realize the price one pays

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 11, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
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Editors' Note: Guest blogger Right Reverend Raymond S. Decelles-Smith, M.Div., Ph.D., has retired from active ministry and is a veteran in many definitions of the term. Dr. Sawyer has been partnered for thirty-three years and they are the parents of a bright and energetic six year old son, Norbert Thanh.

As a man who accepted serving in silence as priest, chaplain, and bishop, I realize the price one pays. I would march and write in fear of detection, and my disguises would have made a drag queen envious. I was silent but "screaming inside" to maintain both my personal and theological integrity. Luckily in the process, I found someone who would both accept and love the person within struggling to love himself and his career with equal significance. Thirty-three years and Thanh make me an extremely happy and fortunate older man.

It has been my pleasure to know the men of WWII vintage who were twenty years or more older than I am - which makes them now in their mid eighties or older. These activists worked on spare budgets - less than what passes only for CEO/GLBT organizational salaries today.

Please remember that I started activism in 1967, as a senior in university. I was first and foremost a "reprobate sinner" - ready to go to seminary for my MDiv and PhD after graduation. I was a criminal sodomite, soon to live on a military base on my own, rather than in the dad/colonel's house, and did I mention that I would break every regulation in the UCMJ dealing with "homosexual conduct". Oh, and did I mention that the American Psychiatric Association knew that I was sick and curable?

The gay bars were filled with undercover cops ready to arrest you for language that suggested sexual intercourse. I was young, single, and my testosterone levels were high. The bartender was my friend, and if I asked for " the usual" and he brought me a strange drink, I knew the man I was talking to was a cop. I would stay there not to arouse suspicion, and talk about religion, sports or politics, and he would leave.

Next door, the dance bar was in speakesie door and allowed only an equal number of gays and lesbians on the dance floor for switching if they raided and the lights flashed.
I still have my Mattachine Society card, as my card for the Gay Liberation Front - precursors for the many fights we had over four decades. So I hail former Solicitor General Ted Olson. He lost his wife on the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11. David Boies is a conservative Democrat - so both have a strict constructionist view of the U.S. Constitution.

Civil rights groups say "Make Change, Not Lawsuits", explicitly discouraging a federal legal challenge. "The arguments in the briefs are not the only thing that influences the Court's decisions. The climate of receptivity and momentum in the country on these issues matter as well. There is much we can and should do together to strengthen our hand before we put a federal marriage case before the justices," reads the question and answer online sheet.

This is a defensive, crouching strategy that argues before demanding civil rights for everyone, make sure its okay with the bigots first. Put another way, "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism," as MLK reminded us on one very special day. The news that Bush v. Gore attorneys Theodore B. Olson and and David Boies are seeking an injunction against California's same-sex marriage ban could be the first step in the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteeing gay Americans equal protection, due process and privacy rights.

Personally, my husband and I, speaking also for our son, are no longer able to support those organizations who have made our expatriation to a dual national Canada necessary to live in equal justice under law. These men and women have become gentrified activists who literally have the socio-economic reality to "sleep with the enemy" - and become spokespersons for the DC political agenda of both foes and faux allies.


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Thank you for this important post. I know of too many who have left the U.S. just to keep their family intact.

If only the Queer Community would fight to protect and defend OUR families with the SAME vigor as Heterosexuals; they would surely use more than petitions and parades to protect their own families. Our Civil Rights Movement is about FAMILY rights, including the children who depend on their parent's civil rights for safety and security.

Unfortunately it takes seeing a loved one suffer needlessly in a hospital or seeing your children suffer due to legal hate before the "real" rage begins.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 11, 2009 11:38 PM

Raymond, thank you, I am a bit younger than you and the statements you made about covert activity ring very true. In 1972 when I was a founding member of a GLF chapter other students would avoid me like the plague and particularly the Gay ones.

The formation of GLF provided the first organized covert means of faculty community leaders and staff communicating with one another for mutual survival. Many of these people did not know one another otherwise and lived isolated lives.

Also, like you, I live outside the USA so that I can have unquestioned ability to care and make medical decisions for my partner who will be 80 next month. I have lived the rage of the hospital already and I know that any change will come too late to benefit me, but would make a sea change of difference whether the final result is called marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships. Your child deserves to know he will have a home regardless. Peace

A beautiful post. Thank you for your bravery and thank you for being a part of our community's proud history.

Thanks for leading the way for the rest of us, Raymond. We couldn't be doing it without your bravery.