Yesterday, in celebration of the 2nd anniversary of my marriage to my wife Clay, I posted the image above from our wedding day & the following caption on Instagram:
“Two years ago on June 1, 2013 I married @clay_walsh // this was the best day of my life! // three weeks later gay marriage became legal in the state of California and we made it official // I spent much of my 20’s & 30’s feeling very dubious (and somewhat bitter) about whether I’d ever meet someone as amazing as Clay (and she is a truly stellar human) or ever have a loving & legal partnership with someone // my 40’s have been the happiest, most affirming time of my life // here’s to love, marriage & marriage equality! // (photo by the ever talented @bonnietsang)”
At the time of this blog post, the image has 2879 likes and 195 comments. 99% of them are filled with love and support. One commenter, who has since deleted her comment, wrote the following in response (and this is an exact, unedited quote; the grammar errors are hers, not mine), which set off a small firestorm on my feed:
“I am a Christian Artist. I suppose my love for others is key. However one man to one woman is in my heart the purest since of equality if the understanding of is revealed in light of a God who loves us so much. He would lay down His life for us (his friends), so we are set free from the grip of sin and through His amazing love and sacred sacrifice we become adopted as His children. An experience that when happens causes one to evaluate and draw closer to other of the same like mindedness to understand what has happened that the whatever makes me happy is no longer my slogan, but “what can I do in light of your grace and mercy to become and be made more into your likeness and image, Lord.” I am challenged here to speak with love as I do not even know you but your lifestyle and the pit of lies in which you have fallen is a tragedy & will most likely lead others into the destruction of their souls as well. Praying that the eyes of your hearts be opened, and you find the road that really leads to true love and life.”
I get homophobic comments on occasion, but this was the longest and most blatant to date. I decided not to delete it (and sometimes I do remove mean or thoughtless comments). I also chose not to respond. However, as you might imagine, other people (including other Christians) did respond, mostly in defense of love and equality. It was an powerful thing to watch unfold over the course of the day.
I want to be clear that the woman who posted these comments is not an anonymous troll. She is a real person using her actual name (a fellow artist) who has followed my work for some time and has commented positively before on other Instagram photos (my feed is mostly images of my artwork, dog and two cats). So she, while apparently very disapproving of my “lifestyle,” has admired my work enough to keep following, even though I have never, ever hidden my sexuality or relationship online (in fact, I have been very out & open about my gayness since I started my first blog in 2005).
I also want to be clear that this post today is in no way meant to humiliate or shame the commenter. I have no doubt that she truly believes what she said, and, as such, felt compelled to express her beliefs (I imagine she’s been waiting for the right moment for some time). I also believe that no matter how misguided her own opinions about homosexuals are, she is a human being who deserves to be treated with love. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Interestingly, to her credit, as hateful as the language in her comment was, she acted quite humanely in the end. Initially she also posted her beliefs about me/my marriage on her Facebook fan page. However, after the barrage of responses, she not only removed her comment, but removed the post on her fan page, and attempted apologetic amends for offending other followers (and a mild apology directed at me, not for her beliefs, but for making people angry). While I am quite certain her beliefs have not changed, she seems to have learned a thing or two about making blatant homophobic comments with deeply sanctimonious religious overtones on the Instagram feed of a lesbian artist with 54,000 followers.
I have decided to respond to her words here — again, not to shame her, but rather to be clear — both to her and to others who might wonder — about where I stand on what she had to say, about my sexuality, and about love.
1) I was born this way. There is no religion that can “heal” me (or anyone) from homosexuality. To those of us who are gay, the idea that we could ever be different or change by altering our religious beliefs (or anything else) is preposterous. This is how I am wired. This is how millions of other humans on this planet are wired, just like millions of other humans are wired to be heterosexual. That is a fact.
2) I wouldn’t trade my life or my sexuality for anything. I can’t imagine being any other way. It’s not a pit of lies. It’s who I am at my core. It’s my own beautiful truth, just like who you are is your own beautiful truth.
3) There is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay (or bisexual or transgender). Let me repeat: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING GAY OR BISEXUAL OR TRANSGENDER. Period.
4) I’ll tell you what is wrong: hatred, intolerance, judgment, proclamations of superiority and closed-mindedness about what it takes to be loved, “saved,” real or worthy.
5) I’ll tell you what is right: love between humans, including but not limited to — embracing the beautiful differences in others, kindness, compassion, empathy, hugs, kisses, laughter, true mercy & grace, humility & tenderness.
And so I will say again! To love, marriage, and marriage equality! May we all be who we are, without apology. May we all live with a sense of dignity. And may we all live each day in the spirit of loving kindness.
Thank you to everyone who has showered me and Clay with so much love since yesterday (and to those of you who shower us with love every day of the year). You can read more about how I feel about the gift of marriage in this post I wrote one year ago on our first anniversary.
Have a good Tuesday, friends! <3