I met Jamie in 1981. We met in Chicago on May 18 at 5pm. I just had a tooth pulled at the dentist and stopped by my job. When I walked in to Broadway Drapery, my boss introduced us. He was hired part-time as a stock boy. His smile was like sunshine. And I felt the warmth.
Things were very different back then. We always had a level of secrecy about our relationship. We always rented a two-bedroom apartment to keep up the illusion. Jamie kept his secret from his family. It was the condition of the time. We were together for nine years until the unbelievable happened.
In 1989, while on his dying bed, I had to call his father and step-mom to tell them he was dying of AIDS and he was gay. I didn’t know which was worse for them. They came to the hospital only once over the 30 days he was there. We all stood by his bedside. The nurse woke him from his morphine drip to say hello. They made small talk for a few minutes before saying their goodbyes. As I walked them pass the curtained area, they whispered, “When it’s over, call us.” They went back to Michigan. The whole circumstance was numbing, but this broke my heart even more. As we all did, back then, I agreed and moved on.
As the years have gone by, the world has changed in regards to how gay people are treated. But there is still a level of hatred and plain ignorance in the world. Sometimes it is in your face. It is there when a bakery refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Other times, it is more subtle. For instance, when a family member’s efforts to engage is different from the straight couple. Either way it hurts. It forces some to live in the shadows in return for forced love. It prevents someone from being able to honestly share the pain, joy or build strong relationships. But yes, today the door is more widely open, but not completely.
I just read Hillary Clinton’s new book, “Hard Choices,” I realized something important. Whatever you feel about the individual, there is good and there is bad in the world. And she is good. If you’re not helping to heal and bring people together, you are part of the problem. It is just that simple.
If you haven’t read it, you should. In the last chapter, she speaks about her 2011 historic International Human Rights speech. She spoke of the myths the world uses to oppress and dehumanize gays. She clarified that gay rights are human rights. After listening to the full speech, I wondered how anyone could disagree with such a basic human rights premise? If you haven’t heard the speech check it out below.
After closing the book. I couldn’t help wonder how things would be today if things had been different. No hiding. No lying to the ones we loved.
Gratefully, I found love with a man I have been with now for 23 years. We celebrate every day when we can openly call each other “partner.”
Recently, After seeing a movie, I reached out to hold his hand in public and for a moment I felt what it is like to be free.
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Listen to full audio only below: