By Rachel Schwartz
I try to be respectful of everyone’s opinions, but I feel that those who oppose legalization of gay marriage are either ignorant or bigoted. I don’t feel passionate about this issue only because I have two gay moms. Saying that a traditional definition can prevent marriage between consenting adults reminds me of the arguments used against legalizing interracial marriage during the Civil Rights Movement.
I like to think of myself as a poster-child for the success of gay families, and I try to confront people about the reality of diverse family structures. We still live in a hetero-normative world where everyone is assumed to be straight. Imagine if we lived in a world where everyone had to come out, where everyone was felt comfortable to declare love for whomever they wanted and thus uniquely express their own sexuality?
With strangers I will casually use ‘mothers’ in plural to see if strangers pick up on why my family is different. I am mostly surprised if they pick it up immediately. I don’t mind having to spell out “My moms are lesbians,” but sometimes I think people’s overly enthusiastic, “Ooooh!’s” or “Oh my God, I love lesbians!” is their code to assure me that they are comfortable with the fact that my parents are gay, when really the unfamiliarity makes them uncomfortable. I like to think that I help people expand their expectations to include diverse families like mine.
When I was at a summer camp the summer before eighth grade, I had a friend who was as emphatically conservative as I was liberal and said things like “Women should stay home and cook.” Livid, I would start debating so aggressively that I would nearly scream and never let him get a word in edgewise. Even though I still consider myself the polar opposite of him politically, he said something in response to my fury that changed the way I look at the world: “If I’m not allowed to have my opinion, neither are you.”
This comment started me thinking about respecting rights to personal viewpoints; if I want the liberty to express myself, I guess I must concede the same right to conservatives.
Today, I think of myself as much more levelheaded and receptive to different points of view. For the most part can respect opinions no matter how strongly I disagree. But, with gay marriage, I think that homophobia is the number one reason behind anti-equality legislation. America is very good at holding on tenaciously to the comfortable past, yet in the future we may reflect upon anti-gay marriage proponents as bigots. We as youth have tremendous power since our beliefs and decisions will shape the future. I think everyone should be what Dolores Huerta defined as a feminist: an activist for equality.
I just don’t understand why people say to me “Oh, so you’re a feminist,” when I make a comment that points out an inequality. I feel like yelling “Oh, so you’re NOT a feminist? You don’t believe in gender equality?” Men can be feminists and girls can still shave their legs. We don’t have to chain ourselves to the White House gates. To be a feminist means to be aware of women’s power and to act on this power to make a more just world.