New York’s Hudson Valley Times Herald-Record profiled Ted today- on the day that marriage equality becomes a reality in that state- and it’s beautiful.
For many people outside the LGBT world, gay pride and marriage equality is too often seen simply as the cause of “radical” youth- the pierced, cross-dressing, politically and theologically liberal boys/girls/trans/men/women with their Harleys and glitter and rollerskates.
It is that- and I happen to love it and believe in the power and importance of self-expression.
But it’s also more.
Gay Pride and marriage equality are also about the people of advancing age who have struggled to live their lives with love and integrity in the face of hatred, anger, denial and oppression- the kind that many of us today simply cannot fathom.
This is a short story about a man’s long life as he stands on the brink of a day he never thought would arrive.
At the age of eight, Ted Hayes heard a kid in the schoolyard call another kid a queer.
Hayes asked a friend what the word meant.
“It means when boys like boys, not girls. My dad says anyone like that should be killed.”
The friend said he was sure glad he wasn’t like that. Hayes agreed.
“That was the day the lying began — years and years of lying,” Hayes, of Stone Ridge, recalled last week.
The state’s gay marriage law takes effect Sunday. Hayes, now 80, grew up in the South and has mixed feelings about it. He’s fought for gay marriage and he’s glad it’s finally come to pass. Yet, the law ends at the New York state border. It represents a battle won, in a war that’s still being fought.
The law’s passage came too late for Hayes to share its satisfactions with his partner of 26 years, Jack Waite, who died of cancer two years ago at the age of 94.
“Jack could never grasp how our being married would have harmed another’s marriage in the slightest,” Hayes said, dismay coloring his voice.
The harm that’s been done, as Hayes has experienced it, has not been done by those who have struggled for marriage equality but by those who would deny them, people who have tried all Hayes’s long life to keep him a fearful, uncomplaining second-class citizen.
Thanks, Ted. We owe you one.