By Kasey Welch
Have you ever had been confronted by a person or group for simply holding hands with your partner? Have you ever been ignored or unattended to because you had a different view than others? None of these may be the case for you, if you are straight. For those who are not, and choose to live openly, simple things like these can be an everyday occurrence. Things like going to the movies and sitting hand in hand with your wife may be a detrimental and judgment filled account, most of us never even think about. For those who are straight they can give a kiss to their significant other without a second thought. I hope one day it will be like that for all. It has come close over the years, but we still find cases where the gay community is very much frowned upon. I would like to take a moment to dive into the history of this Gay rights and same sex marriage history; From when it was a taboo, to now being widely accepted.
Same-sex marriages have been documented dating back to ancient Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia, parts of China and even in some European history. Now not all accounts were widely accepted, but they were never actively gone against either. It was not until the rise of religions such as Christianity, and Hebraism that forbid such unions did we as a collective see a problem in such relations. Christianity made marriage a necessary for reproduction and nothing more, so same sex marriages were pointless and even more so considered a sin against God. The majority have lived this was for thousands of years, very little of us questioning it, or so we thought. Same sex couples have been around for longer than most can remember but for most of U.S history homosexuality has been considered unnatural and even sinful, leaving many same sex couples forced to put their beliefs, wants and needs to the side in fear of rejection, ridicule, in some cases physical violence, and even prosecution. It was not until the mid-twentieth century that an active gay rights movement was started to secure the right of those seeking same-sex marriages or simply to be able to walk down the street or have a nice meal with their partner without such fears. In 1969 the Stonewall riot caused I major uproar within the LGBT community leading to the reshaping of perception in mainstream U.S culture. “In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, however, some at the Stonewall Inn decided to fight back and began pelting the police with beer bottles, garbage cans, and coins from broken parking meters. Police were forced to call in a special riot unit to disperse the crowd. The Stonewall riot helped galvanize the gay community and brought issues of sexuality and gender identity into the open” (“Gay Rights”). The 1970’s were a big turning point for the LGBT community, with an extremely growing number of men and woman coming “out of the closet,” to the first openly gay man to be elected for a public office seat. From the 1980’s till present day there has been a war between the states on same sex marriages. Some fighting and voting for the legalization and some unwilling to budge; In 1993 Bill Clinton introduced the “Don’t ask don’t Tell” policy making it possible for gays to serve our country, but only if they were not open about their sexuality. All of which came to a rest in June of 2015 when the supreme court ruled the state bans on same sex marriage were unconstitutional. “In June, the Court ruled 5–4 that same-sex marriage bans violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws,” and that marriages licensed by one state must be legally recognized by all states” (“Gay Rights”). Even though we now live in a society that has made same sex marriage legal we still find discrimination within our community.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing a former classmate of mine, Kaitlyn Shattuck (who goes by Katie to friends and family). I never asked her when we were younger because I did not see a reason to, but I never knew she was gay. She never hit on me or made me feel uncomfortable around her for me to see a need to think of her any differently. Later, in life when we reconnected on social media, I realized she was engaged to a woman we both had went to high school with. I still thought nothing of which may have to do with the way I was raised. I was never taught that same sex relations or homosexuality was wrong in any way, if anything it was ever really talked about, so to me there was no deal at all when I found out, I was simply happy she was happy. This is not the case for everyone though. Some come from a very religious background where these lifestyles are often talked about in a negative light, in turn developing and continuing the stigma that homosexuality is bad, and even worth punishment. Katie knew from a young age she was different from the other kids she hung out with, noticing the models on advertisements in the stores and in magazines. Her families religious background stopped her from voicing her differences though. By the time she was entering high school she was in a full-blown relationship with a man, ring and all, but found herself extremely unhappy. She finally came out to her parents and friends by writing a Facebook post “The cat’s out of the bag, I’m gay!” This did not sit well with her family. “With the religion in my family, it was nothing ever accepted with them… I tried to be straight for my family, but I became a very angry person,” (Shattuck).
From the time she came out, Katie faced many people who disapproved of her life style, “ I came out and was sent to a conversion camp, when I came back I told myself I tried to like guys, until I was 19 or 20 and got with my ex-wife.” My best friend even called me a lemon licker and never to talk to her again…. (which she laughs about) “We went through a pretty long period where she didn’t accept me.” Katie felt vulnerable and alone in a time in her life where she really needed someone there for her. It appears she had very little support in her life, from her best friend calling her a lemon licker and to never speak to her again, to her very religious family sending her to a conversion camp, thinking they could wash the gay away. “My grandma didn’t talk to me for a long time, my mom kept saying it was a phase, it was a phase, and it probably took her about two-years of me and my ex-wife being together to be like ‘this is not a phase’….The man I consider my dad didn’t accept it until he saw me with my current wife, he loves Tori” (Shattuck). She was practically alone in her feelings, yet Katie stayed strong, she knew how she felt and was not backing down no matter who stepped in her way. Katie faced her family and friend’s hatred of her lifestyle until they finally came to realize that this was not a faze at all but how Katie was going to live her life from here on out. Having her current wife in the picture helped to solidify her stance. “Having Tori like actually be around, this is where my family can see how we are, my mom said a few days ago she can see how happy I am now compared to when I was so depressed,” (Shattuck). She says her life is in a much better place now that not only has she come to love the fact that she is gay, but her friends and family have rallied behind her as well and love her new wife!
It has been a struggle for decades, for same sex couples to have the same simple rights as everyone else. To be able to date whoever they want, wherever they want and not face discrimination. For same sex couples to marry their partner without fear of prosecution, and lack of ability to be there for their spouse the way a heterosexual marriage would be able to. “There are people that have been together for so long that just want that same right, like when can’t I have the same right as my best friend, who is straight marrying her husband?” (Shattuck). Where we have gone great lengths in making same sex marriage as equal as any other union, we still have a long way to go. Many still think poorly of these lifestyles and make living openly very hard for those simply seeking equality. Katie had some words of advice for those wanting to come out and who may be struggling with their sexuality and she shared a quote I was rather fond of, “It’s here, its legal, and it’s not going anywhere. So, at some point, they have to be ok with it” (Shattuck). I think this is a great way to look at it, that eventually we as a collective are going to have to get over the fact that there are people out there that do not all think the same, and to get over it. We are all people, who bleed the same color as the rest, all seeking happiness in our own ways. Who are we to tell anyone their way is wrong simply because it does not match ours? We should all love and let love.
“Gay Rights: Do People Deserve the Same Rights and Protections Regardless of Sexual Orientation, Including the Right to Marry?” Issues & Controversies, Infobase, 23 July 2018, https://icof-infobaselearning-com.lcc.idm.oclc.org/recordurl.aspx?ID=6339. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
Shattuck Kaitlyn, Personal Interview, Nov. 12, 2019.
Professor Christopher Manning had this to say about Kasey Welch’s work. “Kesey chose a good subject by reaching out to an acquaintance. She could have trusted her details more and added more of them and more description. Perhaps a line edit would have helped to make the tone less formal.”