I sat across the table from my former-student-and-now-friend Michael and his boyfriend Jiro with a broad smile upon my face as we used chopsticks to pick up the neatly cut sushi roll in Honolulu’s Akasaka Japanese restaurant. The sushi was incredibly good, with a chance to feast not only on the body of the shrimp, but the head of the shrimp as well…amazing!
The animated conversation had come to a lull and I was enjoying the new “norm” in how a gay couple plans out their future these days. Both men, in their late 30s, have been living together for the last month before Jiro moves to the East Coast to continue his graduate school education.They decided to wed next spring at a lovely Episcopal church located on Long Island, N.Y., where a classmate of Michael’s is rector (Michael is an Episcopal priest). Not only do they get a great deal on the facility (a perk of us clergy folks), but also they’ll be able to invite friends and family from around the mainland, especially for Michael’s family from Mississippi, while Jiro’s family would have to fly in from Japan. While Michael is “out” to his entire family — immediate and extended — Jiro recently came out to his mother and father. Children in the future? Who knows! They would both make awesome dads if they decided to go that route and their respective parents will probably be super grandparents.
Michael and Jiro’s relationship bodes well for our future as LGBTQ individuals, couples and families. With anti-LGBTQ groups like Tony Perkins and the national Family Research Council (FRC), Bryan Fischer and the American Family Association (AFA) and Brian Brown and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) trying to throw together obstacles to impede such open declarations of love, let alone a healthy relationship, among LGBTQ people, Michael and Jiro’s relationship not only started, but continues to grow and mature with time. Closer to the vocational call that Michael and I share in common as priest and minister, there are still those Episcopalians, as well as those in other Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church, that continually publish hate-filled diatribes against the love we show to each other. And, the state of Hawaii recently ruled against two women who wanted to get married instead of entering into a civil union (Aug. 8, 2012). All that the lesbian couple wanted were certain federal benefits that are given to non-LGBTQ couples, like the benefit of helping a non-native person change her or his immigration status when in a married relationship with a U.S. citizen. Nevertheless, couples like Michael and Jiro continue to live their lives out in the public, without apology, holding hands, kissing and sharing shrimp roll with one another.
Personally, I was heartened by (and envious of) the health of Michael and Jiro’s relationship. Having come out later in my life story, I enjoyed watching a couple who were at ease to express their love for one another in public at an establishment that catered to a wide-audience. I tried to keep my children un-touched by any disparagement I might suffer when I finally did come out, but was unable to shield them. I can write that, today, they are more courageous than I was at their age, having lived with an out-gay dad and his partner. Meanwhile, Michael and Jiro can consider growing their family without fear of the kind of recrimination I feared for my family only a few years earlier. Michael can be an out gay priest in his denomination and not fear being discriminated against. This is still a dream for many of us who are LGBTQ clergy within my own denomination of the Presbyterian Church USA, which allows for us to be ordained in only certain geographical areas known as Presbyteries.
Each and every day, regardless of the obstacles put before us, more LGBTQ individuals, couples and families are living lives in the “new norm.” No longer scared for their physical safety, worried about their job status, abandoning dreams for growing a family, dreading who will “find out I’m gay,” is no longer the norm. Perhaps the biblical apocalypse has come after all, as we behold a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21, NRSV). : :