If Serena Williams were playing the French Open this year, she and the woman whom she is looking to tie as winner of the most major championships in tennis, Margaret Court, would be the talk of Paris mostly for their achievements on the court.
Serena is enjoying the tournament, but as a spectator this year as she is many months pregnant.
Margaret decided during the tournament to ramp up her decade-long rant against gays and same-sex marriage. A fellow West Australian, Casey Dellacqua, who is still in contention at the French Open, has for years been on the receiving end of Margaret’s tirades. Margaret claims she likes Casey personally but can’t condone Casey’s decision to have a woman as a life partner nor their parenting their two children.
If the world were in a more normal place, Margaret would probably be mostly ignored. Unfortunately, with the new occupants of the White House, all ground gained in the last decades in Civil Rights is no longer guaranteed.
A friend recently asked why I write about this. After all, he said, I have a nice life and my husband and I and our daughter who was born with an extra chromosome have been largely accepted by the communities where we live, work, and play.
My response is that I still get hit with Big Macs (why not a wrapped Double Cheeseburger?!) and people will yell “Fag” at me when I’m walking down the street minding my own business. Even in settings here in Hawaii very familiar to me, I hear comments and questions — not always kind, occasionally laced with disdain — about my style, mannerisms, choices, and sometimes about people of all ages who are figuring out their sexuality and identities.
I’ve learned, more often than not the hard way, not to take it personally. To answer my friend’s question more specifically, as long as I have a voice, actually as long as I can breathe, I’m going to live my life and write and speak so that people like Margaret Court might wake up one day with a willingness to imagine what it’s like to walk in my shoes (or tennis sneakers) even if she never can (nor I in hers).
Change happens. For many years I did what was expected when work colleagues, friends, relatives, and close family members would talk endlessly about dates they had gone on, their children, their marriages, their weekend activities. I was expected to take in all this, be friendly and supportive, but never talk about myself. But every once in a while I would pop in with something like, “You know, I went out on a first date with a guy a friend introduced me to. I think it might have been our only date!”
I would be greeted with snickers or ignored. Once in a while, I would be taken aside and told I had been “offensive.”
Times have changed, slowly, but actually more so than I ever would have imagined. My husband and child are recognized as full-fledged members of my vast family. We are accepted in our work and faith communities where the majority of our friends are straight. I actually don’t define myself as gay or straight. I’ve never been a huge fan of labels.
I’m also happy to share some really good news: I found out yesterday that my family will be featured by a well-known organization for its national promotion of diversity and inclusivity. This is an organization founded well over 150 years ago in part to improve the health and well-being of people in countries throughout the world.
It’s funny, but on my walk home yesterday, after finding out this news, I thought, “For this to happen makes all the Big Macs that have landed on me, the thousand times in my life I’ve been called ‘Fag,’ the bruises from being beaten up, it has made all of that worth it.”
I never have thought of myself as Mr. Advocate. But if I can help anyone move to a place of greater acceptance of differences, then I have my answer for “What’s it all about?”