I’m lucky in many ways.
I live in Hawaii. I work at a school where for a few hours yesterday students and staff gathered for one of the first presentations in our new building. It was led by a gentleman who was a volunteer in the ’60s to assist African-Americans to overcome barriers so they could vote in Mississippi.
When I celebrate my birthday, I will always think of Edith Windsor.
Because of Edie, who died yesterday at age 88, the Supreme Court granted same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time although it was “just” 13 states and the District of Columbia. The decision was handed down on June 26, 2013. Two years later, on the same day, my birthday, the Supreme Court allowed us to marry anywhere in the United States.
My husband and I had moved three times before and after we became parents to find states where we could raise our daughter as a legal married couple.
I mentioned to our guest speaker yesterday that I never thought in my lifetime that my husband and I could work in the same place as a same-sex married couple raising a young child and be warmly embraced by an extended community that includes hundreds of men and women of all generations.
I asked our guest speaker if he had known that Edie had died. He had not yet read the news.
It dawned on me later that as a young man, our guest had set out on a path in an area of Civil Rights that not only changed his life but thousands of others.
I read that Edie, when she was young, had never imagined that she would be an activist.
Like Edie early in her life, I did not want to stand out as a minority, but somehow I became a trailblazer: the first openly gay male in my vast extended family, the first to introduce my husband at a family reunion as my husband, the first openly gay male in at least four places where I’ve worked, one half of the first openly gay couple in my family to raise a child although now, thank goodness, a few cousins and their wives have joined me.
I wonder about my talented, bright daughter born with an extra chromosome. Will she receive a college degree as my husband and hope and will do everything we can to make that path appealing to her? She already has inspired many as a student in an inclusive public school where she is more than holding her own, as a Girl Scout, as a student of hula and Hawaiian Studies at our YMCA where our family was asked to be part of a campaign to help promote diversity.
Edie and countless men and women like the gentleman who spoke at our school yesterday have inspired quiet activism in me over the years: Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson, Billie Jean King, Martin Luther King Jr. just to name a few.
Yesterday, listening to our guest speaker and reading about Edie, I was reminded of something I have known for years: never give up unless I really want to which doesn’t happen too often!