It’s not just gay marriage we’re celebrating today. It’s 8.8 million gay people.
Image via Wikimedia
A couple of days ago, conservative Texas pastor Rick Scarborough made an earnest pledge to all Americans: if the Supreme Court passed gay marriage, he would stand up for all that’s good in this world, and set himself on fire. As an alternative, Scarborough also generously offered to be shot (aw, whatta guy!). 100, 30, or even ten years ago his answer might have been met with applause. But 2015 is a different year and a different era, and Scarborough was greeted with beautiful heaps of Internet derision. Today, the pastor’s Twitter account is thankfully silent, as gay people and their allies come to celebrate not a man in flames, but a movement on fire. It’s not just gay marriage we’re celebrating—it’s 8.8 million gay people.
Talk to anyone who was born before, say, yesterday, and you’ll hear the same refrain: “I didn’t know anyone gay growing up.” I grew up gay in a town of four thousand people, and all I had were rumors: the bicurious drama club president, the maybe gay English teacher, the, wow, clearly gay soccer captain. And while I’m proud to say that each and every one of those people is super gay now, life for many queer teens in the nineties felt roadblocked. The AIDS epidemic of the 80’s, and the silence that preceded it, left little reason for optimism. Growing up gay in America, many kids harbored the same thoughts: life wasn’t going to get better, it was going to get worse. You were alone.
Image via Wikimedia
So when the Supreme Court announced their decision today, it wasn’t just gay marriage that people were celebrating—it was all the close to 9 million LGBTQ people, and all the unexpected progress the movement had made. Of course, it would be deeply dangerous to say that the fight ends at marriage. As Jennicet Gutierrez bravely showed us during Obama’s speech the other day, there remains so much work to be done, especially for trans women of color, both documented and undocumented, who remain disproportionately at risk of violence, hate crimes, and murder. Repeat that sentence. It’s an important one to remember, and worth all of our collective energy.
But today’s Supreme Court victory is a real one, however limited. As Kennedy eloquently explained in his opinion, it’s not just gay marriage they were approving—that’s just the surface—but gay humanity. Years ago, scared Americans worried about a rapidly spreading gay epidemic, making it safe for gay kids to come out everywhere. Today, queer people and their allies are proud to say that they were completely, totally right.