This I Believe

Barbara - Oberlin, Ohio
Entered on May 8, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

It was 1969 and I was a young Philadelphia housewife becoming aware of my consciousness as a gay woman. The marriage was gone, my child and I alone, it seemed my life was destroyed. Out of the ashes and pain came a new me, the person my exhusband described as willful because he refused to acknowledge I had found my own strength, my own new world. I learned the meaning of pride in organizing those first marches with my friends. I had found myself. Some of my most treasured memories are from that first march after Stonewall with the men and women who were previously so ashamed now free in the streets of New York. I believe you cannot live a lie, cannot change who you are to “fit in” without sacrificing your soul. And that is too big a cost for anyone to pay.

There were many problems living this new life. For a time it was so hard I betrayed myself again for money, a “sweet life” that was sweet in easy fantasy and bitter in reality. I was blonde and small. I could easily sell myself out. Being gay in a society where you are a pariah and self hate is encouraged is a true challenge. I tried being truthful with employers and neighbors, doctors and new straight friends. I faced more rejection than I can communicate. My son did not want me at his wedding because of the “issues” with his wife-to-be and inlaws. No one would live gay if there was a “choice”. There were ramifications for our relationship and problems he should never have had to deal with.

Living a lie exacts an even higher toll. You lose yourself. How do you tell what is real and not real after a time? What else is okay to lie about, what other core issues can you betray. I believe homosexuality is not a choice, living your life as yourself is not an agenda and one should not be crucified on the alter of societal expectation. After all these years I KNOW acceptance and equal rights are not special rights, they are human rights. This I believe.