I’ve always loved this quote, even if I question its logic: sometimes other people have guns, chains and laws which can make even the strongest among us feel like nothing.
But Eleanor was definitely onto something. Following the wonderful Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality, this has been a time of great and justified celebration. But I hope that gay lives, and gay history, never become a matter of before and after. Because even before this past Friday, there have always been committed gay relationships, epic gay romances, and gay couples who considered themselves married. Gay people have known many, often unspeakable obstacles, but plenty of gay people, throughout history, have made lives of enormous happiness. This is true of most embattled minorities, who often create their own cultures, their own music, their own languages and their own senses of humor, much of which the rest of the world eventually covets and annexes.
I grew up well before gay lives were as openly acknowledged as they are today, and I always loved being gay. I never considered being gay a mistake or a burden or a terrible secret – it struck me as only a source of joy. I was lucky, in that I was never mistreated or rejected by my family, but I know many people who went through hell, and still ended up as the most delightful adults. Here’s a common mistake, and not just for gay people: while equality is essential, never confuse it with being liked. If you yearn only to be accepted and embraced, in any sphere, you’re in for trouble, and I think that’s what Eleanor was talking about: never depend on the opinions of others, for your own self-worth.
Marriage equality is fantastic, and it’s been hard-earned. But gay people have always fallen in love – from what I’ve heard, even Eleanor, with her dear friend Lorena Hickok.