I'm thrilled the Supreme Court declared gay marriage a constitutional right.
Here is my reason why:
I learned a while ago that a former girlfriend, Leslie Geddes, is gay and has finally come out, mainly spurred, I suspect, through society's increasing acceptance and support of gay rights.
And I am so happy for her. I was deeply in love with her - in fact, she is the only person I can say I know I was truly in love with.
But I felt that during our relationship she was always angry. More often than not this was passive aggressive anger, an art in itself, such as giving me the silent treatment or vicious looks when I tried to express emotions and feelings or playing mind games such as telling her friends in front of me while we were living together that she wanted them to set her up with someone "smart, cute and rich!" and then refusing to discuss that with me.
During the time we dated Leslie would spend every Saturday afternoon with her "girlfriend" Alice Riener. When I asked "Can't we just spend one Saturday afternoon together?" Leslie would simply respond, "Alice says she needs me." They met at Columbia University and had been inseparable ever since. After graduation Alice moved back to Washington DC and Leslie followed her.
At the end of Leslie's bed, Leslie kept a large framed photo of Alice. She told me it was so that Alice's face would be the last thing she'd see at night and the first face she'd see in the morning.
After I bought an apartment and we moved in together I was arranging to put half of the ownership in Leslie's name (which seemed to me in my love besotted state a more meaningful gesture than an engagement ring) something moved me to ask Leslie, "Am I your best friend?" I suppose I wanted confirmation that my feelings were reciprocated before I took such a major step of giving her half of my home.
Leslie shook her head and looked away.
At that moment it dawned on me that Leslie Geddes was in love with Alice Riener.
I asked Leslie if Alice was gay and she refused to answer.
When I saw the movie about the gay cowboys, the scene that really resonated with me was Anne Hathaway's confusion about being lied to while sensing the truth. I related because my relationship with Leslie was terribly confusing. The audience was supposed to feel sympathy for the gay cowboys who felt they had to live in shame, but I identified with the wives who were being lied to but who loved their husbands, and I knew then that the cowboys in my life were Leslie and Alice.
Every decision by Leslie to the extent possible revolved around Alice. For Alice's part, despite my best efforts she was always unfriendly to me and I was never invited to join them on any of their dates. I see in retrospect that Alice was profoundly jealous.
What is interesting about Alice is that she has devoted her personal and professional life to gay advocacy. I believe that focus was her outlet for a suppressed sexuality. Although her family is liberal and would immediately accept her, there would still be some emotional toll on her parents, so I suspect that living a lie felt preferable.
The consequence of living a lie is neurosis and in my opinion, what defined Leslie and Alice more than anything else was that if people were hurting and in pain they found it funny. As an example, when Leslie was at Princeton getting her PhD she gleefully told me about a classmate who was in such emotional trauma from a break-up that she was rolling on the floor in pain. When I responded to Leslie that rather than mocking and belittling her classmate, Leslie could use the opportunity to reach out to the woman in compassion as a friend. Leslie was genuinely baffled by this idea; she told me that she hoped the woman's suffering would derail her academics and make one less competitor. I saw similarly cold behavior by Alice. In that, they matched.
Although Leslie constantly told me she loved me, after almost two years, I felt that I was constantly walking on eggshells around her, unsure of expressing my feelings and emotions so as not to say the "wrong" thing to her and anxious that showing any sign of weakness - of humanness - would make her turn on me. The problem was, I was in love. So I took a risk and tried to open my heart.
That's how our relationship ended: with me in fear and with Leslie kicking me when I was at the lowest point in my life. I will never forget how her eyes turned black when she looked at me; there was no conscience behind them. I later saw that she posted on her MySpace page the quote: "I will climb up the pipe, go over the wall and thru the window to kill him."
Chills ran through me. I was staggered and wondered "what happened to the person I loved?" My answer was the obvious wisdom: people don't change.
I now believe that Leslie felt that if she communicated feelings of emotional intimacy (beyond simply saying "I love you" by which she really meant, "I control you"), or allowed herself to feel empathy and act with kindness, she'd then have to let go of the emotional control that maintained the facade of her sexual identity. Her anger was, I feel, a coping mechanism that kept her from looking into herself.
Leslie and Alice met as roommates at Columbia University. Much later I met one of their mutual friends by total coincidence and learned what she called, the down low. Leslie and Alice are not at all unique, they are part of a tribe in Washington DC, women who feel that for career and family reasons they want to keep their true sexuality hidden. But she explained to me the range of stylistic signs they carry, the most obvious being pearls, to signal each other. She invited me to a party in Dupont Circle of what she called "shadow lesbians" (she also called them "weekend lesbians") and it was fascinating to watch the dynamics of flirting and sizing each other up. I was a pure observer, feeling completely undesired and insignificant. I felt at home.
When Alice Riener met Leslie Geddes she had already absorbed the Kerouac myth that breathed at Columbia University. Her father was an english teacher at a highschool in DC, probably bisexual but a product of the 1950s and profoundly sexually repressed. (This came out through his interactions with his students in his test. Once he told me with great pleasure how the answer to a question concerning a greek hero was "throbbing red cock", a pun he thought hilarious, oblivious to how highly inappropriate it was for 15 year old students). His bible was "On The Road," a classic of 1950s sexual repression.
Their relationship, then, was more than an awakening. It was their taking the Stanislavski Method into their life, Alice becoming Neal Cassady and Leslie living the dual role of Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg (the defining point of Kerouac's relationship, we know through Carolyn Cassady's' biography, was a menage-a-trois with Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. Leslie had to take the role of two).
So, I was not just in competition with sexual identity, I was in competition with the living mythology of Cassady and Kerouac supported by a thriving underground culture in Washington DC. So, Leslie's relationship with me, I know now, was one more of gratitude and compassion for allowing her to maintain a facade that she wanted, rather than an act of desire.
I feel convinced that a person's true personality (not what they show the world but what they are) is revealed through their aesthetic choices. People project, just a Ahab projected onto the whale (and why the novel carries a resonance - it reflects the universal subconscious). For Alice, her aesthetic experience was the novel "On the Road"; on the surface a novel of personal freedom, what is more freeing than living one's own sexuality? But, as liberal as her family is, and as accepting as they are of her brother's gay identity, Alice has been brought up as her daddy's perfect little girl. She didn't get into Columbia because she deserved it academically; she got in because her parents played their connections in the world of education and academia. This was her parents vision for her and to do anything else would be to let them down. But always living their dreams left her longing to be "On the Road," and thus her father's favorite book carried a resonance to her he could never have imagined.
And as for Leslie? Leslie told me heartbreaking stories of early child abuse she suffered. They make me cry to this day to think of them, and of anyone hurting her, someone so beautiful and full of life. We know now that when a child grows up in an environment of abuse and neglect it physically changes their brain. The message they are given is that they are not fit to survive. What doesn't kill the abused child doesn't make them stronger but programs them to feel weaker, unworthy of life. Leslie's aesthetic object of choice has always been maps. And I feel this reflects her subconscious desire for a way forward, a way to survive.
So, Alice wanting to be On the Road and Leslie wanting a way out: a couple made in heaven. But only to be lived existentially because they were divorced from their true selves. So, their unconscious developed an elaborate play of self deception which allowed themselves room to breath but not to fall into existential crisis through self awareness.
I surmise that I became the catalyst.
I heard about the story long after I knew Leslie and Alice.
The grapevine whispers, the internet speaks. Leslie kept a MySpace page under a pseudonym that I came across when I was researching feminist theories of Araki. That is when I learned about her and Alice. I could piece together that her pondering on feminist theory were really about herself. And then I found her journal after she left. Certainly she must have wanted me to find it.
I probably learned more about her by her leaving than when we lived together. For instance, to my embarrassment I'm a pretty poor housekeeper. We noted for months that there was dust under the baseboards and I realize now that her mentioning it meant that she wanted me to get up and clean it.
When Leslie walked out on me I was in shock. But what pulled at my heartstrings the most is that as I sat on the couch in shock I suddenly realized that before she left she had cleaned under the baseboards all the dust. She walked out on me but cleaned the apartment first. That's when I realized what a failure I had been in listing to her. Cleaning the apartment was a louder message from her than walking out.
I wandered through the apartment which felt like a stranger; she had removed all her clothes and her books while I was at work. But her journal was in my desk drawer. I found it days later when I absent-mindely opened the drawer for no reason but to distract my thoughts.
There it was, the moleskin journal she always wrote in.
Two years earlier Leslie was in her last semester at Columbia University. Rather than flying back to San Francisco for Christmas break she had spent three weeks living with Alice and her parents in Washington DC. Alice took off before then end of the break to spend her final semester abroad researching political rights of gays in London. And that's when it all started, as much as anything has a beginning.
Alice was coming.
Leslie stood at their favorite spot, where they had first kissed at Columbia.
Leslie saw Alice first and smiled as she noted that she had added on weight.
It looked cute, she thought.
Tomorrow they would graduate, and then Leslie would have to tell Alice.
But the affair could wait.
This was to be it, their one perfect day, s they'd always have the memory.
But Leslie had to tell.
Alice was ten feet away before she saw Leslie.
"Lesssslie!!!" she screamed.
They fell into each others' arms and hugged.
And hugged. Leslie didn't want to let go but Alice pushed away first.
"You've changed," Alice said.
"Your hair is pink!"
Leslie laughed in relief. "Darling, welcome home, come talk to me!"
If I did talk to Leslie again, I'd tell her:
"I'm your ally and I always have been; my love for you was real. I support you completely. I believe in you and wish you happiness. I care about you more than you will ever know. I want you to be happy."
From a legal perspective, the obvious argument as to why the Supreme Court should make gay marriage a constitutional right has been ignored: marriage is simply a contract between two people and to not have states recognize the ability of two people to enter into a contract violates the Commerce Clause.
This is straightforward and legally sound and far simpler than the argument of equality (although that makes sense too). If gay marriage was argued to the Court as an issue relating to interstate commerce (which as a contract it is) then I suspect that even Scalia, who is a thoughtful legal scholar, would find it reasonable.
But here is the big picture: now that gay marriage is mainstream, the healthier society will be because even more gay people will feel supported and normal and free to come out and be who they are. To me, this seems a win-win for the mental health of individuals and thus society as a whole.
There's no question that the biggest mistake I've made in my life was to trust Leslie Geddes. In my experience she is incapable of telling the truth. I wasn't just naive to believe she was capable of telling the truth when signs to the contrary were abundant; living in fear of her made my instincts shut down. I wanted to believe her because I was in love with her.
What I learned from Leslie Geddes and Alice Riener is that people are horrible human beings. Leslie and Alice are simply ordinary people living as fakes camouflaged by liberal causes and robotic smiles.
By coming to terms with them, however, my attitude towards fear has changed. Rather than cowering from it I now work to be aware of it and use it for strength to make me think, not simply to react. I still fear Leslie and Alice because I've seen what they are capable of. But, I've also seen how truth can be transformative. And what greater truth is there than one's own sexuality? It is the core of every person's being.
Through my fear of Leslie and Alice I've seen that living a lie hurts everybody.
And yet, while the conventional wisdom is that everybody lies and no one changes, by coming out a personal revolution is possible. By feeling acceptance and compassion for themselves it seems inevitable that they will begin to feel it for others. And become a little more than ordinary, and a little less horrible.
I learned the chemistry of this reality through a seminar I took with Jeffrey Schwartz, who proved the theory of the plasticity of the mind with brain scans. Yes, new radical ways of observing oneself rewires one's brain.
I know that Leslie has likely found peace too through the transformative power and light of truth. And what is love? Truth.
I wish her and Alice Riener happiness.