Thursday, July 8, 2010

Staring At the Sea

All of my gay friends spent the Fourth of July in 'Gay Towns.'

You know 'Gay Towns.' These are the places where lesbians push baby strollers and middle aged gay men get to wear those tight tank tops that they don't wear to office parties. Trannies order cafe lattes right next to bald, hairy men in leather vests. Muscle boys in cargo shorts flirt with skinny boys in American Apparel short shorts. Women in ankle length skirts with unshorn underarms hold hands and blare Amy Ray from boom boxes. Other women, in baseball caps and sleeveless shirts, talk sports or politics while sipping beer.

A few of my friends went to Provincetown on Cape Cod, others went to Rehoboth on the shore of Maryland. Like Melville's Ishmael, all seemed drawn to the water. Why do the gays head to the coast? Maybe it's the idea of an outpost away from society, where mores and customs seem more relaxed. There's a 'live and let live' quality that so few of us practice and yet many of us claim.

Perhaps it's the sense of scale at the ocean: the social hierarchies and rules of human beings can appear trivial in the face of the irrefutable horizon of the sea.

At any rate, my friends, all of them Americans, left their homes for the holiday and headed to the sea for safe harbor among like-minded people. Every year they do this. It's an annual tradition.

We celebrate the Fourth of July to recognize a singular event represented by a searing piece of writing from the 18th Century. Standing at a crossroads in history, the Declaration Of Independence championed an idea: no governing body could bestow basic rights upon human beings because human beings already had those rights. No king, no emperor, no minister, no consulate, no board, no governor, no voting body-- no one-- was empowered to give or take certain, inalienable rights from people. Among these were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 'We are born free,' the document said.

I'm still knocked out by all of that. The power of the Declaration still vibrates and pulses; its relentless tide still disturbs, resonates, and inspires. Like the ocean, its hard-line horizon is irrefutable.

Two hundred and thirty four years ago, a group of men left their homes and headed to a port town, on the water. With it's bustling marine commerce, it was a lot like a coastal town. It was named for and dedicated to Brotherly Love. These men sought safe harbor among like-minded people. And they wrote about freedom.

And as I think about those men, who literally put their names to an idea that flew directly against norms and laws and the power of a king, I can't help but wonder what we, as a nation, are doing with gay rights.

How is it possible that gays cannot serve openly in our military? How is it possible that gay people cannot get married? How is it possible that these people must choose to be 'open' or 'in the closet?' Gay or Bi or Trannies or whatever. What is going on here?

On the Fourth of July, we gather to recognize the signing of an incredible document. It's our most important national holiday and it's about freedom. Every year we do this. It's an annual tradition.

And the sea is there, with its undeniable horizon, sending wave after wave.

We are born free. We are born free. We are born free.