RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT

The other day, I was sitting in a long line of traffic when I caught myself wondering why the line never starts moving when the light turns ‘Green’.

It reminded me of one of my favorite games back in grade school. I liked Kickball, Four-Square and Tether Ball, but my all-time favorite was ‘Red Light, Green Light’.

Even now, I can only marvel at what the intensity must have looked like as I focused on getting across the playground as Roger, our school’s best caller, alternated between yelling “Red Light” and “Green Light” – only to catch someone with his patented “Rrrr…Green Light”. Our laughter was as loud as it was predictable as one classmate after another got caught in the snare of Rogers’ tricky cadence. “Go back…you’ve got to start over.

After all these years, not much has changed except now, I drive down city streets with all the people I used to play with. The light turns green and no one moves. Where’s the ‘go back‘ rule?

It never fails…the first car invariably falls asleep waiting for the light to change. Cars #2 and #3 are ready, but #4 is too busy picking a pesky remnant of breakfast sausage from between his teeth in the rear-view mirror to notice me behind him in #5. You would think since we’re all there, at the same light, on the same stretch of street, everyone would recognize our mutual identity of interests. Something that sounds like, oh I don’t know, Go! Wouldn’t it be cool if just once, the line of traffic moved through a green light like a well-oiled marching band instead of a bunch of Vikings coming over the wall?

As a people, we work out social issues pretty much like we did on the playground…or in traffic.

Take King George and his Red Coats. That would be a Red Light. And George Washington and the Colonial Congress? Whether it was one by land or two by sea, they were ‘Green Lights’. The practice of Slavery was a Red and it took Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War to bring us out Green. Woman not allowed to vote? That’s a Red Light too. It was Elizabeth Cady Stanton joining Susan B. Anthony in 1869 to lead what became the woman’s suffrage movement. That made a real ruckus. You should read the newspapers of the day. But there was a point to the noise when the Nineteenth Amendment (Aug., 1920) granted woman the right to vote. Once again, the nation’s light changed to ‘Green’.

The list goes on and on: Child Labor, World War I, the Great Depression, the Scopes Monkey Trial, WWII, the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s; Kent State college kids, shot to death by National Guard troops for protesting the Vietnam war; inter-racial marriage; Title IX, Roe V. Wade, immigration, gay marriage and the Occupy Movement. In every single one of those instances, we, as a society, lurched forward through each ‘green light’ in fits and starts. And we got there.

But just as truly, red lights have caused us to fall backwards. Who can forget Prohibition or Disco?

But somehow, someway, we Americans figure out a way to get our ‘wagon’ righted and back on track. It has happened that way every single time in our history as a nation. But as Chris Matthews (MSNBC) says, “All politics is local”.

Last Wednesday, my mission was to get Rick to the hospital. Being as stubborn and hard-headed as I am, his date with the surgeon had finally arrived. Up at 4AM and at the hospital by 5:45, we checked in at the appointed desk. With all of his paperwork in order, the admitting nurse went through a litany of questions as is standard protocol in these situations – and God bless’em – they were being the professionals we count on them to be when the problem isn’t something we can fix ourselves.

But for all the care we were afforded, there was one question that kept coming up with each new staffer we talked to; and it went deeper under my skin each time it was asked. “Single, Married or Divorced?” Rick’s response? “None of the above”. And who is this? “That’s Dan. He’s my partner.” The admitting nurse didn’t skip a beat, but there was no box on her computer screen for Partner. So even though we’ll celebrate our 27th anniversary this April, in the eyes of the law (and the hospital forms), Rick was “Single”. But he’s not. When the time came to roll him away from me on their way to the OR, I choked back the tears of relief welling up inside…our long journey to this day was finally over. He was now in the hands of people that could fix his problem.

Now don’t get me wrong, Illinois has civil unions, but it isn’t marriage. We’ll wait for it. Instead, we have taken the necessary legal steps to declare; Durable Powers of Attorney, etc., etc., etc. It’s all covered. But for having done all the work, I look back and remember the hate that comes with being gay…tires slashed (all of them), ‘FAG’ in spray paint, beer bottles being thrown like baseballs – I’ve been there.

For a lot of years, I acted out on all the hatred I’d internalized growing up. If I was all that evil, why hadn’t God punished me for it? If God had been doing His job, I would’ve been wiped from the planet. Since He hadn’t, I acted as if it were up to me to exact the punishment I deserved for being gay. This went on for years in all kinds of destructive ways.

It all culminated one winter afternoon at the Logan Square CTA station. There’s a bend in the track where the transit train comes up out of the ground. I stood there on the one rail, looking at the third rail…the one carrying the electricity that moves the trains when all of the sudden, there was a gust of wind that swayed me forward.

But I didn’t take my long-planned fatal step.

Sobbing, I stumbled home where Rick convinced me to let him take me to a hospital. “You need help.

Besides Rick, what saved me? One question. It was one of those thoughts I couldn’t seem to quiet. “What if this does get better? What if there is just one summer day where you’re out on the tennis court, wiping the court with your opponents. You like how you look…you like how you played…you like how it feels…what if there’s just that one day and you’re not around to be in it?

It did get better. I got the help. I claimed my place as a child of god. I came to understand that He does not make mistakes.

I am happy. I am loved as I love others. I have found Purpose and I may just be privileged to see the day when marriage equality becomes reality in America. I simply want to have the same Constitution my fellow citizens enjoy. I long for the day when young ones are perplexed, wondering what all the fuss was about ‘back in the day’.

Are you Dan?” Yes. “You’re Rick’s partner?” Spinning around and a little surprised, I answered, Yes, I am. “The surgeon would like to talk to you about the surgery. Please follow me.”

Stuffing my pen and paper in the back pocket of my jeans, I was ushered into a little square consultation room. A few minutes later – still in his scrubs – Rick’s doctor came in.  “He’s fine. We had some surprises, but no issues. He’s going to be fine. You guys will be playing tennis this summer.” Where is he? “Rick’s in recovery now…you can go in and see him. He’s still pretty groggy, but it’d be good for him to know you’re there”. With that, I thanked our doctor and let the nurse lead me through a series of doors and back to the step-down unit in Recovery. Even though he looked like a mile of bad road, he looked great.

The hospital and its staff had been nothing but impressive the whole day. We’d been treated with respect all day. The surgery turned out well and the after-care has been world-class. But one thing kept nagging at me.

How did the hospital know who we were to each other? Unable to let it go, I went up and asked some of the nurses I’d been talking to for most of the day. Turns out, one of the first nurses to see us, in a display of generosity and civil insurrection, had placed an electronic post-it note on Rick’s records about me and who I was to my better-half. In the hospital’s eyes, he wasn’t single at all. I was his family. “Are you Dan?”

Green Light.

Until then,

    Dan

 http://www.itgetsbetter.org/

 

http://action.bornthiswayfoundation.org/page/m/750c4a70/4b6cde38/4896d6a2/b053fe1/163972461/VEsE/

 

Photo Attributions: Traffic Light: http://www.blirk.net/traffic-light-wallpaper/1/1600×1200/; New York Traffic: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/worlds-worst-traffic-jams/3; Traffic Lights: http://www.featurepics.com/online/Traffic-Lights-1754192.aspx; Hospital Sign: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hospital_sign.svg; god hates fags: http://theragblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/thorne-dreyer-intelligent-exchange-on.html; SprayPaint: http://bossip.com/335013/georgia-man-thinks-his-room-was-set-on-fire-because-he-was-gay-43081/; Man In Waiting Room: http://getbetterhealth.com/not-enough-psychiatric-beds/2011.02.26; CouplesFour: The Cleveland Plain Dealer Newspaper

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About dan4kent

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dan lives in the Chicagoland area. With a grown son from a previous marriage, he has since built a committed relationship of 32 years with his partner Rick, the Love of his Life. Having written his whole life, he blogged the past 6-years because he has to write…he can’t help it. Know the feeling? There’s ‘good‘ to be found in all of it. “If all I do is leave someone (or something) better than I found them, then I’ve done my part. Thanks for letting me grace your screen, if only for a little while.”
This entry was posted in Gay, Hope, LGBT, Life, Life Lessons, Love, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT

  1. survivor55 says:

    Of all the times I’ve been close to suicide, I’ve never thought, ‘What if it gets better?’ Probably because if I’m at the state of choosing to take my own life, I know I’m incapable of contemplating a “better” anything in this world. I’m only looking to the relief of extremely agonizing pain my soul will have in the next world.

    There has been one occasion where I remember a few months after somehow surviving yet another suicidal episode where I thought, “If you would have succeeded, you would have missed this.” It wasn’t something I rejoiced when that thought came into my mind. It wasn’t something I got teary-eyed while thinking. It was simply an observation. I remember at the time thinking that it wasn’t my voice I heard, but instead it was the voice of the Holy Spirit Who lives inside me simply pointing out a fact. I might still have been in that state of being too numb to experience either rejoicing or crying. Whatever it was, it was incredibly strange to have that thought when I’ve never had it before or since. It’s still incredibly strange for me to contemplate it now since it has absolutely no affect on my emotions whatsoever!! Being an incredibly emotional individual this doesn’t make sense to me.

    Also one time a friend, who even though she’s experienced depression just doesn’t get me at all when it comes to being bipolar, was visiting. She’d known of my recent suicidal depression and I was telling her of something good happening in my family. She commented in what can sometimes be her oh-so-superior voice, that I know she’s trying to overcome, “And just think: You wouldn’t have been here to enjoy this if you’d killed yourself like you wanted to (insert number) of months ago.” Knowing she said what she said from a heart of love, I said and did nothing. Inside, however, I was fuming!! How DARE she say something to me like that when she’s never been where I’ve been and doesn’t understand it at all!! Even though she’s my friend, my sister-in-Christ and I love her and her husband, their judgmental attitudes about me and my life can sometimes really tick me off!! She’s recently mentioned how much she’s trying to change, and I’ve seen those changes. I celebrate those changes with her and with God and let her know that they’re evident, because I know how much it helps to have someone human notice when you’ve grown and changed for the better. We really need that encouragement from each other!! It’s just hard to have to keep my mouth shut sometimes when her current words remind me of how she harped on me constantly when we first met that “if only you had enough faith” I’d be “cured” by Jesus of my mental/emotional health problems. It didn’t matter how I’d point out the times He’d restore part of my health to enable me to do certain things that only I could do. When those times were over, He’d let the illness come back full force. I’d point out that Jesus said all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed!! I think SHE was the one that didn’t have faith in what it was obvious He had done in my life. (Not screaming at you, I just don’t know how to use my keyboard to italicize.) I’ve obviously still got some resentment belonging to the “her” of that time period and I need to let it go.

    I have no idea why I’ve told you, a complete stranger, all of this, but here it is and I’m not going to delete it. Maybe your words were simply the catalyst I needed to get these things out of me and onto paper, so to speak. I know sometimes when I’m able to do that, they really do get out and stay out of me!!

    For whatever reason I’ve rambled, thank you!! 🙂

    –Kathy

    • dan4kent says:

      You honor us all. You shared deep. True. I’m not as concerned about the message as much as what many of us recognize as the courage to write, and then, hit the SEND button. Thank you. Dan.

  2. I don’t just “like” this, I love it. Thank you for sharing your journey and hurrah for civil insurrection in unexpected places.

    • It’s funny, I haven’t thought of myself as a revolutionary. Although, just last week, the EAP counselor I’ve been seeing called me a pioneer. Thanks for your kind words & visiting my blog. I’m feeling a bit more validated now.

  3. ntexas99 says:

    my brain is a bit fuzzy and fried this morning (one of those days where I’m still climbing out the darkness, but I’m closer to the light), but I wanted to at least say a couple things:

    (1) call me a dunce, but even though I’ve been following your blog for a couple months now, I apparently never read your “About” page, (I have now), and didn’t have a clue that you were gay. Or if I did know you were gay, apparently I forgot. In any case, knowing this is part of who you are (now that my brain is trying to pay attention) would probably have something to do with why I like you, and why I like the way your brain works. I always have respect and admiration for someone who can speak up and make their voice heard, and still manage to be inclusive, rather than pushing people away. Your writing is most likely what drew me to your blog in the first place, but now that I have assimilated this other bit of information about you into my memory, it helps me understand why it seems you often have a deep understanding of facing adversity. As your fellow American, I also hope that I am still alive to see the day “when marriage equality becomes reality in America”. Amen to that. and Amen to using our votes to help us get there.

    (2) glad to hear Rick is doing okay, and on the mend

    (3) thanks for sharing this story about how every little kindness goes a long way

    (4) thanks for sharing the heads up about the Born This Way live stream on Feb 29th (which, ironically, was my anniversary date – yes, we got married on Leap Year)

    (5) and thanks for asking the question “what if it gets better?”

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