I visited my grandmother in Manhattan last summer, before she knew I was gay, and before I knew I would ever tell her. She introduced me to a young male friend of hers with beachy blond hair, walking a Golden Retriever along the boardwalk on the Hudson River.
She told me later, in tired English tinged with a hearty Bulgarian accent, “I think he is a homosexual.” My heart stopped before she went on. “And it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if he likes blackbirds or bluebirds. I don’t care if he likes raspberries or blueberries. What do I care if he likes men or women?”
She didn’t know just how badly I needed that validation, that maybe it really was all the same to some people whether you liked men or women. My newly adopted home state of Illinois certainly hasn’t come that far. A year ago this June, Illinois began performing civil unions for same-sex couples. That’s progress, but anyone who argues that it’s “the same thing” as marriage is wrong.
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