Years ago, when a petition to legalize same-sex marriage was presented to me, I refused to sign it.
The way I was raised, I believed homosexuality was a sin. Make note that I was only asked to sign this petition because I was on a date at a gay pride parade… talk about living in denial! Somehow, in my mind, living in sin was ok, but coming out as a lesbian was not. It was OK if I lived as a lesbian in shame and hiding, but giving rights to homosexuals was out of the question. They were dirty, they were lewd... gays were sexual deviants!! Now flash forward about 5 years and I've come a long way from where I started. Now you can see me just about everywhere online spreading the word about LGBT issues, and I was/am very active in the fight for marriage equality here in California. Even though I'm not waving a rainbow flag in front of my house (just yet!), I've become known in my community as THE lesbian activist in the neighborhood.
Coming to terms with the fact that I am a lesbian was a rough period in my life.
I really took the time to evaluate the situation, question what I was raised to believe, and seek truth. I already knew that for ‘some reason’ relationships I had with men weren’t working out, and I found myself crushing on women more than I had ever crushed on a man. Accepting that I was gay was simple once I realized the problem was that I was a lesbian, but coming out and living that way was a different story. What really prompted me to get my head together on the whole issue was my children. Being a mom puts you in a position where you are an extremely important role model for your children and I knew I had to sort this out for their sake.
Could I endorse the idea that being gay was OK?
I had to figure out if it in fact was. This lead me to look towards religion and spirituality, and find the answers to fundamental questions that were holding me back from embracing my true sexuality. The root of the way I was raised came from Catholicism, and my inquiries lead me to a Christian philosophy called A Course in Miracles. It’s quite an interesting philosophy, and in delving deeper into the truth it became undeniable to me that being gay, straight, black or white is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. At this point having reconciled my religion with my sexuality, I felt at peace with coming out as a lesbian and it’s been an interesting ride ever since.
Divorcing my husband and moving into a same-sex relationship put every other relationship in my life under stress.
My immediate family had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I was gay, and I lost 85% of my home-business clients. Discrimination was starting to become a part of daily life as I continued to embrace my sexuality. I knew that this was something I would face, but it didn’t stop the hate from turning me into an angry lesbian. I realized the anger was stemming from the fact that I was now being treated as a second class citizen, even though I was the same person. All that had changed in me was embracing the truth about myself and making the best of the situation I was in.
I felt strong and proud of myself for making a tough choice that would better myself and my children in the long run; but everyone else around me who should have been supportive did nothing but show disbelief, disgust, and contempt.
I thought to myself “I am a pretty strong person to handle this. But what about those who aren’t?” Living in California I am fortunate to have an environment where I don’t have to live in constant fear for being gay. But I know that others are not as fortunate and that even in free-loving California I was still being discriminated against and harassed for being a lesbian.
I was really getting some practice at forgiveness but my children were growing and the discrimination and harassment was starting to become directed towards them.
At this point I was focused on protecting my kids. I could no longer live my life acting as if I wasn’t affected by the lack of gay rights. I found my gay pride and no longer hid in the closet whenever it was convenient. I faced the world in a new way, and when gay marriage was legalized in California in 2008 Gina and I got married as soon as possible. That was really when it hit me how important gay rights were, because marriage equality was now an issue that seriously affected my children, as California's marriage equality was being threatened by Proposition 8 which could possibly nullify our marriage and the rights that came along with it. What I was most worried about was each other's right to the children and estate should something happen to one of us such as incapacity or death.
At that point I began to take on a more active role in the fight for LGBT rights, and against Proposition 8 here in California.
I spent an entire week issuing an 'LGBT Community Call to Action' and sent out over 800 emails and private messages online to help spread the word. Through that call to action I made a lot of good contacts and got a lot of insight into the LGBT rights movement and where the community really stood on the issues. Once I issued that Call to Action, I was viewed as the 'Prop. 8 Person' in certain circles and began to field alot of questions about it from friends, family, neighbors, people online, etc. My wife and I made arrangements for yard signs from our local LGBT center, and we literally drove up and down the freeway placing No on Prop 8 yard signs off of popular freeway exits. We went to the West Hollywood Halloween Parade and stood on a busy corner handing out No on Prop 8 bumper stickers. I changed my Lesbian Mommy blog to an official Prop. 8 info-spot and gave No on Prop 8 ads run of that site.
When Prop. 8 passed in November 2008, it effectively banned gay marriage in California (again) and it became clear to me that my duties as a lesbian activist were far from over.
My wife and I participated in the March on the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles, the Prop. 8 Protest March in Long Beach and caught the end of the Prop. 8 Protest in Silver Lake. We attended the National Prop. 8 Protest at Long Beach City Hall, the Light Up the Night Candle Light Vigil, and organized to gather signatures for the National Protest of the Defense of Marriage Act. We are looking forward to other events such as Freedom to Marry Day and the Million Gay March and I've also become very active with The Rainbow Dragon Network which was created to help LGBT people through tough times.
I've come a very long way from where I started haven't I?!
I know the road is a long one still and I'm still learning, yet my children have started receiving praise from schoolmates rather than threats. Others in the LGBT community have expressed their gratitude to my wife and myself while we've been out and about for the cause. Our relationship has grown stronger and we have a genuine hope that Prop. 8 will be overturned. I know that my voice has made a small ripple of change in this world regardless of that outcome. All of us have a voice within us - the only question I had to ask myself was whether I planned to use that voice for good or for evil. You can see that I chose to use my voice for good... what about you?
About the Author: Julie Phineas is a work at home mom of 2 who lives in Southern California. You can find out more about her by visiting her website at www.juliephineas.com.