This week’s news about gay marriage has been a landmark in the history books. I kept thinking yesterday as I scrolled the news articles and saw all my friends posting stuff about it on Facebook that I was witnessing history.
It was a strange feeling.
In the decision, the supreme court effectively told a large subset of the American public that they were free to be themselves, that they were free to engage in the normalcies of life such as love and marriage without feeling oppressed by laws which have never really made sense.
In essence the supreme court told the nation that it’s ok, even normal, to be gay and that if you are, you’re still entitled to the rights of being a living breathing human being in the United States of America.
That got me thinking about freedom, about how everybody should be free to be themselves regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, gender or any number of other things that have the potential to separate people from freedom.
For me, and I realize this is nowhere near the experience of a gay person as I still and always will have rights, but for me that thing holding me back from freedom is the stigma of sharing the truth of my mental illness.
I have rights as a human being, as a white male in the United States and I’m grateful for those rights but the thing with mental illness, is that instead of rights being taken away from us, it’s more a question of freedoms being held back from us via discrimination.
Think about it like this, if you had schizophrenia would you feel comfortable telling a prospective employer or a prospective partner about your illness without fear of being labeled as an out of control nutcase?
There’s a serious bravery in coming out when you’re gay but there’s also a serious bravery in speaking out about your mental illness.
In a New York Times article this morning, the author was discussing the bittersweet feeling of being accepted as a gay person and how being in an oppressed subset of culture has a certain magic to it because you can relate more deeply to the people that you belong with.
What would happen if mental illness was accepted without pretense as just a simple disease like cancer or high blood pressure? It’s like it wouldn’t even be worth mentioning.
It’s something that affects people deeply and once they’re diagnosed it becomes a huge part of who they are. It is their struggle and the scar on their life that gives them the character they need to be themselves.
The point of all this is to say that with this decision by the supreme court to accept gay people as the human beings that they are, hopefully there’s a spark in that notion that will lead to the collective realization that people are still human beings regardless of their orientation or skin color or diagnosis and that everybody deserves respect.
It’s a lofty notion and one that still has a long road ahead of it, but accepting one subset as worthy speaks of a future where oppression is nothing but a dirty mark on history and where people are free to be any way they feel.
Here’s to hoping.