It seems like such a simple question to ask. As is often the case, it’s the simplest questions that can be the hardest to answer. The economy continues to be in terrible shape and our legislators seem more concerned with saving face than taking any reasonable actions to do anything about the problems. The past year has brought the DC area a blizzard, a large earthquake, a hurricane, a few tornados and notable flooding. We have protesters on our doorsteps, a few of which we might agree with; some, not so much. Our country continues to have to fight wars, for our own protection as well as for others, exposing our talented young people to unthinkable dangers abroad.
No, those aren’t the things I’m thankful for; but they help me to put into perspective the things for which I am thankful. I’m thankful that despite the poor economy, I still can earn a living, and if those very legislators can’t get their act together and take some action, I’ll continue to have the right to vote them out of office. I’m thankful that I, as well as my loved ones survived the great earthquake of 2011, and that damage to the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral wasn’t worse than it was. I’m thankful that we made it through those nasty weather events that have plagued us. I’m extremely thankful that those protesters have the right to protest within sight of both the Capitol building and the White House. And I’m thankful beyond words that we have talented young people willing to volunteer to put their lives on the line for those very rights.
Last year at this time, those very talented young people had to be either straight or remain closeted to volunteer to put their life on the line. It seems ironic that someone should have to be anything but willing and able to volunteer for such an assignment. I’m thankful that due to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, that irony is a thing of the past. When anyone puts their life on the line for anything, the last thing we should expect them to do is hide their identity. If anyone deserves the right to have expectations, it’s them, not us.
I’m thankful that DC is among a small group of jurisdictions where gay men and lesbians can exchange vows to spend their lives together in marriage. I’ve been able to be present for two such weddings, thanks to that change in law. I wish both couples the same happiness that Jo and I have enjoyed for nearly 30 years. Who on Earth has the right to deny anyone the right to say who you can or cannot marry? If you answer that you have that right, then I propose you have overestimated your “inalienable rights” and are just a bit too into yourself.
I’m thankful that several surveys conducted this year show that for the first time over fifty percent of Americans agree with me on that last point. It would have been hard to imagine that, just a few years back when the Defense of Marriage Act was successfully being thrust on this country. So I’m thankful that the expression “my how things have changed”, can come so quickly.
I’m thankful that my wife and I have many friends and loved ones that surround us day to day. More than anything else, though, I’m thankful for my family, especially my wife of three decades. I was able to find my companion for life at a young enough age that we’ve been able to raise two boys to become grown and successful men right before our eyes. I’m thankful that both of my sons are unafraid of showing their old man some affection, even in public. I hope that is a result of the way they’ve been raised, but maybe that’s being too bold. I’m thankful that my mother has had the chance to see their achievements as well. Having lost my dad so young, I wish he had seen them as well. I know that there are no givens, so we need to be thankful for what we have.
It may sound a bit peculiar, but I’m thankful that both of my sons are gay. Does that sound odd? It’s admittedly somewhat self serving, because they’ve given me an additional purpose for the last half of my life. Seeing up close and personal the struggles of the LGBT community, and knowing there is still much work to be done to achieve true equality, gives me another reason to get out of bed each morning. Take my word for it, as you get older, and your bones get creakier, reasons for getting up are a good thing. I’m thankful that Metro DC PFLAG gives me another voice to spread the word, because getting older also can make it tougher to get people to listen to what you have to say.
So, think about what you’re thankful for. Just like me, you may find you’ll have to trim the list so you won’t sound like you’re rambling.
Oh yeah, I’m thankful for my cat too.
– Phil Hicks, Metro DC PFLAG Co-Chair.