Ninja Turtles. Mom(s). Catholicism. Equality.

At age six, my parents got divorced. At the time, I was far too young to understand the impact and enormity of what happened. That my world around me was being turned upside down. That I would experience first-hand what it’s like for two people to love each other, fall out of love, and then hate one another. That I would be pulled, for the next twenty years, in dramatically different directions. That my beliefs would be combated, my will would be tested, and my relationships challenged.

You see, when you’re six years old, you don’t think about things like this. You think about which Ninja Turtle is the best (Leonardo), not which parent you want to live with. You ask questions like “Where in the world IS Carmen Sandiego?” not “Why is mom sleeping with another woman?”. You think about things like POGS, Tamagotchis, and Saturday night SNICK, rather than spending your time questioning your Catholic upbringing and your relationship with God.

But I didn’t have the textbook childhood upbringing. Of course, I had quite a collection of POGS. Yes, I was first in line for the latest Beanie Baby, and without question, I had literally every single Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure you could think of – but underneath it all, I was thrust into an environment that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in, one that, for a while, I absolutely hated, but one that, ultimately, today, I couldn’t be more grateful for.

Between learning that I was adopted, accepting that my mom was gay, dealing with a Dad who hated my mom’s lifestyle, resented her, and thought the environment was downright dangerous (because apparently simply being around gay people automatically makes gay, right?), going to a church that preached that homosexuality was an abomination, only to have that spawn of Satan pick me up right after and take me Cracker Barrel for a Country Boy Breakfast, you could say that growing up was very “interesting” for me.

I spent years telling friends, girlfriends, even my (now) wife when we first met, that my mom’s partner was my aunt (though I think their jean shorts, Big Dog t-shirts, and short haircuts quickly gave away that something was up)  – Not out of shame and embarrassment, not because I had a problem with it, but because I was worried what other people would think. I was worried that people wouldn’t look past my mom’s lifestyle. I was worried about not having any friends. I was worried about not getting laid. I was worried I’d never be given a chance. 

By the time I was nearly 18, I had a huge falling out with my Dad. I finally stood up and told him that the teachings we listened to and recited on Sunday mornings were a contradiction to everything I believed in. That preaching inequality only led to discrimination, stupidity, and hatred. 

Today, I’m much more open about my upbringing and my experiences. I joke about having “2 mommies”, even though growing up, my mom and Sandra weren’t allowed to sleep in the same bed, as ordered by the court.

I accept that my dad’s dragged-out courtroom attempts to take me away from my mom and give me a “safer”, (more sheltered), religious, private-school upbringing were based on the fact that he did, indeed, want what was best for me, even if his approach was wrong.

Through everything that happened, the most important thing, by far, is that my Mom, my other Mom, my Dad, the church, the kids who made fun of me, the wife who accepted everything, the challenges, the fears overcome, the stances took against strong beliefs, it’s all shaped me into who I am today.

Not to mention, it makes for some pretty interesting Happy Hour stories…

Today, I am someone who believes that there is no other way than a way in which all things are equal.

The argument that gay marriage should not be allowed. The argument that two men living under one roof cannot receive the same benefits as a man and a woman. The idea that being gay is “wrong”. There’s no subjective, factual backing to any of these claims.

And maybe I’m entirely objective in saying that anyone who believes things should not be equal is ignorant, but yeah, I just said it. It’s time to check yourself.

For those who disagree with me. For those who believe being gay is a choice, and that it’s the wrong choice: I strongly encourage you to call up a gay friend and ask them to grab coffee. Send me an email and ask me whatever questions you have. Have a conversation with someone who has experienced growing up with gay people, or is in fact, gay themselves. It might seem awkward at first, but the first step to acceptance is understanding. So find a way to understand. Then see if you walk out of the conversation with the same stance as the one you walked in with.

It seems almost silly to be writing something like this in 2011 (almost 2012), but equality is far from achieved. There’s still a need for videos (like the one below) to share that message of equality. There’s still a need for people like me (and you) to speak up and inspire others to think (and act) differently.

I leave you to think about this: What, in history, was made better by discrimination? When did segregation work? When was bigotry applauded by the masses?

It’s not about changing your religious beliefs. It’s not about taking a different political stance. It’s about believing, whole-heartedly, that all men (and women) are created equal.

If you have a story you’d like to share, I strongly encourage you to do so in the comments below.

(Can’t see the video? Click here.)