I don't give a red hot damn about equal rights; I just want my brother back.
My little brother Jared came out not long after I was married. A happy, handsome, magnetic young man on the outside, Jared confessed to having been sad, confused, and gay on the inside for as long as he could remember. Crushes on our father's friends, adoration of male teachers, and no interest in girls had plagued him since elementary school.
As a family, we didn't take it well at all. We even held an intervention (sort of, it was more like an overzealous ambush of love and ignorance) to make sure that Jared knew he was wrong. He begged us to love him anyway, tears streaming down his face as he expressed his own sorrow at being different. We didn't listen; we quoted, we testified, and we judged.
I loved my family, and had plans to live with them forever, just as I had been taught to believe was possible. Jared was ruining that plan. In my mind, the sinful life he began to lead took a chainsaw to the trunk of our family tree.
And so I rejected my brother, in spite of my love for him. I placed conditions on our interactions, and wandered through a few years of righteous indignation, disgusted at what I thought to be a physical choice. I focused on my limited understanding of Jared's lifestyle, and on what I had heard in the schoolyard or read on bathroom walls.
In time, the terrible example of others, the patience of a loving wife, and a painful acceptance of my own shortcomings led me to understand that my role in Jared's life was to love him as my little brother, nothing more. I did not have to stand in judgement of his life; indeed I couldn't, because I had not atoned for the sins he might commit while living it.
I began to spend time with Jared, without conditions. He had recently sobered up from years of drunken depression brought on by a low self-worth, anger, and complete loneliness, conditions that I felt were in part due to my poor treatment of him. Had I, had we as a family, been more loving, more kind, and more understanding, Jared would have known more love, more kindness, and more understanding. To do so would not have meant a compromise to our beliefs, but in fact would have been confirmation of them. Jared's life, though difficult, would have been that much better.
During our time together, Jared often expressed his sincere desire to know the constant, unconditional love of an earthly companion. I came to understand that it was not a physical desire, an animalistic desire, or an evil desire. Jared simply wanted and needed what every person who lives in this messed up beautiful world wants and needs.
But he couldn't find it, and so he despaired beyond measure. Jared took his own life on June 3rd, 2009.
We are left to wonder, to regret, to mourn, and to hope.
It is not easy to put religion, politics, fear, hatred, and ignorance aside, especially when defending or fighting for what you are sure to be right, true, and fair. It is not easy to live with the pain and confusion that stems from loving someone who lives a life far different from your own. It is not easy to understand why some people fear a change to things that have been a certain way for as long as history can recall.
But all of it is easier than living without Jared.
I guess I do give a red hot damn about equal rights.