I haven’t written you in a long time because you’re dead. You died 18 years ago of Aids. You may not recall the day but I do. It was July 4th and as you—look. Let’s be honest. You didn’t “slip away.” Slipping wasn’t your style. You went fighting. It was as if you had the word “activist” tattooed on each of the 206 bones in your body: bold script for the arm bones and leg bones and across your skull and then fine little cursive for your finger bones and those teensy ones in your ear. So okay. As you went out fighting, fireworks exploded in the street it being, as mentioned, Independence Day, as well as one of those states with pretty lax fireworks laws. Not like NC, your home state.
Which reminds me. We have this friend who’s a great and funny guy whose kid is my kid’s best friend, which is how we know him. And he told me recently that he’d finally applied for American citizenship in great part so that he could explode the illegally powerful fireworks that he traditionally hosts in a big smoky display at holiday time. He explained that breaking fireworks laws as an American citizen would be a lot safer than breaking them as an alien. So he’s become an American. You’d love him.
I’m writing today, Marco, because despite the fact that it’s December 18th and actually snowing in North Carolina which is not exactly miraculous but certainly unusual, it’s another Independence Day. Today, after years of battle and as if in afterthought, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed by the Senate. It was a nasty piece of discrimination and it was a blemish on our country and now it’ll be gone and that’s a wonderful thing.
So I write to tell you about this step forward and also to tell you that I’m proud of you. You assisted. You had your own way of making a difference. You spoke to crowds and carried signs. But there are other ways too: sit-coms with cute gay characters, and comedians who marry their partners in public, and magazines, and the amazing pride parade that our mother and your niece and I went to (Mom wore an Act-up tee shirt; I had multicolored balloons, Charlotte had rainbow fingernail polish) and the greeting card I carry in my store showing a guy who says, “Mom made me gay,” and his friend says, “Can she make me one too?”
The country’s changing, bit by bit. Freedom is becoming manifest. Today was a big bit. You did a really hard part. But all the bits and all the ways are important. I thought you’d like to know.
It’s almost time for Ashu to light his illegal fireworks. I always think of you when I see their patterns in the night sky. This year, for me, it’ll be truly a celebration. Each pop will be another ask; each bang, another tell.