“And he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.”
Tuesday, in the wee hours of the early morning while Maurice Sendak passed away quietly in his home in Connecticut, the first voters in North Carolina were entering their polling stations to vote on Amendment One. Most of them were voting “Yes.”
Just the day before, MSNBC invited me to sit opposite Billy and Franklin Graham to talk about the upcoming vote against same-sex marriage but, unfortunately, I was told that both declined. Of the two men, Billy, is easily the more likeable and respected-- compared to the current generation of evangelical leaders, he had tended to steer clear of politics or endorsing particular parties or candidates. Not anymore: Something about two women or two men in love woke something in Rev. Graham and he took out full page ads across North Carolina with a sort of “Well, I never” attitude, as if he’d turned into an old biddy in his front yard yelling at the pesky neighbor kids, those little wild things. In the ads he said this:
“At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear - God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.”
What I wanted to tell him had he agreed to sit opposite me was that the Bible is not clear on what to do when two men or two women in love ask to be married. Many priests, rabbis, and pastors embrace these couples and marry them; many do not. Nor is society clear; a few states grant marriage licenses while the majority of states turn those couples away. Some gay and lesbian couples have lived with each other in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for sometimes 20, sometimes 30, sometimes 40, and sometimes, including the case of Maurice Sendak, for 50 years, while religion and society simply looked away.
“And Max, the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be
where someone loved him best of all.”
That’s how I felt, when I came out at 31 years old, surrounded by my fellow wild things and shunned by my family and my church. Angry. Alone. Mean, even. We were wild things, I was told, and we embraced our wildness; but I didn’t really want to be wild. I wanted to raise my children, go to their softball games and school plays, watch them grow up and, someday, have a husband who wanted to do those things with me.
Sendak was also gay and he lived with his partner, Eugene Glynn, for over 50 years, but it was not quite long enough - Glynn died in 2007, only a year before their home state of Connecticut finally allowed two men in love to apply for, and receive, a marriage license. A year after Glynn died, Sendak told the New York Times “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.” A gay man writing children’s books could not even think about coming out, even a man some consider the greatest children’s writer of the last century.
I will be getting married three weeks from now; my fiancé Keaton and I will have a ceremony with our friends and his family in our home state of Texas and then fly to New York City where a judge has happily agreed to marry us. I have finally found my future husband, but I’ve also learned to embrace a little bit of that wildness. Days like today make me sad; we lost a gay man who was never able to marry his partner of 50 years while, a little to the south, North Carolina added the second amendment to their state constitution limiting marriage rights --the first, of course, banned interracial marriage.
And yet, at the same time, days like today make me vow to work even harder, to roll up my sleeves and think about all those young gay teens growing up today and watching us set an example for them. At moments like these, I feel just like Max.
“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”
Randy Roberts Potts, grandson of evangelist Oral Roberts, has worked with young people in schools through anti-bullying and juvenile justice programs. He is responsible for The Gay Agenda, a performance art piece designed for conservative America and profiled in Details magazine. He can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@randyrpotts).