Zach Walls is a senior at West High in Iowa City, Iowa. When he graduates this spring, Zach plans to spend a year in Germany with the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange before attending the University of Iowa. You can read about him in this article from his local paper, the Iowa Press-Citizen.
I remember it pretty clearly. I was playing with a friend at my house, I was four or so, and I burst into my mom’s room screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! Where’s Daddy?” I was sooo confused.
She sat me down and explained in-vitro fertilization to me, but I didn’t really understand until I was in my later elementary school years. Through seventh grade I lied about having a dad. I told people that he took me skiing and the like every so often. Complete fabrication. I’ve never met Donor 1033 and probably never will.
It wasn’t until my eighth grade year that I began to hear about the problems that certain people had with my family structure. I remember watching the 2004 Republican National Convention at school and listening to all these straight white men bash homosexuals and their families. I took notes on all the things that these people said, compiled a list of flaws in their arguments and presented them in class when the convention was finally finished. My notes were filled with words of immense hatred directed at the gay community: that same-sex marriage is un-American, that it threatens the sanctity of marriage (but Britney Spears doesn’t?), that it’s unethical, that it will lead to polygamy, that it will lead to bestiality, that it’s harmful to kids.
I took personal offense at the last one. Mom, my biological mother, and Jackie, her partner of twelve years, are damn good parents. Of course our family isn’t perfect: my sister and mom fight like mothers and daughters will; Jackie incessantly reminds me to do my chores; the dog barks at other dogs.
To argue that same-sex couples can’t raise children who go on to become productive members of society seemed simply ridiculous. In the eighth grade I thought I was really smart. I was twelve. I had taken accelerated classes in elementary school. I knew everything. For these people who had never met me, who didn’t know me and didn’t want to know me, to insult me and my family, was outrageous. It made me angry and I took up the traditional liberal line of resenting and opposing intolerance.
It wasn’t until a few years down the road that I began to think I might have it wrong. Sure, there are people who hate me (a straight, white, male, for the record), hate my family and hate everything we are. But that’s their prerogative.
I can’t truly understand why they feel the way they do, but I can see how they would potentially arrive there. We are often afraid of what we do not understand and if we are unwilling to make an attempt at understanding, there is little hope for reconciliation. I remember the words and wisdom of Yoda, who was way smarter than he is given credit for. He counsels, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
My anger has ebbed. I still fight for the advancement of civil rights for homosexuals and will gladly debate an opponent when the issue is raised, but I have come to understand that I cannot hate somebody for simply holding a particular belief. It is as Dr. King once said, “Darkness cannot extinguish darkness. Only light can do that.”
So I’m going to let my light shine and work and fight, but I will not succumb to the hate and anger that people may try to bait me into. That’s the easy way out. It is much more difficult to try to understand and love and resolve differences. But it’s worth it. It is most assuredly worth it.