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 Personal Stories  


I want that moment – for myself, for my family

Liam, Oakland

This movement has never been about the freedom to marry for myself; I can marry the woman I love someday. I am, however, part of the queer community—my Mom and her partner Nellie have been my model for a healthy, committed relationship for 25 of my 26 years on this planet.

Liam at Long Beach Pride 2007

My Mom is from Oakland originally, but I grew up in British Columbia, and got involved with the movement for the freedom to marry in Seattle in 2004. I couldn’t stand the way the conversation was being played out in the media and by people around me, particularly in the way it related to families like mine. I heard people who were reluctant to support marriage for my parents, allude to me as damaged goods. Everywhere, I saw families like mine discussed as a hypothetical moral issue, not as real people who deserve respect and support.

Liam with sister, Jill, and brother, Dan

When I had the chance to attend my first marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples, I was surprised about how deeply sad I felt. At those ceremonies I realized in a very profound way that my family never got that opportunity - the opportunity to have that very special day. One of my straight friends told me that the most striking thing about her wedding was walking in the door and seeing her family, friends and larger community. She reminisced with me saying that she remembers how amazing it felt, thinking “they’re all here for me; for us”! My family never got that opportunity for recognition when I was growing up, from our friends and neighbors, or from our government. I missed that “they’re all here for us” moment.

Liam and his brother, Dan

My mom and family protected me a lot; but there were some very specific material things that it didn’t protect me from. Our family was still a legal fiction, and I endured heavy verbal and physical abuse from my peers through most of my childhood. Nobody can go back in time to correct that. For me it would be like an acknowledgment by our larger community that they had failed us. But moving forward, I know we can do better.

As an adult, I carved out a niche for myself in the LGBT community. I fought for the freedom to marry for my LGBT friends, and the hopes and dreams of my friends in bi-national couplings. I reconciled some of my cynicism about the organized labor movement, passed down to me through Nellie due to her experiences of discrimination as an out lesbian, as I struggled alongside people who saw the freedom to marry as a labor priority. Working with COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere), my mind was opened to the necessity of fighting for fair treatment for all LGBT families, including households headed by a single LGBT parent.

  Liam and his cousins

Moving to Los Angeles to work for Vote For Equality, I was presented with new challenges and opportunities. I was challenged to be accountable for my own privileges, how they inform my priorities, and how to do work that would repair barriers of trust and good will in lower-income communities and communities of color.

In October I moved to Oakland—where my mom grew up, and it feels like coming home for the first time. It’s been quite a journey so far, but my basic orientation to the struggle remains the same: We have a chance to really push the tipping point, charge proactively against homophobia, and change the things we simply cannot accept. There’s just no reason to wait to get involved. I can’t wait for that moment!

Date Created: 2/1/2008
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