By Joshua Snyder-Hill via Wipe Out Homophobia
Joshua and his husband, Captain Steve Snyder Hill, (the U.S. service member who was booed during a Republican presidential debate for asking about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) are at the forefront of the battle for marriage equality in America…
In late November 2010 I flew to Seattle to celebrate Thanksgiving. I had traveled there for work and said I would vacation there, but that wasn’t the reason I was missing out on the family noise of the holiday back home. I was saying good-bye to Stephen, my boyfriend at the time, who would soon be leaving for Iraq and not returning for a year. It was an amazing time; we laughed and joked and had sweet moments. But to be honest, I remember very little from those few days in great detail. That is, of course, except for the hardest part at the end, when Steve and I were forced to part.
Just before we arrived at the airport to say our farewells, Steve and I went to dinner. I remember Steve going to the rest room and changing into uniform, and suddenly reality swept over me: he was leaving me for a very long time, to a very dangerous place. The dinner was somber, it hurt, and I remember fighting tears and nothing else. I know we talked, I can guarantee we said “I love you.” All I can remember, though, is the pain and anxiety.
Steve and I would say our final good-byes in the airport under an escalator, hiding our emotions, our love, from public view and only able to share it in a sheltered and shameful way. Steve finally left my arms and appeared from under that escalator alone, bloodshot eyes and all. I sat down and sobbed. I had one last call from Steve that day, just minutes before boarding; a man who to this day is brave and strong and hardly shows weakness was crying. He was watching the other soldiers say good-bye to their families, their spouses making new friends and promises being made among strangers to help one another get through this. Steve called me in anger at the idea that I was alone, that I had no one there for me. A man leaving for war was upset at my well-being over his own; this is our love.
Ever since that day I have worked to figure out what we could do to make this world better for the LGBT community. I have always thought of myself as an activist. Sending Steve to Iraq, however, made me realize I was not. I was merely fiddling, making no real change or movement. Sure, I put stickers on my car, I donated money, I went to pride. But what was I doing? What mark were Steve and I making?
Steve, my husband, whom many also know as the “booed soldier,” inspired me. His bravery in questioning the GOP candidates on the repeal of DADT made me realize that our battle is far from over and that the LGBT needs to energize instead of becoming complacent.
While Steve served our country, I worked on figuring out how to leave my own lasting footprint. I started MarriageEvolved.com late last year, and worked quietly on it for months. I found new friends to help build its bones and launched it early this spring. MarriageEvolved’s premise is simple: to hear the voices of those affected by marriage inequality. MarriageEvolved would let the LGBT community, along with the allies who support them, tell their stories. The website would have forums for members to discuss ways to talk about and debate the issues of inequality without becoming shrill or obscene, to hear opposing sides, and, we hope, conclude in the end that being for equality was the only logical choice.
I have been a senior leader in sales for most of my professional life and I decided to try to use my professional ability in a way to help the LGBT community. I’ve been helping open people to conversation for many years, training them to overcome objections and enhancing my craft at influencing people. The LGBT community’s largest challenge is that, although we speak eloquently among our peers, we are often overtaken by emotion when speaking to our challengers. Our community has been through amazing trials; we have had horrific heartbreak and hurdled seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We can change hearts. We just need the training to do so.
MarriageEvolved is my way of trying to provide that tool. It will allow us to hear other stories and discuss difficult conversations. Without the conversations, most hearts will not be changed, and let’s be honest: who has ever won a fight by screaming? Instead of preaching to the choir, I hope to help create an army of pragmatic and unwavering allies—whether they are LGBT or not—who will help change hearts and make inequality a dark past for the LGBT community and this great country’s history.
Today I am a stronger advocate because of Steve, because of our marriage. I have known I was gay since my young teenage years. I am a proud individual, not just because I am gay, but for who I am as a whole: a person who found true love, who has a great career, amazing friends and family, and who has done his best to do right by others. I realize that I have an ability to change hearts. I hope MarriageEvolved will give others the chance to do so, too.
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