Dear Rep. Chris Swedzinski,
I read in the Marshall Independent that you intend to vote against the same-sex marriage bill today. As a Minnesota native, this news breaks my heart.
Though I'm currently an undergraduate in New York, I spent the first 18 years of my life and most of my subsequent summers in Cottonwood. With great schools and a tight-knit community, it was hard not to thrive in such a fantastic place. But I also spent that time learning to hate myself -- a process I've been trying to unlearn ever since. Everyone around me used phrases like "that's so gay" to describe anything even remotely uncool or undesirable. Gay jokes were the staple go-to insult that peers my age used. Of course, almost none of the people these slurs were directed at were actually gay. Rather, "gay" was interchangeable and synonymous with "disgusting," "unwanted" and "deserving of being marginalized."
My early youth saw me bombarded by messages from the people around me and the media at large that being attracted to the same sex meant all kinds of things: that I was abused or molested as a child, that I hate men, that's it's because I was raised by a single mother, that my father was weak, that I'm a pedophile, that I want to be a man, that I don't like dresses or other "girly" things, that I am promiscuous, that there is something wrong with me, that God hates me. Truly, the list is endless, and that's how I was conditioned to think about myself. And quite frankly, none of it is true. I'm just like any other person, with the sole exception that I date other women. Drawing from cliché, I literally was born this way -- just like I was born with blonde hair, green eyes and fair skin.
Here's the bottom line: I want my children to be afforded the same kind of opportunities and values that I had growing up. And though I love the Big Apple, New York simply doesn't provide them. Rural Minnesota does. But how can I start a family in a place that doesn't recognize my union? What happens when either I or my partner gives birth and only one of our names makes it to the birth certificate? What if, God forbid, either one of us is hospitalized and the other is prevented from visiting?
And somehow, two complete strangers, so long as they're of the opposite sex, can sign a contract after a five-day tryst and gain access to all these rights. Yet couples who spend years, sometimes even decades, nurturing their relationships, creating memories and building a life together, are denied these rights. Where are the family values in that?
I know my song has been sung before, but it's one that my home state needs to hear. The discriminatory statements that elected officials make perpetuate the homophobia that chased me every day of my life. It confirms to the public that being gay is wrong and that we have no place in society. It tells scared, lonely kids that they, too, have to hide until they can flee to some big city far away. It tells me that I am not welcome in my own home.
So as your constituent, I implore you to reconsider and vote in favor of the same-sex marriage bill.