Fear These Turtles
College Park, Maryland - October 21, 2006: Maryland residents, taxpayers, neighbors, and most importantly, our dear friends, Dan and Russ—the boys down front in the bow-ties—tied the knot on that glorious autumn day a half dozen years ago.
Well, sorta kinda. It wasn’t until Governor O’Malley signed legislation this past week that it was close to being official. But we are the boys behind them—behind them in every way—the friends of Dorothy. The few, the proud, the pansies.
Back then, we were delighted to learn of such a wonderful and accepting community as St. Andrews Episcopal and we went into full-on pre-nuptial Groomzilla mode. Our first thought was to have two separate bachelor parties the night preceding the nuptials, but we realized we’d all just end up in the same bar singing Broadway show tunes, so we bagged that idea and let them get some rest. The marriage at this point wasn’t legal. Their in-laws were outlaws and the paper they signed was quaintly and bitter-sweetly sentimental—but hardly legal.
Undeterred, and dressed to beat the boys in the band, we were there in legion to celebrate with family and those wonderful accepting parishioners at St. Andrews. We stepped outside to take this photo and because it captured our “family” all in one spot for one joyous occasion. It’s been on my desk in the office ever since. When Governor O’Malley signed the full marriage equality law last week, Russ posted on his Facebook that they would finally be given their full civil rights.
Maryland was Marryland. But no sooner had the cheers gone up than the ministers came down. We would likely have to fight another agonizingly long ballot initiative. Horrid memories of the nine lives of Proposition 8 in California tempered the euphoria. I stared at my cherished photo and thought how far we’ve come and how we could never ever go back. You are looking at the posse from hell, and we ain’t leaving Dan and Russ behind at the ballot box. Fear these turtles (U of M mascot!).
No time for celebration: Russ laments in an email, “I will walk on eggshells until this referendum is over.” Tortoise shells walking on eggshells. Crunch. We cannot lose this fight. We sit here today with less than 10% of the states in this land of the (heterosexual) free and home of the (heterosexual) brave allowing its gay brothers and sisters full equality. So what gets a turtle moving steadily fast enough to beat a homophobic hare?
Well, it’s certainly no secret that we gay boys turn to campy old movies for life’s lessons. And few compare to the splendor of 1963’s movie version of Bye Bye Birdie—a campy old romp about a faux Elvis who gets drafted into the army, starring everyone from Ann Margret to Maureen Stapleton and Dick Van Dyke to Paul Lynde! To recap: the thin and syrupy plot involves the teenage tart’s little brother mixing a potion that sends his pet turtle into warp speed. Upon consumption, the little turtle’s eyes bulge and pop like Rick Santorum in front of a Google search screen. But eventually, the potion saves Elvis the pelvis, the teen tart, young love, mature love, the idyllic mid-west family as we know it, and, best of all: The Ed Sullivan Show. That’s some magic potion.
As a ten year old kid in 1963 I knew every song by heart. I had a crush on faux Elvis in his gold lame jump suit and a yearning for Ann Margret’s capri pants and midriff blouse—but those were deep dark secrets. Four decades ago, the thought of those feelings ever being spoken was beyond the pale. So when Paul Lynde sings his infamous toe tapper “What’s the Matter With Kids Today?” I want to scream, “Some of us are homos!” (dude, look in the mirror) But, it’s 1963. Bye Bye Birdie, hello closet. That hard turtle shell had provided a safe place for a tender gay boy to hide his feelings. You can’t bash a head if it doesn’t stick its neck out.
So now we’re a dozen years into the new millennium, and I’m looking at my friends in the faux photo of the faux wedding. They’ve all walked similar paths at a turtle’s pace. It’s not been easy for any of us but now we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re tired of being kicked in the rear. What’s the most potent potion you could serve us to get our eyes bulging out of our heads like the Bye Bye Birdie turtle? How about the bitter nectar of three raging heterosexuals—Rush, Newt, and Rudy sporting nine wives among them, and lobbying against Dan (one man) and Russ (one man) from having marriage equality? Why are thrice married rice-showered men with overactive egos and under-performing hearts setting the tone? That’s some nasty medicine to take from men copulating like rabbits. But it’s the elixir that will get us turtles moving this fall. Dan and Russ will have a legal ceremony with a conga line all the way through downtown Annapolis. We shall walk every precinct in every county of Maryland until it’s MarryLand.
And we’ll see you hares at the finish line.
Brent Mundt resides in Washington, DC but lives in Rehoboth Beach.