Jeff Lawrence

Gay Jewish Brooklyn Nets fan recovering addict Stand Up Comedian Need to know more?

This is What Marriage Equality Feels Like For a Gay Man

“Gay marriage has been legalized across the United States, but there's still work to be done.”

Every time we gays achieve a milestone, and this is perhaps the biggest, I feel a little empty inside. I know I'm supposed to jump around and celebrate, and everyone is congratulating me, but that's not necessarily how I feel.

Don't get me wrong. I've been fighting for gay rights (marriage wasn't even in the equation back then) and donating whatever time and money I can for over 25 years. I think what hits the hardest is that life was very different in the mid to late 80's, and almost all of my gay friends from that era are dead. AIDS, drug abuse, suicides, I've witnessed it all. I was deeply closeted for so long -- not because I wasn't bold and brave or proud, but because I'd lose my job, my family, my friends and more. At least that's what I was made to believe. I once told a boss in LA in the arts I was gay. It took a lot of courage back then, and she replied "no you're not."

I had two lives and put a lot of work into them both. There was "straight" Jeff, who had a girlfriend, was the front man for an LA rock band and worked his ass off to get record deals while keeping his cover. And there was gay Jeff who ran around weekends with my other closeted friends having fun but always looking over my shoulder.

I moved to LA to get away from my straight life, family, frat brothers and friends, and vividly remember standing on Santa Monica Blvd. waiting on line to get into gay bars. People in cars would roll by each and every time and yell, "FAGGOTS!" I would wear a baseball hat and always look away. That kind of stuff stays with you forever. Most of my friends there were figuring out my sexuality -- hell, my girlfriend walked in on me with a guy, and she still didn't leave me. I was a rock singer, so she dealt with it. But it was a quiet support.

I identified as "bi", which is just a bridge to being comfortably gay, until about 30. When I couldn't take it anymore I came back to NYC, and discovered ecstasy and the gay nightlife where I would frolic for 10 years as a bodybuilding stud and a dealer until I bottomed out on drugs. When I cleaned up I decided to devote my life to making others laugh, and help others to do the same. I had spent too much time in a very dark world. I've had some fun relationships, but never settled down with Mr. Right. It's tough for anyone gay or straight, but really tough for me for many reasons including my childhood intimacy issues. I try to find happiness in the simple things, and take each day as it comes.

It is so disturbing to see the entitled gay youth that feel this is their birthright. Throughout our history in America, this is really the first time where the majority really doesn't care who you sleep with, at least publicly, and that is a beautiful thing. The rest of the world will follow, for, just like being left handed, about 10 percent of the world is gay. You can use your right hand, but it just isn't natural.

There are people from my generation that have been out since their adolescence and have found happy relationships, even long term marriages. I am happy for them, although they are few and far between. I think of the times I went to NYU in the mid 80's, lived in a frat house in the Village, and picked up the NY Post one day; the headlines said "AIDS". Then I saw men walking around wasting away, looking sick. I was very scared, even terrified, but ultimately lucky. My therapist once said being closeted kept me alive, and I'd have to agree. That was a shocker, watching AIDS as it unfolded; West Village restaurants were going out of business because many believed they could catch it from unwashed plates or toilet seats. I remember Reagan sweeping it under the rug. It was a gay problem, he would say, and most people didn't care. There was no education, no meds, no cure and no hope.

Today didn't just happen, and it certainly didn't happen because of politicians. It happened because good people everywhere died needlessly, and the other good people fought for their rights, and continue to fight. Social change takes time, and it takes a movement. The same evolution of our society now prohibits parents hitting their kids, gives women equal rights, fights for the ethical treatment of animals, fights against racism and police brutality and for a society based on fairness and equality.

So whether you donated money and time for this cause, or if you simply just don't hate people based on their skin color, age, wealth, education, sexuality or religion, you are responsible for this day. It takes a majority of straight people to make life equal for a minority of gay people. So thanks, everyone.

I have always found my peace being single, I've always struggled mightily in relationships and I subscribe to the notion that happiness comes from within. I no longer spend endless time looking for Mr. Right. I try to be the best that I can, and find the Mr. Right in me. My friends always say "you need to find a guy", but it's they who are usually single and are projecting.

Today's victory has been fought since the evolution of man, we are just privileged to live in this timeline. The young gays need to understand there are many who fought and many who died who will never see this day. So appreciate it, and have gratitude. It is not because you voted a certain way, it is because humanity is always evolving.

We are like an evolved ant farm, just doing what they do. Work, eat, sleep, reproduce and fight for survival through building a community. When others around you are happy, you are a happier person as well. Now there are other battles. Laws don't change hatred. There is not one less homophobic person today than yesterday. In fact, there may be more. There are the small and the weak who are threatened by this and will act out accordingly.

I hope those who are coupled and now have the chance to marry celebrate wildly. And for those who are single and gay, there is finally hope to lead a "normal" life.