I got into a slightly heated discussion with a new friend of mine the other day. He is Mexican, and just arrived here with his partner a couple of months ago. They will be living in NYC for the foreseeable future, as his partner got some posh job here. My friend, like me, is freelance and we meet about once a week for lunch. We were talking about comparisons between gay life here and there and he was remarking that he thought people were really uptight here about public displays of affection. Having lived in both cultures, I could see his point on one level (as there were many times I saw young lovers really going at it in the parks in Mexico City). But on another, I never saw gay people doing much PDA in Mexico, it seemed to me to be definitely something reserved for the straights. And even then, it seemed to me this was because so many young people lived with their parents and had no place to go. And on the subject of gay rights, he (rightly) pointed out that Mexico has country-wide marriage rights, something we still lack in the US. And my protestations to the contrary, he honestly believes that culturally, Mexico (and other Latin American countries) are far more accepting of gay people. Again, having lived there and traveled extensively in Latin America, I can only speak to my experience, but let’s just say it ran contrary to his impressions. He noted how much stronger the family unit and connections were in those countries, and that is something that (notwithstanding my own close-knit family) I granted was true. But I asked him if he was out to his family, and he replied that “they knew” about him and his partner, but that he didn’t bring it up or throw it in their faces. To which I replied that for me, equality means living as openly as any straight person, and having my life and relationships treated with the same respect and openness. He replied that he didn’t need that, and he honestly believes that things are better for gay people there. It was striking to me how different were the notions of equality that we each had. And how different our experience of each place was. I have no illusions about the United States, and I divide the country into regions or bubbles of equality. New York is a very different place than Omaha, and my daily experience is of course local, and very much equal on a societal level. I will not rest until we have full legal equality under the law, but I believe that is coming soon (although not soon enough obviously). And further, I am under no illusions that the Republican party will soon turn over a new leaf and let go of their disgusting hatred of us, but I am hopeful that they will have less and less sway over the culture. I think that our biggest point of divergence is over openness, and that is something that I will never relinquish– to me, that is the mark of equality. And that is probably why I think that the most powerful thing anyone can do to advance the cause of equality is to live openly, and refuse to be treated as a second class citizen. Coming out, and living openly is not “throwing anything in anyone’s face”, any more than living an openly heterosexual life is. It is all part of our human condition, and equally deserving of dignity and respect.