Some shoes, a livery driver, and same-sex marriage & parenting

The Ukrainian and I exit Bloomingdale’s on Market Street. We are
only a few yards away from the entrance to the underground BART train
that can deposit us a few blocks from our house in San Francisco’s Noe
Valley in exactly 7 minutes. But I am wearing my new Steve Maddens —
the ones constructed with 5 inch heels and tight apple green leather
trimmed in brown. I have been wearing them for the past 9 hours and
walking those last few yards to the train daunts me to all but tears.

“We’ll take cab,” the Ukrainian says feeling my wince our every
step. I am clinging to his arm as if an old lady while trying to brave
a face of youth that doesn’t scream “Yes, these shoes are new and
crippling and I am silly for wearing them, but aren’t they hot?!?”

There is a dearth of cabs on the east-bound side of Market St. where
we are standing. I allow myself a cursory remembrance of my past New
York life that included cabs everywhere as candy for the taking.
“Perhaps we’ll have more luck on the other side,” suggests the
Ukrainian. I agree, steeling myself for the pain that will be involved
in crossing the 4+ lane street.

As we begin to cross the 2nd lane, an elegant, shiny black towncar
pulls up behind us. “Taxi?” the slightly-pudgy E. Indian driver asks.
Without even turning around to look at him — for I can see the driver
and his car out of the corner of my eye — I dismiss him with my hand,
saying “No, you are too expensive.” “No, no ma’am. You say how much,
and I will take you where you want to go.” I hesitate. Tempted. The
additional 3 lanes and a bike path to cross may be more pain than I can
bear. But I also consider that the last private car that offered to
take us home wanted $30 for the honor, when a regular taxi would only
cost $12.

“Ok,” I say. “How about $15?”

“Sure, get in,” replies the driver with a smile. I am amazed at the
ease with which the transaction takes place. I had expected more
negotiating or the driver scoffing my offer away. But my amazement is
replaced quickly by fear and embarrassment as the driver does a u-turn
straight into the path of an oncoming bicyclist.

The bicyclist is not amused by the threat on his life. He rides up
to the car and starts chiding the livery driver through the open
passenger window.

“What are you doing, man?”

“What do you mean ‘what am I doing’? What are you doing? You see me, you brake. You are bike, I am car.”

“Hey man, I have full right to the road. You need to yield to oncoming traffic. You almost killed me.”

“No, no. You only get to be on the far right side. You were not on the far right side.”

The argument quickly ends as the stoplight turns green and both the
driver and bicyclist are more interested in their final destination
than the proving themselves right.

Or so I think. The driver continues his tirade against the bicyclist
at us. And we are his captive audience. “That bicyclist had no right to
be where he was…he should have stopped when he saw me…” It was the
classic case of methinks-thou-dost-protest too much, but I refrain from
saying anything. My silence is hypocritical of me for I also ride my
bike down Market St. during rush hour several times a week. But my feet
are too grateful for the ride home to put my foot where my mouth might
go, so I keep it shut.

The driver’s diatribe does not last long though. As we approach
Duboce Triangle — the part of Market Street where the Castro, Mission
and Lower Haight districts intersect — traffic slows to a crawl. A
vocal gathering on the sidewalk is beginning to spill out into the

What is it? A protest? A celebration? Another typical San Francisco
day where the abnormal is the norm? And then I remember…the
California Supreme Court had overturned the ban on same-sex marriage.
The Castro is the center of gay pride. Of course! Progressives are
celebrating! Conservatives are protesting!

The driver switches is rant from bicyclists to gays.

“Look. I don’t care if they want to be gay. That is nobody’s business.”

Ok..I think…at least he isn’t completely closed-minded.

“But to allow them to marry! To have children! That is not right.”

But there are limits to his open-mindedness.

While I had kept quiet about his attitude towards bicyclists, I
can’t keep my mouth shut about same-sex marriages and parenting. I
decide to try a rational argument — the same rational argument I had
used on the Ukrainian just last summer when he had voiced similar
opinions after our attendance at the 2007 Gay Pride Parade on the very
same Market Street.

“I don’t see how one’s private sexual practices affect their ability to be good parents.”

“They can be gay all they want, but they shouldn’t be allowed to have children,” the driver reiterates.

I ask. “Are you afraid that their children will automatically turn out
gay? If the parents’ sexuality affects the children, then why do most
gays have straight parents?” Now was not the time to get into the
nuances of gay, straight, lesbian, queer, transgender and any other
categorization of sexuality that I had encountered since moving to San
Francisco. I wanted to keep the argument simple.

“They won’t be good parents,” he insisted.

“Why not? If they are caring and loving and supportive of the children? If
they help with the homework and set boundaries, etc…how is that not
being good parents? If they are in a loving committed relationship,
what is wrong with that? What about a single mother who brings home a
different man every night? Is she some how a better mother?” I played
into his conservative side to open his mind a little. “What about
parents who beat their children? Are addicted to drugs? Are they
somehow better parents because they’re heterosexual?”

The driver thought a little, conceded a bit, said “You do have a good point”. I
don’t know if the concession came from him wanting to get his fare, or
if indeed, his mind had opened a little. I hope it was the latter.

By now, we had arrived at our house in Noe Valley. I walk barefoot from
the car to our building, with the Ukrainian carrying my shoes — the
ones that had gotten us into this conversation in the first place.

“Put this in your blog, ” the Ukrainian says. “It’s important. I didn’t know better until you explained it to me.”

Ukrainian is referring back to the conversation we had while walking
the dogs after the 2007 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. We had attended
the parade as a fun date and, afterwards, he had offered the same
arguments that the driver had again against same-sex marriage &
parenting. I gave the same counter-arguments, and over-time, maybe not
that day, but in the months that have passed, my Ukrainian’s mind has
opened. He now supports same-sex marriage and parenting.

Progress. Just a little bit at a time, but progress nonetheless


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