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Eight years ago Advocate associate editor Neal Broverman packed up his car and moved from Connecticut to California to find freedom and acceptance. Now that marriage is legal in Connecticut, he's wondering if he ever should have left.

Nbroverman

At 22 I had one night a week of gay. It took place every Sunday at Velvet, a two-story Hartford superclub that opened its doors four sweet evenings a month to central Connecticut's party fags, disco dykes, and underwriter drag queens. Hours were spent getting ready, listening to the Go soundtrack as I picked out the perfect pair of wide-flaring raver pants and YMLA Lycra top. I just couldn't wait to get beyond Velvet's doors, to dance with guys without fear of being on the receiving end of gay panic. It was wonderful, but it wasn't enough.

That summer of 2000 I didn't miss a Sunday at Velvet, partly because I knew it was coming to an end -- I was moving to Los Angeles in August. Days after my 23rd birthday, I packed up my Mitsubishi Galant in hopes of finding an accepting home that allowed me a more permanent sense of freedom than Velvet could provide. I thought my chances might be better in California.

I'm now struck with the irony that the place I ran from has loudly declared I'm worthy of equality, while the place I fled to has stated I'm not. Not only did the Connecticut supreme court rule that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, but the state's voters rejected a constitutional convention that could have snatched marriage equality away. And a majority of Californians, seen by many as the most liberal and freethinking people in the world, has caved into religious-based hate and fear tactics.

The Knights of Columbus -- the Catholic fraternal organization that helped bankroll Proposition 8 -- call my birth state home. Growing up in Catholic Connecticut, I was more derided for not having a Christmas tree -- I was raised Jewish -- than for not having a girlfriend. The Knights' homophobia wasn't explicit in the '90s, maybe because gays were just as covert.

In Connecticut, post-college, I was certainly an oddity. Not a chased-into-the-woods-with-pitchforks-and-torches freak, but a lonely anomaly. As far as I knew, there were no gays filing copy around me at the Hartford Courant newspaper, or marrying ketchup bottles at Denny's, my other gig. Everyone knew I was gay -- my bosses, my roommate, my parents -- and viewed me as a curious little creature. I traveled in circles that didn't sling "fag" around, but my friends didn't go to gay bars or know what The Advocate was.

Soon after graduation a pal from college came out and decamped for L.A. She called to say the grass was greener: jobs, sun, movie stars, and...gay people! There was this place called West Hollywood, where men walked down the street, holding hands. They don't get rocks thrown at them? I thought.

After a weeklong drive across the country, I moved into Leslie's studio apartment in the Valley. Every night we drove over Laurel Canyon to Santa Monica Boulevard. At the beginning we only went to lesbian bars because Leslie was desperate to meet a girlfriend, and I knew no better. I loved being able to cross my legs without looking over my shoulder, and talk freely about the nuances of Madonna's "Music" video. I soon discovered Micky's and Rage and the Factory and the gay men that flocked there nightly. Nightly! I saw more gay guys on a Tuesday night at a seedy WeHo hole-in-the-wall than I would in a month at Velvet.

But the gays in L.A. weren't just in bars. They were at every job I took, every restaurant I patronized, every apartment I moved into, and I've never lived in the gay ghettos of West Hollywood or Silver Lake. Gay people were sewn into the fabric of Los Angeles; part of the amalgam of races and religions and cultures that define this place. I had found what I was looking for. Until last week I never questioned that supposition.

But I'm not headed back East anytime soon. I love my adopted home; its diversity and opportunity has nurtured me in a way my home state never did. Things happen here.

I had never marched in the streets back East, but five years ago I marched through pouring rain in downtown Los Angeles when our nation preemptively attacked Iraq, and this week I blocked off L.A. rush hour traffic. Witnessing the protests that have taken over California since the passing of Prop. 8 has only made my love grow deeper.

We're fighting a war, and it makes sense that it will be waged and won here. This is the place where millions like me -- those who aren't white or straight or native-born -- pursue happiness. As much as they try, some religious zealots on the wrong side of history can't change that.

Nbroverman
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Neal Broverman

Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.
Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.