So when I was kindergarten, first grade, my mom roomed with two men who were lovers. They both worked, they laughed, they talked, they supported one another. It was the most natural thing in the world, and I never saw the difference between their relationship with one another, and the man/woman couples around me.
It wasn’t until many years later, when we had moved to Missouri and I was starting high school, did I get any indication that said sweet, loving relationship I witnessed once upon a time was considered ‘wrong’ to many.
This baffled me.
When I was young and growing up, while I didn’t see gay couples often, my mother raised me knowing that there was nothing wrong with it. They were two people who loved one another, chose to be with one another. I was literally raised with the understanding that homosexuality was a thing, and that it was fine.
When I was in high school, and people started throwing out slurs like ‘gay’ and ‘fag’ like it was a bad thing, I was actively confused.
I went to a very small, very rural high school smack dab in the middle of the bible belt. Not like we had a gay community there. It never, at the time, occurred to me to ask why – I just assumed that there were people who were gay or lesbian, but whatever their relationship was, it was their relationship.
So when I was a junior, there was a boy who, how should we put this gently?
He was a bit effeminate.
Considering how crazy teenagers are in general, and especially in a community such as this, anyone different would often be targeted. (Oh, the stories I have from when religion was brought up…)
So this boy kept his head down, and moved through the halls as quickly, as quietly as he could, trying not to draw any more attention to himself than was absolutely necessary. I considered him a friend, and I often gathered all the various outcasts for lunch. Why? Because they were good people, and they each had qualities I found fascinating. I could have conversations with them. We laughed and joked, and were comfortable together.
I don’t give a damn as to why they may have felt alone. They were good people. All of them.
It was several years later – once he had moved away to a larger area – he finally felt comfortable enough with himself to admit the truth to himself.
When I got into college, it became even more obvious that, those who were gay had this horrible stigma. To this day, I’m still not entirely sure what is supposed to be ‘wrong’ with these men and women just because they are attracted to someone of the same sex.
For those two years, I lost track of how many men came out of the closet to me.
They would pull me aside, take me to dinner, to coffee, to the park. In the middle of whatever random conversation we were having, they’d suddenly whisper “… I’m gay…” as if it were the biggest crime in the world.
And for each and every one of them, I would stare at them for a moment, bob my head, and go “Ok…”
Some cried. Some vented at the heavens for making them this way. Some carried on as if nothing else had happened.
They were all frightened – every last one of them.
And they told me – either then or later – that they chose me to be the first they came out to because they knew I would accept them. I had one laugh and tell me he felt he could tell me that he had started dating a purple alien, and I’d only ask if said alien treated him well and if he were happy.
Because really? That’s all that’s important, and it’s the same for my straight friends. You’re in a relationship? GREAT! Does your significant other treat you well? Are you happy? Awesome! I want to meet them. Meanwhile, what new books have you read or new games have you picked up?
Over the past two decades, I have been teased a great deal about my ‘gay harem.’ I’m friends with a rather significant number of gay men. It’s not that I go hunting them down (I keep missing the season and I forget to buy my hunting license). It honestly just happens. And I think I maintain the friendships because they’re good people and I sincerely like them.
I frankly couldn’t care less who they find attractive. That’s doesn’t define who they are as a human being.
Because of all of this, I’m an ally.
Because of all this, those posts about “Why do gays even NEED a pride month?” drive me NUTS. The older I get, the more I see why it is vitally important.
These are people who have been shunned by a large part of society and, often times, our country’s laws. Did you know it’s illegal to be gay in many countries? Flat out illegal, and punishable by going to prison or, in some places, even death.
It’s not as if they can control this. It has been proven, time and time again, that it is genetic. It’s like imprisoning gingers or people with blue eyes. I just don’t get it.
I wept – I openly wept – when gay marriage became legal here. And when my best friend married the man of his dreams? I was so freaking happy.
But that doesn’t stop the bullying. It doesn’t stop the derision, the sneers, the shunning.
It doesn’t stop the assaults.
Over the past few years, transgender has become another major hot-topic.
I’m again left going “WHY?? LET PEOPLE USE THE FREAKING BATHROOM!!!”
Again, this is a frightening experience for so many in the community. Someone stepping forward and admitting they were born in the wrong body, and then taking steps to ‘correct’ it. Even if they do not chose to do surgery, but living life with whatever pronoun that makes them comfortable.
I’m baffled as to why this is an issue.
When someone asks me to call them a different name, I just do it. If I’ve known them for a long time, I may still slip and still call them ‘Roger’ once in a while when they prefer ‘Susan,’ but I make an active effort. I’d do the same thing if ‘Roger’ started going by ‘Thomas’ instead.
Just like when coming out as gay, it doesn’t change who they are as a human being. In fact, it’s them taking steps to be more true to themselves. And we should all support that for our friends.
If they’re gender fluid?
If they’re asexual?
If they’re bi?
I know I’m missing or forgetting some, and for that, I apologize. What’s important about all of this is we make sure our friends, our loved ones know that their lives matter.
Their rights matter.
Their love matters.
Their happiness matters.
Even if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, even if you don’t necessarily understand it, I beg you, please… give them this. Acknowledge them as human beings.
And for those of you who are still in the closet…
For those who have been abandoned for trying to be true to yourself…
For those who are tired, frightened, and alone…
I am here. I am an ally. I love and support you.
And there are others who stand by your side as well.
You are not alone.