Gay is many things, but mostly homosexual. (It still always makes me think of the Village People, so that probably needs to change.)
This post is inspired by Pride Week, during which people of all sexual orientations celebrate the movement toward equality, recognition, and respect.
This week is Pride in Denver. From the Denver PrideFest website: “The mission of Denver PrideFest is to create a fun, safe and empowering space to celebrate and promote the heritage and culture of the LGBT and allied community in Colorado.”
I’m an ally. I have gay and lesbian friends, straight friends, and bisexual friends. I love them all equally.
I don’t really care how you stand on homosexuality. Because really, there is only one way to stand. And I’m not saying this because I want you all to share my thoughts, my political leanings, or my social theories. I’m saying this because every single human deserves the same rights.
Who cares if they get married?
Imagine not being able to visit your spouse in the hospital because you’re not considered family. That’s seriously fucked up.
People of different races have fought for equal treatment, been awarded it by law, and yet are still persecuted for something they cannot change. Throughout the world, they are profiled, brutalized, enslaved, mocked, underpaid, overworked, disrespected, stereotyped, marginalized, and undermined. Laws are made to question their legitimacy, even in a nation built on the backs of and with the blood of immigrants from all over.
Women have struggled for the rights to their bodies, for the respect of men, for education, for freedom from familial obligations, for equal pay, for the rights to work and make the same as their male counterparts. They, too, have had to fight against all types of social injustice. Our work remains undone.
Change has happened, slowly. Perceptions have changed, slowly. But it’s not finished. It never will be. In a world where victims of rape are criticized for their clothing choices and where poverty is more prevalent among people who aren’t white, it’s obvious that some of our well-intentioned policies are nothing but fluff, a big talk meant to quiet the outspoken yet leave the status quo unchanged.
Gay isn’t something that just happened overnight. The gays didn’t just materialize from thin air. They’ve been here all along. They’ve shared your drinks, eaten at your dinner parties, managed large companies, created and maintained traditional families. You work with them. You sit next to them on the bus. They’ve been a part of your world since you were born.
Gay makes some people uncomfortable.
It’s understandable. Gay people do weird sex stuff, right? Well, newsflash, the straights are doing weird stuff, too.
Gay people will touch my children, you say.
Wrong. I mean, maybe a few. But so do your priests. So do teachers. So do people meant to protect our children. It happens, but it’s not directly linked to gay.
Gay people have the HIV.
Actually, they’re not the ones with the highest prevalence of new HIV infections these days. That heroin needle you’re holding is probably more dangerous. Besides, you can’t get HIV/AIDS from being near an infected person. Didn’t we all see “Philadelphia”?
Last night, I was out with two of my dear friends, one gay, and one Katie. After having dinner with Mike, we met up with a new friend of mine and went to a Denver gay bar. Wednesday is drag queen bingo, and we caught the tail end of it.
My new friend was uncomfortable.
I understand that men particularly are afraid of gay bars. He told me that he didn’t want any of his clients to see him and think he was gay.
What’s wrong with that? I thought. I was annoyed by his behavior. He didn’t want to get hit on. He didn’t want anyone to think he was gay. He didn’t want this, or that. He kept looking around nervously.
He never got comfortable.
Maybe it was the rainbow banners decorating the place? Maybe it was the drag queen standing by the door? Maybe it was the loud, shrill bingo announcer?
We ended up leaving.
It hurt my friends’ feelings and I was rude to them because I wanted to placate the new friend.
What I should have done is smacked him and told him to man up, politely.
This behavior is typical. It reminds me that even the most educated people with degrees from liberal institutions of higher learning can come out of those hallowed halls without having learned anything about what it’s like to be a human being.
It reminds me that people think that “the gays” are all sex-crazed monsters who will fuck anything that moves and is a man.
Walking into a gay bar is just like walking into a straight bar (which is basically every bar) except there is more hair gel and better muscles, if you’re into that sort of thing.
But there’s also personal melodramas, bar snacks, shots of vodka, relationships being made and dismantled, laughter, tears, pictures being taken. Basically, it’s like every damn bar you’ve ever been to.
Later, new friend was telling me he was struck by my intelligence. (I was drunk at this point, and drunk me loves compliments.) I was flattered and completely blind to my opportunity to remind him that perhaps intelligence includes willingness to adapt to unfamiliar situations. An open mind, humor, and humility. He reminded me that intelligence isn’t something you can only get from As and good grades, that 4.0 and long-winded papers. I should have reminded him that intelligence is a continual real-life process, something you can only have if you’re willing to think about and experience emotionally challenging things.
I am ashamed that I said nothing to him. “The gays” are a very important part of my life. My friendships mean more to me than anything else.
Part of living in a diverse and beautiful society is understanding differences. Part of it is realizing that people are born the way they are and embracing that. And who cares? I have a weird elf nose and people still hang out with me.
I didn’t choose to be born a woman (although I’m glad that’s the way I came out – thanks Mom!). And no one chooses to be gay. There’s been a lot of discussion about this, and recently, a lot of suicides because of how hard it is to be gay.
While I generally hold that our children aren’t getting the social support they need, and consequently are taking drastic action that’s really stupid, I completely disagree about our discourse on taboo subjects needs to change. There’s not enough of it! We wait until someone dies, or something kills someone else, and then we say, “oh, we could’ve, should’ve, wait, next tragedy.” Nothing changes! Let’s dialogue until we’re blue in the face with our kids about a whole bunch of topics. Let’s show them that it’s okay to ask questions. Let’s show them that families come in all different styles.
No one chooses to be part of a marginalized subset of society. No one chooses to be gay. It’s a difficult life. It’s also really fun, too. There are cheap drinks at X Bar on Tuesdays. It’s normal. It’s natural. It’s really lovely. Just because that’s not how you roll doesn’t mean you have to hate on it.
Having gay friends doesn’t make you gay. Trust me on this one. Still a hetero here. People won’t think any less of you if you hang out with gay people; you won’t be any less of a man. So get over it! Stop freaking out about gay and start embracing it.
Or, if you’re still uncomfortable, start with baby steps. Gay is not always the stereotype. Remember that.
Gay makes good parents. Gay makes good teachers. Gay makes good thinkers, good bus drivers, good politicians, good postmen, good database administrators. But mostly, gay makes great dancers.
This week, reach out to your gay, lesbian, queer, questioning, and straight friends and remind them how much they mean to you.
And if you’ve got the time, head downtown this weekend and be a part of the celebration.