Given recent comments on recent blurbs about a movie that involves a love story between two gay cowboys, I wanted to get a little more personal than I have of late.
I am straight. I am a straight man. I’ve never had to come out of any closet. I’ve never had to be careful whom I mention this to. I’ve never had my sexual orientation criminalized (even as a celibate Mormon missionary).
My oldest sister and I had a conversation about ten years ago after a family dinner at my mom’s place. I was still living in Utah at the time. We discussed how society at some point would have to accept homosexuality not as an abhorrent or aberrant behavior, but as a normal part of the human experience. Part of the burden of that acceptance would be on the gay community itself. By being responsible citizens and taking part in mainstream culture; being cops, firepeople and civil servants, for example. The trouble is that this is an enormous undertaking in most towns and cities in the United States. The culture in our cities and towns has to meet in the middle as well, and this was a harder thing to visualize than an out and proud gay cop. The gay community had already begun this process, but the larger, homophobic communities hadn’t done their part. Particularly in the conservative interior. During our conversation it was apparent that both sides would have to sacrifice and give. In larger cities, this had already happened at the time of the discussion, I just hadn’t experienced it first hand. I hadn’t experienced an open, tolerant city.
In the summer of 1998, I moved to San Francisco. It would take two years before I went to the Gay Pride march. I remember getting on the N-Judah Muni line and heading downtown from Cole Valley. At the next stop, a couple got on the train who, I’m aware this is stereotyping, were most definitely not from San Francisco. Matching Garth Brooks t-shirts (tank tops, I believe), mullets and matching denim shorts. They were a gay male couple. I watched them sneakily hold hands and then become more comfortable and less sneaky about their affection for one another. I tried to ascertain if they were being sarcastic or attempting irony in their fashion. They, like me, were on their way to the Pride March. I wondered where they came from, what kind of bullshit they had to put up with in Cedar Rapids, Tulsa, Salt Lake City or wherever they were from. And how much like Mecca San Francisco must have seemed. Then again, they could have hated San Francisco and not been a thing like what I projected onto them. Their presence on that train expanded my worldview of what it meant to be gay. Whenever I think about gay marriage, I always picture those two men.
Later, at the March, my eyes were opened further still. Yes, there were Dykes on Bikes. There were the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. But bigger than the naked people and the queens were the sheriff’s department employees, marching with their partners representing one of the first sheriff’s offices to actively recruit gays and lesbians. There were police department employees, marching with their partners. Firemen and Firewomen, marching with their partners. My world exploded. Here were gay people, taking the hard jobs, putting their lives on the line for me and my community. Every day. Every fucking day.
By God, they deserve to be equal citizens. If you are among those who think that homosexuality is somehow morally wrong, you might want to look a little closer at your community. They don’t want to convert you. They just want the same joy you get to have without the bigotry, the hatred and without the version of Jesus who says gay people shouldn’t be happy, just like you.
Until you stop seeing the sex, and start seeing human beings trying to figure it out, just like you, we’ll never move forward. This is the burden of the conservatives. The progressives are mostly there. This is the civil rights burden of our time. It’s not a rejection of God. It’s not a rejection of religion. It’s a rejection of hate, prejudice and ignorance. It’s a rejection of the most evil part of any organized group, Jesus or otherwise.