Many years ago I purchased a tuxedo t-shirt for myself and a friend. We wore them for a joke since we never dressed up and we were doing a parody of dressing up. Later on, I thought it would be even funnier to cut the sleeves off and dress it down even further.
This was around the time that Pokemon Go came out and, like many people, I was hittin’ the streets trying to catch ’em all.
My brother and I were going to hit the gym that afternoon and since he was getting ready, I thought I would throw some balls at some pocket monsters. I found a Poliwhirl down the street and went to get closer. This brought me to the edge of a busy street, and there I was, a 36-year-old man wearing a cut-off tuxedo shirt playing with myself (on my phone). What happened next was straight out of a redneck playbook.
As cars were driving by I heard someone yell, “FAG!”.
I looked up from trying to catch Pokemon, startled.
A car driving in a different direction screamed at me, “Fuckin’ Faggot!”
Quickly, I decided to retreat back to my house and change my shirt. The texture to the anger in the two people who yelled at me had rubbed me raw. The fact that it had happened twice in a very short amount of time was unnerving.
I’m not gay and I make no case for it (like Greg Proops says), but right then the animosity that was unleashed on me made me feel like there had been a hate crime. Had I been gay and taken it personally, I could only imagine there would have been a whole other level affecting me. Like if the way you were, your very being, was worth someone sending you their negativity. Unsettling.
I was able to laugh about the situation after a few minutes since it was so absurd, if disturbing, but it gave me a glimpse into the perspective of people who face discrimination that I have never had to deal with.
As a straight white male, I tend to only feel bad when people talk about privilege or racism only because I don’t want to be ostracized for coming across as either racist or privileged. Although I don’t feel like I am the former I am most likely the latter.
Any other joke, jab, or slur tends to bounce harmlessly off of me. Call a white guy a cracker or a honkey. It’s almost funny. Mention we can’t dance. Whatever. Impervious.
In high school, a few people thought I was gay. I was weird for sure, and the two concepts were synonymous in the still-developing teenage mind. Not liking sports, always hanging out with girls, and being artsy I was different. I didn’t really take offense to it.
As a little kid, my mom made me feel like maybe I was homophobic. My brother and I always had to go to the restroom together in case some guy got to us. What I realized later was I was rape-phobic.
When I was 12 my stepdad had a friend from England, who happened to be gay, stay with us. When I say gay I mean flaming. He wore a thong to the pool at our apartments and every mannerism spoke to just how incredibly gay he was.
Having been raised in a religious household, I had never been up close to a gay man before, and it was great to find out that he was human just like me. I asked all the twelve-year-old questions; had he been with a woman before, how his parents took it, all that jazz. Knowing my mom, it was weird that she had him stay with us, even now looking back I can’t believe it, but was always grateful for the experience. A prejudice that I might have felt due to my upbringing just melted away.
Does the idea of gay sex seem weird to me? Sure. But when I told my son about how babies were made, the idea of straight sex sounded really weird to him. So it is all about perspective.
Are people born gay. Probably. My wife has a cousin who she knew was gay when they were little.
I was recently talking to a family member that kept mentioning how being gay is a sin even though they are friends with gay people. I almost don’t know what to do with that. There are very few instances of it being condemned in the bible. When you read them they tend to be either very vague, refer to cult prostitution, or those being forced into it. But if it was between two consenting adults, why should anyone else care? Most of my favorite parts of the bible are about loving your neighbor, forgiveness, and Jesus hanging out with the sinners anyway.
The only thing is, as I write all of this and feel like I am patting myself on the back pretty hard for being sooo open-minded, the idea of my son being gay is the one thing that gets me to think maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is the idea of him growing up with the stigma from the ’90s bible belt of my youth, maybe it is my own gene’s longing for immortality that only passing them on to a new generation can provide, but for him, it is a whole different story. Regardless though, I would love him no matter what, I’m only saying it would be a really tough idea to wrap my head around.
I’m sure these ideas would have been really cutting edge thirty years ago in Texas and now they get a shrug or maybe, “Why did you even write this?” but I guess it was on my mind and I have to write something on Wednesday?
People might not have the same attitudes today and being interested in the same sex might not be as frowned on as it once was, but apply that idea of “this person is different and by being so isn’t as worthy of my respect” to everyone else you come across and realize we are all humans together and deserve each other’s compassion and the ability to maintain our own dignity.
Next week we will solve racism.