It occurred to me that probably most people reading my blog are probably on the same page with me. Which gave me pause when I started trying to think of what to write here. I could tell the story I’m sure I’ve told before about how one of my best friends was afraid to come out to me because of some bone-headed thing I’d said without thinking when we were sixteen—if anything that story shows the power of words.
But then I started thinking about my dad.
On paper, he’s accepting of everyone. He was something of a civil rights activist in his youth, kept a poster of Martin Luther King in his office, didn’t tolerate prejudice in the house. One of his retirement hobbies is teaching leadership classes to Boy Scouts (he and my youngest brother were both Eagle Scouts) and he’s made some noise about the ban on gay scouts (he’s vehemently against it). He’s religious but attends a church that welcomes gay members.
In practice, though, he used to say off-hand things that showed he wasn’t really comfortable with gay people. When my youngest brother was in high school, his best friend was a lesbian. I think it’s a credit to how my parents raised us that this never fazed my brother at all. But my dad told me later that he was surprised to find himself so uncomfortable with this girl. Still he, at least, was aware that this was his problem, not the girl’s. He told me that it took some effort, but he got over himself and was careful to never say anything to the girl that might imply he was anything but totally supportive. But I think it took him some soul-searching to work out why this girl bothered him.
So maybe it does sometimes take knowing an LGBT person to recognize our own biases and confront them.
And I could tell you about my friend who is half of a binational couple exiled from the US because of the Defense of Marriage Act. I could tell you about my cousin who died of AIDS in the early 90s. I could tell you about a teacher I had who was run out of the school shortly after the GSA he tried to create was shut down by the school board. I could tell you about my lesbian friend who has to lie to her grandparents about why she doesn’t have a boyfriend. There are examples of homophobia everywhere. But I don’t have to tell you that.
I think the best thing we can do is to keep the conversation going. So I’m talking.