holding hands, and stupidity

holding hands
I was homophobic when I was younger. I thought gay rights represented the worst part of American freedom, and that hatred of gays was a quality – an indication of a firm moral character.  My views were forged in the crucible of Southern culture – automatic opposition to anything associated with homosexuality was a virtue.  I grinned and condemned, without ever (knowingly) even crossing paths with a gay person.

Flip forward a few years:  I was moving to New York. I had a colleague from Moscow who was also moving to New York and I offered to room with him.  The responsibility for finding an apartment was his.  He found a great place in an up-and-coming gay neighborhood in Manhattan.  I agreed, because I had accepted a job in New York and didn’t know any better.

The staggering truth I found out from living in an intensely gay neighborhood for several years – and forgive a stupid statement here – was that living around gay people was no big deal. It’s sad to say that I came to this realization so late in life.  My early homophobia was rooted in ignorance and, frankly, a lack of exposure.  I realized after a few years of living in the neighborhood that gay people wanted high-speed cable, decent air-conditioning, good restaurants and convenient delis just like I did.  They went to work, they ate pizza, they took the subway.  Holding hands wasn’t something that bothered me, because it only represented happiness.

That’s why the current political discourse that touches on gay rights in this country makes me so sad. One of my good friends from down South told me in 2004 that the MAIN reason he wanted to vote for Bush was that he was afraid of the effect of legalization of gay marriage on his children.  I pointed out that gay marriage was hardly a threat in his small southern town, but he wasn’t convinced.  To him, it was a clear and present danger.

Hatred can rob you of a lot of the real business of life. Growing up in a southern state I was influenced to distrust minorities, gay people and even to a certain extent women.  Just a little bit of exposure freed up a lot of my mental energy to worry about things I can really hate:  climate change, corporate abuse, war and so on.  Life is too short to worry about who holds hands with whom.

22 comments

  • Hey, better to learn late than to never learn!

    I'm straight, but I don't understand how people can be so concerned about how “gay rights” is going to wreck “traditional marriage,” when us straight folk seem to be doing a bang-up job of wrecking it ourselves. No help needed!

  • I also fail to see how gay marriage damages anybody, but what would I know, I live in a country where it is effectively legalised and the sky hasn't fallen in.

    I think the key thing to learn is that hatred is never a positive quality. At best it might be understandable, but rarely.

  • I'll admit it (because nobody else probably will), but I hate homophobes and in particular racists/xenophobes, and those who would advocate for laws and attitudes that have that xenophobic or homphobic tinge to them. Especially the smarter and more mealy-mouthed ones. I've no interest in understanding their backgrounds or reasoning. It's pretty easy in those ultra”liberal” urbanite circles I've always moved in but does take a lot of energy and emotion that could be better directed elsewhere. Like the red sox for instance.

    • @guinness416:
      Oh, no I'm not a big fan either and happy to admit that when they're people in the public eye the hate comes easy. I just don't think that hating them makes me a better person.

  • Fantastic post and one everyone should read. If anyone walks around afraid of gay marriage, they have waaaay too much time on their hands and come off as incredibly uneducated.

  • Thank you for sharing that post. It's true that so much of our views on these issues depend on the environment of our own childhoods.

    I was born in San Francisco, my mom sang in the SF Opera Chorus. Many of the men she worked with were gay. Once, when I was about 4 or 5, I asked “Mommy, why is that man holding hands with that man?” And she said “Because they love each other.” It was simple.

    What I don't understand about the whole gay marriage debate is, what difference does it make whether those two men that are holding hands are married or not. How would that impact you or your 5 year old differently?

    Just like in the neighborhood in New York you lived. Hundreds of gay couples lived nearby. What difference would it make to you whether they were married or not? How would you even know?

    Anyway, thanks for going out on a limb with this post.

  • This post just did something to me on the inside.

    Whatever it was, It felt good.

  • “The friend” should worry about how teen pregnancies will affect his children, not gay marriages. Whether gays are allowed to get married or not will not affect his children in their sexual orientation. I would worry that my daughter doesn't get pregnant when she is a teen or my teen son impregnantes some girl.
    People sure direct their energies and thoughts into some trivial things that don't matter in the grand scheme.

  • I love living next to gay couples! They have the finest tastes in everything. They have the best, well groomed gardens and best Christmas decorations. They seem happier than their straight counterparts ;o)

  • Amen to that!

    I say live and let live and be done with it.

  • bravo.ITA

  • i guess we just don't like what we don't know/aren't familiar with.

  • Yup – we all have our biases. Some of them are hard to admit and most of them we just don't think about but they are still there.

  • Thanks for your words of support. It's hard to admit to prejudices of the past, but by doing so, other people get to realize that challenging those long-held beliefs can actually lead to improvements in your life.

    I read so much homophobic crap on the internet — coming across your post was refreshing.

    • Thank you, John – I always think that the best amends I can make for early stupid prejudices is to admit them and try to convince others not to go down that road. It's tough, because everyone has to go down their own path, but then again every little bit counts…

  • How awesomely honest and heartfelt! I admire people who are able to change their own minds and be truthful in the process – especially so publically. On the gay marriage front, Other Uncle and Uncle (which is yes, what we kids called them growing up) have been together for …doing math math is hard… for 26 years. Longer and stronger than many straight marriages – Why shouldn't their partnership be recognized? My 2 cents!

  • Wonderfully stated, thank you for having the courage to share. Like a previous poster, I think gay couples tend to be happier than their hetero counterparts because they have to “fight” for their relationships as opposed to being forced into them by a society who tells them marriage and children are what they “should” do even if it isn't what they want.

    I wish people would spend a lot more time thinking about the things that make a marriage good or bad – love, trust, respect, honesty – and not worry so much about the genders of the people who are adding more love to the world.

  • Hatred? Just because that person believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman as it naturally always has been, that means he has HATRED for gay people? Give me a break. Most people, yes, even people in the South (shocking, huh?!) DON'T HATE gay people. Also, you need to ask yourself a question: is this whole issue really about caring about gay people? Or is it really about an AGENDA amongst certain factions in government who are trying to disintegrate the foundations of our society? Take a look at divorce rates. They have SKYROCKETED ever since the late 50's and 60's when Hollywood started coming out with movies depicting divorcees and making divorce “cool” and “chic”. Hollywood is used by political interests to CHANGE THE BELIEFS OF PEOPLE. Ever since then, divorce rates have skyrocketed, many children grow up in single parent homes and have all the emotional scars of going through parents' divorce, and people are encouraged to just get a divorce when they find something wrong with their spouse. It's all apart of the agenda to disintegrate our society to make us all more easy to control by government. Look around these days – now a person becomes a celebrity simply because she is born rich and videotapes herself having sex! And everyone celebrates her slutty lifestyle. Look around – children are now practically raised by television where you can see ridiculous amounts of violence and even commercials are now verging on sexual explicitness. The political agenda is now to make it “cool” to be gay! And gay people make up, what, 2-3% of the population?

    Bottom line is this: I am all about equal rights and equal respect for all people. But when this is really being used to further disintegrate our society, I am against it. What everyone should REALLY be fighting for is to BREAK UP THE MONOPOLY OF CONTROL OF OUR MEDIA. Do you know that when you are watching NBC or MSNBC you are basically getting your news told to you by General Electric? They OWN NBC and they make BILLIONS yearly from their war contracts in Iraq! CBS is owned by Westinghouse (another war contractor). Rupert Murdoch who owns the Fox Network also owns HOLLYWOOD MOVIE STUDIOS! They are trying to create a COMPLETY MONOPOLY ON NEWS AND MEDIA BECAUSE THEY KNOW ITS A POWERFUL WAY TO CONTROL AND MANIPULATE THE BELIEFS OF THE PEOPLE. But most of you people sadly don't make themselves aware of these things – they will just watch a Hollywood movie like the recent “Milk” with it's propaganda and let that control their beliefs and behavior.

  • One more thing I would like to add: I also want to make it known that I love gay people – I have 2 close gay friends and know many gay people and have for many years.

  • One more thing I would like to add: I also want to make it known that I love gay people – I have 2 close gay friends and know many gay people and have for many years.

  • Hatred? Just because that person believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman as it naturally always has been, that means he has HATRED for gay people? Give me a break. Most people, yes, even people in the South (shocking, huh?!) DON'T HATE gay people. Also, you need to ask yourself a question: is this whole issue really about caring about gay people? Or is it really about an AGENDA amongst certain factions in government who are trying to disintegrate the foundations of our society? Take a look at divorce rates. They have SKYROCKETED ever since the late 50's and 60's when Hollywood started coming out with movies depicting divorcees and making divorce “cool” and “chic”. Hollywood is used by political interests to CHANGE THE BELIEFS OF PEOPLE. Ever since then, divorce rates have skyrocketed, many children grow up in single parent homes and have all the emotional scars of going through parents' divorce, and people are encouraged to just get a divorce when they find something wrong with their spouse. It's all apart of the agenda to disintegrate our society to make us all more easy to control by government. Look around these days – now a person becomes a celebrity simply because she is born rich and videotapes herself having sex! And everyone celebrates her slutty lifestyle. Look around – children are now practically raised by television where you can see ridiculous amounts of violence and even commercials are now verging on sexual explicitness. The political agenda is now to make it “cool” to be gay! And gay people make up, what, 2-3% of the population?

    Bottom line is this: I am all about equal rights and equal respect for all people. But when this is really being used to further disintegrate our society, I am against it. What everyone should REALLY be fighting for is to BREAK UP THE MONOPOLY OF CONTROL OF OUR MEDIA. Do you know that when you are watching NBC or MSNBC you are basically getting your news told to you by General Electric? They OWN NBC and they make BILLIONS yearly from their war contracts in Iraq! CBS is owned by Westinghouse (another war contractor). Rupert Murdoch who owns the Fox Network also owns HOLLYWOOD MOVIE STUDIOS! They are trying to create a COMPLETY MONOPOLY ON NEWS AND MEDIA BECAUSE THEY KNOW ITS A POWERFUL WAY TO CONTROL AND MANIPULATE THE BELIEFS OF THE PEOPLE. But most of you people sadly don't make themselves aware of these things – they will just watch a Hollywood movie like the recent “Milk” with it's propaganda and let that control their beliefs and behavior.

  • One more thing I would like to add: I also want to make it known that I love gay people – I have 2 close gay friends and know many gay people and have for many years.