I had a very dear friend in college whom I suspected was gay.
After I graduated and settled in the Salt Lake area, this friend came back to Utah to visit me. Over lunch at the Rio Grande Cafe, I finally asked this friend point blank if they** were gay. I had felt for years that there was something unspoken between us and I wanted very much to bring down the barrier. I also felt that they had wanted to tell me in the past, but didn't feel safe.
So I took a deep breath and asked, "_____, are you gay?"
They just looked at me. And then they looked away. "I suppose you think I'm a sinner and I'm going to hell," they answered bitterly.
I remember answering shakily, "Can we leave sinning and hell out of it?"
I was afraid they would walk out of the restaurant, that I had gone too far and asked a terribly nosy and offensive question. But they didn't walk out. Instead, they told me about how they had known since kindergarten. How they always had crushes on their friends who were the same gender. How they had tried so hard, and hoped, and prayed, that they would be healed and changed and made straight. But it never happened. Instead, they fell in love with someone and decided to pursue it. And it wasn't easy, and there was guilt at first, but that it was wonderful.
Up until then, I had very conflicted feelings about the "right" and the "wrong" of being gay. I knew what my church taught about it (at the time I was a practicing Mormon). But I was also starting to realize that I had gay friends, people I had known for years or even my whole life, who didn't seem like gay friends but who were, instead, just friends.
It was a pivotal moment for me. Hearing this friend's story really changed my life.
But even with the realization that I believe that being gay is a totally natural, OK thing to be, I still never thought much about gay rights until more recently.
It started when a gay friend said, "It makes me sad sometimes when I see a couple holding hands at the mall. I can never do that with my partner without getting stares and whispers." That had never occurred to me. I have never thought about who's watching when I grab Ryan's hand at the mall. And when I do grab his hand, it's nothing. Nobody would ever say anything.
Another time Ryan and I were spending some time some gay friends at a basketball game. We ran into some people we know, so I introduced our friends to them. I said, "___ and ___, these are our friends ___ and ___." Later on, Ryan asked me, "I hope it was OK with them (our gay friends) that you introduced them as a couple. That's kind of outing them. Do you think they're OK with that?"
I felt a kind of sick rush in my stomach. I hadn't realized that it could be taken that I was introducing them as a gay couple. That hadn't even crossed my mind. I was introducing them as my friends! who happen to be a couple! a gay couple! but who cares?!
Obviously some people do care. And that bugs.
So I have spent a lot more time thinking about gay rights and equality in marriage and what impact I can have in the world when it comes to this issue.
I am not a political person. Anyone who knows me understands that I dislike disagreements or debating or rocking the boat. So in writing this, I am sharing what I feel very deeply in my heart. I do not intend to offend those who do not agree with me; however, I do not want to stay silent on this matter anymore. I owe it to myself, my kids, my acquaintances, and my circle of influence to be open about supporting my gay friends.
- Being gay is not a choice. It is the way you are born and the way you love. The only choice you have in the matter is whether you will accept who you are, or whether you will try to live a straight life due to society's or your family's or your church's expectations for you to be straight.
- Being gay is not "wrong."
- My gay friends have a right to be public about who they love. It should not be a shameful secret. If you choose to be private about it, that's one thing. I respect that. But being forced to hide it due to the hatred of others is another.
- My gay friends have a right to marry just like my straight friends do.
- My gay friends have a right to equal housing, equal pay, and equal health/life benefits for their partners.
- My gay friends have a right to be happy.
These beliefs did not come to me overnight. They came over years of thought and prayer and interaction with many different acquaintances, friends, and family members. It has taken me a long time to formulate these thoughts well enough to share them. It is not easy for me to write this because my words are tumbling all over and I'm not very eloquent. But tonight is the night.
I'm sure I have more thoughts and feelings on this matter, but this is what is weighing on my mind tonight.
You are welcome to share your thoughts on this. But be aware that this is my blog with my thoughts and beliefs, and hateful comments (either here or on Facebook, which is where most of the comments end up these days) will be deleted.
Equality in love and marriage for all.
**Because I am telling this story from my point of view and how it affected my life - not telling my friend's story - I am using "they" and other gender-neutral pronouns to protect this person's identity.