Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Come Out of the Closet, Straight People

I don’t remember the day I chose to be straight. But I do remember my first gay friend, though he was closeted at the time. He was a boy I with whom I attended high school, and he sang in the special choir, because he had such a beautiful voice. We dated, but there was never any kind of physical attraction, though I do believe we attempted a kiss or two. However, it just didn’t work the way it was “supposed to”.

My parents LOVED this young man. They thought he was a wonderful person for me to date. I realize now that, even though I didn’t realize his “lifestyle choice” at the time, they sure did, which was why he was suitable to date their daughter. Funny how some things, or people, are acceptable when they serve someone’s particular purpose.

When I was 16 years old, my father died after a long illness. This young man sent flowers to ME, to my house – not to my family and not to the funeral, but to me, in support. He also escorted me to the funeral, which I desperately needed. Because he’d already graduated, we didn’t see much of each other after that, until one night a few years later, friends took me to a gay bar for the first time. We went in a group, and stayed closely together, so no one would mistake us as “regular” customers.

But there on the dance floor, I saw my friend, dancing with another man. When he saw me, his face lit up! He seemed so thrilled to see me – I was quite shocked to see him . Naïve thing that I was, I didn’t realize he was gay. But even then, knowing that he must be, based on what I witnessed, it didn’t change the fact that he was my dear friend who stood by me during some of the worst times of my then-young life.

Fast forward about 20 years. My then-husband died of a massive heart attack on March 27, 1999 in my living room, in my arms. The first people I called after the paramedics arrived were his brother, and his friend from work, a gay man and his partner. The gay couple drove straight to my house and followed us in the ambulance to the hospital. They, along with my husband’s brother and sister-in-law, waited with us in the family room, crying silently, sending me good vibes across the space of that tiny room. We all knew my husband was dead – we were just waiting for the official news. When it came, my husband’s gay coworker wept openly, as did we all.

Two days later, at the visitation, I was paid visits by several other gay people, including some of his coworkers. I was also visited by a lesbian couple – one of which was my best friend for the last 10 years who was taking her exams in her 3rd year of medical school. Her partner was undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. And the lived in Little Rock, AR. We lived in Memphis, TN. Weeks later, one of the gay friends called to ask if he “could just do SOMETHING, ANYTHING! Put gas in the car!”

And now, after having joined this Unitarian Universalist congregation, and being allowed to serve as the Vice Chair of the GLBT+Friends committee, I have the opportunity to give something back. That something is my unequivocal support. The common thread among these friends, other than what may be seen as the obvious one of sexual orientation, is actually the lengths to which these people were willing to go for me. Even though it was inconvenient, even though it was not fun, they were there for me in the most difficult times of my life.

In November, we in Tennessee have the opportunity to vote on whether or not we want our state constitution amended to declare that marriage can only be between one man and one woman. I intend to vote against this amendment. I am a straight supporter of the GLBT community and believe that they are entitled to the same civil rights as I have. I realize that I will catch some flak from those with closed minds and cold hearts, but how can I say it’s not worth it in light of all the love and support I’ve received?

I’m asking you to examine your hearts and ask yourselves which side of this fight you wish to support. One hundred years ago, I, as a woman, would not have been allowed to vote. It took men standing along with women to obtain that right for us. White people of conscience eventually helped turn the tide in the battle for full civil rights for African Americans. And so in this fight, it’s time for heterosexuals to come out of the closet and openly support their GLBT brothers and sisters. Imagine the beloved community we can create if we all stand together on the side of love.


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