Thursday, May 17, 2012
Hop Against Homophobia
It's no secret that homophobia is an issue close to my heart, so I decided to participate in the Hop Against Homophobia.
I grew up queer in the South. I can remember sitting around the lunch table at my grandmother's house (my father's mother), good Christian woman that she was, and listening to her talk about "the colored" family down the street, or listening to my uncle John, my father's brother, make jokes about gay people. One of his favorites to tell was two gay guys pick up a hitch hiker. They fart a lot, and their farts don't make noise, and finally the hitch hiker farts, and it makes a noise, and the gay guys shout "we got us a virgin!!!" ::deadpan:: Yeah.
So, it should be no surprise that I spent a great deal of my life in the closet. That didn't stop people from just assuming I was gay. In junior high someone spray-painted "faggot" on my locker. After graduation, when I was living on my own, someone slashed my tires *in* my driveway after I'd brought a woman home (I was living as a woman then).
One of the guys I went to high school with was out and proud and very loud about his sexual orientation. At the time, I thought he was nuts. He got beat up weekly - something no one in the school management seemed to care about. Once he was beaten so badly he ended up in the hospital. I mean, this went on for the entire four years he was at school. NO ONE did anything about it. The boys who started it were never punished. The school took the attitude that if my friend was going to be disruptive, he deserved what he got. In any event, I asked him one day, why he didn't just conform. Just for his own personal safety. Just until he was out of high school. Just stop...acting gay. After all, no one could take away who he was on the inside. He would still be gay. Just not bruised and bloody all the time. He just shrugged and said none of it mattered, as long as he was true to himself.
He's a successful business man at an ad agency and in a committed relationship of over ten years, raising his drug-addicted, and, ironically heterosexual, sister's child. I say ironically because she was always the star of his family growing up. She was the one who was supposed to go far. You know, because she was straight.
After I finally came out, my mother used to say things like "I don't want this to hamper you," about my being queer. The rest of my family didn't have much to say - they all just quietly disowned me.
I still deal with veiled homophobia from a lot of sources. My mother in law is "glad" I don't use the "family name" for my GLBTQ writing. It's not the fact that I write romance that she cares about - she reads tons and tons of heterosexual smut - it's the fact that I write *gay* romance. My boss claims to be GLBTQ friendly but frequently makes hateful comments. Hell, my best friend from growing up still uses the phrase "that's so gay."
But on the flip side of that, is my husband. Thirteen years ago, if you had told my straighter than straight husband that he'd one day be married to a man, he'd have asked you what you were smoking. He's never been a homophobe, but he's always considered himself straight. We met in 1999. We married in 2003. I came out as transgender in 2009. It's been a long, rough road, but the one constant in my life has been him. His perceptions of life and people have changed dramatically. Little things he'd once have brushed off, like his cousin using the phrase "ass pirate," are now things that anger him. He never hated anyone, but he never realized how much hate was out there until it was in his face.
Also on the flip side of that, is a woman I used to work with. She was in her late 60s when we worked together, and I was pretty much the first queer person she'd had a chance to be around day in and day out. Her beliefs, when we first met, were right along the lines of what I'd grown up with. But the more she knew me, the more she spent time with me, the more I challenged her conceptions. I didn't do it actively. I didn't go up to her and get in her face. I just existed. I did good things. I respected people - I even respected her right to not entirely like me. And I didn't try to convert anyone to the "dark side." One day, she started paying attention to our clients, a lot of whom are gay. And she said it occurred to her to think, "Where are all these gay people coming from? they weren't around when I was growing up. What's going on?" So, she talked to some friends about it. Her friends revealed that "Well, so and so is gay. Talk to him." Someone she'd grown up with was GAY?? She got in touch with him, and after talking to him, she realized what his life had been like - strictly closeted out of fear growing up, unable to share stories about the man he loved, unable to be seen publicly together, unable to share holidays and birthdays. Unable to be at the hospital as his beloved slipped away and died after a car crash in his thirties. She came to me one day and told me all of this, and then she hugged me, and she said, "No one had the right to keep those men apart. Not at the end, not at the beginning. No one has the right to make anyone feel less than human."
Though I'll rally against them till the day I die, I'm actually kind of glad for the bigots and the homophobes in my life. They've made me appreciate the open-minded people all the more. And they've made me cherish the small victories. Because that's how change happens - one small victory at a time.
And now for my "prize" offering. :-)
Leave a comment below with your e-mail, and I'll pick a random winner at the end of the hop. That winner will have a $50 donation made to The Trevor Project in their name.
Good luck! :-)