When you are a gay man, especially a gay man of my generation, you learn early that you are not like most of the other people around you. It can be a scary, lonely feeling in the beginning. Because everybody else knows it too. Even your parents know it. There is always this unspoken word hovering around all your interactions with other people. And you begin to realize that you are at risk.
At first, the risk is being excluded, or being ridiculed. Then it’s physical. You worry about getting beaten up. As you grow up the risk never goes away, in fact it grows with you. Will I be rejected by my family? Will I lose my job? Will I find a place to live? Will anybody love me? Will anybody take care of me when I’m old?
But you know what? You get through all that. It even makes you stronger. You figure out who you are.
Let me say that again – you figure out who you are.
Once you do that you can live your best life. You can be a better person.
You can see the world more clearly. You understand the real meaning of compassion and kindness. You earn a certain wisdom.
And the truth is, the world has gotten so much better for the lgbt community than it was when I entered it so many years ago. I never dreamed I would have the right to marry. Or there would be a pill that could protect you from HIV. Every evening average Americans watch top rated TV shows with significant lgbt storylines. As I am writing this, a gay man is a top contender for the presidential nomination.
So you start to let yourself forget.
That there are still Americans who would kill you just for being what you are. That there are people who won’t hire you for a job, won’t want you in their home, won’t serve you in their businesses. That there are still organizations actively working to make your life criminal.
The progress we have made is fragile. It could so easily be destroyed. And for me there is no more painful and chilling reminder of this than when someone you love, someone who has always claimed to care about you, someone you have respected, admired, and known to be a good person, someone who has been an ally to the LGBT community, seems to turn right around and align themselves with the very people working so hard to pull it all down.
It’s not complicated. If an organization, political or religious, is against marriage equality, believes that businesses ought to be able to deny services to the LGBT community or to fire someone one the basis of their sexual orientation, is against gay adoption, promotes the psychologically barbaric practice of conversion therapy in any form, or works to get laws passed to criminalize homosexuality—that organization is anti-LGBT and homophobic. If that’s not you, don’t support them.
There are so many religious organizations out there who do good things that don’t have an anti-LGBT agenda. No matter your political party, there are always candidates who will champion your fiscal philosophies – and don’t have an anti-LGBT agenda. Choose one of them.
We are your friends, your cousins, your neighbors, your co-workers, and we know you love us. When bigots and haters support these groups it makes us angry, yet we can deal with that because we know what those people are. But when the ones who love us do it – it hurts us in a way that no bigot ever could. Because we love you too. Don’t put us once again, at risk.