Back when I was navigating the landscape of corporate America, I became very close with a fellow co-worker. After a couple of months of working together, he asked me if I would like to meet up for dinner one night.
At that time – at the beginning of our friendship – I mistakenly thought he was asking me out because he was interested in ME. Looking back upon the circumstances, it makes me laugh because I was fully prepared to remind him of my relationship with my husband and to tell him how I thought we should just remain friends.
In reality, he had asked me out to dinner to confidentially share with me the fact that he was gay. After having been around me for a couple of months in a working environment, he had come to the hopeful conclusion that I would be okay with such a confession – but still – this was back in the early nineties when the gay community had to cautiously guard themselves against hateful – and sometimes violent – oppression towards their sexual orientation.
Turns out the open minded vibe he was picking up on from me was indeed correct – I was completely okay with him being gay ( why wouldn’t I be? ) but my initial reaction was a curious one because I had never known anyone before who was gay.
Correction: I’m sure at that point in my life that I had known someone who was gay – I, myself, just didn’t know they were gay. So when my co-worker first told me, I’m sure it was like watching the gears in my mind process the words that had just been uttered … hmmm, you’re gay … I’ve never known anyone who was gay … how do I feel about that … am I okay with that … of course I’m okay with that … why wouldn’t I be okay with that?
I was keenly aware, however, that many people that I knew – including my parents and siblings – were homophobic. They believed it to be their Christian duty to speak out against homosexuality because they believed such to be an abomination to God.
An abomination? Really?
The definition of abomination is something that causes disgust or hatred. So why would God himself create something that was born in a manner that would then cause him to be disgusted by it and cause him to hate it?
Christian logic is sometimes completely illogical.
But I digress. My point is, the more openly I accepted gay people, the more my family closed down and no longer accepted me. After a decade of this back and forth, I ultimately decided to disentangle myself from the emotional burden of my parent’s (and sibling’s) expectations and to just live my life according to my own beliefs and values.
I did. I made my stand. I made my beliefs and values known.
My parents and I didn’t speak again for almost five years.
And although we are on speaking terms again now – and have been for awhile – it is still a struggle. My parents still believe homosexuality is a sin but whenever my mother uses a derogatory gay term around me, she immediately apologizes.
So I guess that’s progress?
My friend and I have long since lost touch with one another – no more weekend getaways, no more poker nights, no more taking me to gay bars to introduce me to some of the coolest people I’ve ever met – but I will still be forever grateful for the experience of having known him. That may sound rather melodramatic but if one friendship eventually leads to more open minds … and those open minds lead to more friendships … then it’s like a domino effect.
And maybe – just maybe … that last domino will eventually fall.