Living in blue states and having blue friends, sometimes, I think, shelters a lot of lefties. You start thinking, “Holy fuck, what the fuck could these people possibly be thinking when they go around willy-nilly nullifying other people’s marriages? What the hell?”
What you don’t realize is that all that rhetoric and scare-mongering? The “gay agenda” stuff? People really do believe that. They really do believe that “those gays” will take away their rights. Because hey, after all, it’s what they’re trying to do. Pre-emptive strike.
I was on my way to our weekly workout with my work workout group, and the two guys in the group are talking about some creepy guy at the YMCA who grabbed at their arms and said, “Ah, you guys are really working out hard, huh?” wink wink nudge nudge (I would be equally creeped out if any stranger grabbed at any part of my body in any way).
Our trainer said, “You know, we had a trainer where I used to work who had a guy ask him out to lunch.”
“So he didn’t drop that convenient, `my girlfriend’ line?” I said. Because, you know, when you get hit on, name-dropping an SO is the most convenient way to say you aren’t interested, no matter the person’s sex.
“Too many people play both sides,” said our programmer.
“I guess,” I said, “but guys should get used to the `my girlfriend’ line. You’re just not used to getting hit on.”
“No,” said our DB guy, “that’s really what gay people think. They just think that if everybody tried to be gay, they’d be gay.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I said.
“I have this gay friend -” (oh god, yes, he really said this. Anytime anyone prefaces a statement like this, you know you’re in for it) “and he says that all gay people really think that everyone is gay. And if they can just get you to try it that you’ll be converted.”
“Once you go gay, you never go away??” our trainer said.
“That is the biggest load of bullshit,” I said. “Your `friend’ does not speak for all gay people. That’s crap.”
“That’s what he said!!”
Our DB guy was really sincere about this. Maybe he didn’t wholeheartedly believe it, but you could see that there was this small, terrified part of him that was mortified to think that it might be true, and that all the gay men at the Y wanted to seduce him.
And this is not an isolated thing. People who have no experience hanging out with people who are different than them, who have bottled up desires themselves, who refuse to engage or think about or acknowledge difference because it’s scary… they really do think this stuff.
Yes, things are changing. Prop 8 passed by a very narrow margin. The reason it was so narrow is because there are more people today who stand up and say, “You’re full of crap,” or “Dude, I’m gay, and that’s totally retarded. That’s like saying all straight guys are rapists.” And for those in really red, red, red closeted states, there are more positive portrayals of gay and lesbian characters on television (yeah, it’s still mostly shitty, but like tough female characters, it’s getting better, just not really fast). There’s a much higher awareness and acceptance of those feelings among the younger generation, and shit, gay people can even get married overseas and in select parts of the US and the world hasn’t exploded.
It’s not going to happen all at once. These fears don’t go away all at once. They are chipped away at slowly. It takes time. And hard fighting. Don’t forget the hard fighting – nothing worth winning ever came without a fight. Civil rights, the women’s movement… it’s taken us this long just to get this far (and sweet god, look how far we fucking have to go), and gay civil rights has a shorter organized history in this country.
Give it time. Keep fighting for it. Educate people. Call them on their bullshit. Don’t let people wallow in fear and ignorance. At the end of the day, everybody will make up their own mind, but for fuck’s sake, make sure they’re not making decisions based on fear and ignorance.
Because, trust me, my blue state friends, there’s a lot of fear and ignorance out there. We fear what we don’t understand. And we try to destroy what we fear.
Let’s chip away at the fear.