Since I first reached an understanding of what it means to be gay, I’ve firmly believed that there is nothing wrong with that, that being gay is not a choice any more than being straight is. When my home state of Massachusetts became the only state to allow gay marriage, I was proud to say, that’s my state. But I had never been close to anyone who was gay. There were acquaintances, but no one I was friends with was outright gay, or came out while I stayed in touch with them. So, by necessity, believing in gay rights was strictly a moral stance in my case. I had no personal experience to back up my beliefs, but it didn’t matter.
I have always seen homophobia as discrimination on par with prejudice against African Americans, women or anyone else. As humans, we are destined to continually repeat history. Just as other groups have had to fight for their equality without the populace grasping that this is the same fight every group in the past has faced, people today cannot seem to recognize that denying homosexual rights is just as wrong as denying black people or women their rights. Today, we can’t say enough how wrong we think slavery is. We would no longer suggest two African Americans “broom-jump” instead of legally entering into marriage, because we no longer consider them to be three fifths of a person. But gay people can only have civil unions. Sound familiar? I fail to see a real difference.
Shortly before winter break, I received a letter from my best friend. I like to tell people that I’ve known her since birth, because we met when our older siblings became friends at their preschool and haven’t stopped our “play dates” since. Our families are so close that, for many years, Christmas Eve was reserved for seeing relatives, but December 26 was our day to have dinner with her family and exchange presents. I was shocked to read in my friend’s letter that her mother, who has been divorced for as long as I can remember, had fallen in love and come out. I hadn’t had the slightest suspicion but, at the same time, you don’t often question the basic facts about people you’ve always known. I found that I was in a situation I didn’t quite want to admit: never having really known a gay person before, I couldn’t guarantee that I would act normally around her, even though I wanted to. I had to put my money where my mouth was. Nevertheless, I was glad to hear that she was happy. As a single mother working long hours all her life, she definitely deserves to find happiness.
When I saw my friend over break, her mother and her girlfriend were there. I finally experienced firsthand what I’ve always preached: her mother was the same person she had always been. And her girlfriend was just another person, as wonderful as her mother. Nothing has changed; now there is just another person to critique the outfits on Project Runway with us, and a brighter smile on my friend’s mother’s face. How could that be wrong?