So it’s that time of year again, International Day Against Homophobia, and we’re all hopping to show our support. Two years ago, I showed you what homophobia really was. Last year, I encouraged people to share their stories. This year, I want to talk about changing the world, one person at a time.
Read on, there be prizes 😀
Recently, a Reddit post caught my eye, asking ex-homophobes what changed their minds. Go read it: it’s long, but well worth a look. The same comments came up again and again and again.
–Imagine my surprise at 28 to finally meet and become close to a bunch of random gay people and realize that they were just people.
–I gradually realized that these people didn’t want to molest little kids or turn me into “one of them,” they just wanted to be. Multiple encounters with multiple people helped me slowly branch the void.
–I joined a fraternity and we had 3 gay brothers in it.
–Seeing how much my aunt actually loved her wife, while others in my family got divorced and hated each other.
–…my roommate from college came out to me. He was one of my closest friends up to that point in my life, so, of course, I supported him completely without question. At the same time, I realized how much my own behavior must have made it more difficult for him to figure out that he was gay and what a shitty friend I’d been.
–I actually started working with people that were gay and they were just your averaging normal people who liked the same sex.
–It wasn’t until my best female friend one day introduced me to her girlfriend that any preconceived notions I had were pretty much wiped out.
Seeing a pattern? Highfalutin rhetoric about same-sex marriage and scriptural interpretation and scientific studies changes very little in hearts and minds that are already made up. Indeed, it’s been my experience that the harder you argue along those lines, the more entrenched both sides become. It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is to establish that we are, indeed, born that way, it will never be as powerful as hearing those words from your best friend, spoken about himself.
What those comments have in common is the conviction that it was knowing gay people — friends, family, coworkers — that changed their minds and opened their hearts. It got personal, and basic human interaction trumps received wisdom and nebulous fears.
Then you start to hear some of the horrible legal shit that happens to these people. You go from “civil unions are fine, it’s just a piece of paper” to seeing the absolutely fucked up situation where your friend isn’t allowed to visit his live-in partner of 4+ years in the hospital because he’s not technically family. You see your gay friend always talking about his “girlfriend” at work because he knows the VP in charge of his division is a religious homophobic nut, and it’s easier to pretend than to risk anything (this was before sexual orientation became protected in DC – it’s still not in most states). This is just a small sampling of some of the horrible shit we and our legal system do to these people, and when it’s happening to someone you’re friends with you realize how fucked up it is.
Now when someone says something homophobic or just ignorant like “why can’t they be happy with civil unions” you get pissed. You’ve seen this shit affect your friends, you know it’s real. You care. And that’s how you go from being homophobic to the opposite.
It’s easy to get complacent and think there’s no harm in denying same-sex couples the right to marriage; the LGBT community basic workplace and housing protections. Marriage is just a piece of paper, plenty of straight couples don’t even bother with it. How difficult is it not to mention your boyfriend at work, anyway?
Then one of your friends loses their home or their job, or they’re repeated passed over for promotion in favour of less qualified colleagues, or their partner gets sick and the doctors won’t let them into the ward to see them. Suddenly, it matters. Suddenly, you see the harm.
The most effective thing we can do as a community is be visible. Simply living our lives and sharing our experiences changes the world around us and makes it better for everybody. Telling my grandmother I was marrying a woman was a pretty nerve-wracking experience, but it would have been a whole lot worse if her best friend’s daughter hadn’t paved that path for me.
Yes, we have our safety to think of — there are reasons it’s called passing privilege — and every act of coming out has to be an individual decision made on a case-by-case basis, but when we waver, we should err on the side of bravery. Your dick cousin or dudebro best friend might just surprise you, and your words might just change the world a little bit for the better.
If you got this far, that means I didn’t lose you to the Reddit article 😀
As a thanks for sticking with me and offering the hop your support, leave a comment and on 24th May I’ll pick one random winner to receive a signed paperback copy of The Slave, plus I’ll make a £15 donation to the Albert Kennedy Trust in their name to provide a bed for a night for a young LGBT person in crisis. Three runners up will win a backlist ebook of their choice (boxsets excluded).
Don’t forget to visit the main blog for the hop to check out posts from other authors and bloggers!