Homophobes, what do you really fear?
A day or so ago, an angel friend of my late brother and one of the joys of my heart, posted an article about the rather salaciously gay behavior demonstrated by a bunch of French protesters of gay marriage.
Really? Half naked photo shots of them all sitting ever so near and dear? A quite juicy picture of them sitting on each other’s shoulders with their shirts off?
I enjoy a gorgeous young man in the semi-altogether as much as any red-blooded heterosexual woman of whatever age and marital status, but to see them all snuggled up together even as they spew hatred? The word hypocrite comes to mind even as further suspicions gather.
Almost 38 years ago, probably within a month of now, I was visiting a friend with my baby daughter when her son and two friends came vaulting into her kitchen, boasting that they were gonna go out on the town and bash them some f**gs. All fired up they were, bursting with testosterone, hostility and aggression; they were abristle with excitement.
I was sitting there with my tiny, fuzzy-headed daughter nestled against my breast, feeling the vesuvial rage erupt through my very viscera. I cradled my little one close as I remembered the drag queens who had welcomed me in off the streets of my hometown when I was 15, only five years before. Their tender kindness in giving me food, a safe place to sleep and a listening ear was a big part of why I survived. Well I remembered the stories they and their friends told of the brutality they’d suffered, the casual cruelties even on the best of days.
“How dare you!” I growled, pinning the entire gang of miscreants with my stare. “How dare you contemplate harming someone for being who they are. How would you like it if someone came along and beat you to a bloody pulp for being straight?” I don’t remember everything I said, it being 40 years ago, but I knew I had to weave a prison of my words, to stop them with all the power I could muster. If I let them get through the door, someone would suffer.
I told them that there was nothing wrong with being gay, that it did not harm any of them in the slightest. I told them they had no right to hurt another human being who had never done anything to them. I knew better than to give them a moment to protest, to gather wind to launch a counter-argument. There was no argument they could have mustered that I could not have defeated anyway. I’d made a practice of enticing people to argue points they could not win because, in my youth, I was an arrogant little twit and it amused me to play with people who saw themselves as older, smarter and wiser.
I had no idea that I would be using this ill-gotten skill to perhaps even save an innocent life – and maybe keep these little bastards out of jail.
I’m not sure how long I spoke – ranted, really – pouring every bit of strength and power I had into my words, but at least they had stopped trying to get out the door. My friend just stood back and let me run with it. What I do remember – vividly – is that they slowly seemed to run out of steam. The shoulders that were aquiver with the violence they felt from within lowered and the eager bouncing subsided into a quiet, even ashamed stance. Nor do I remember if they said anything as they trailed out of the room, but I know that, at least tonight and perhaps forever from these three, there would be no harm done.
After that, I remember only relief.
But there was more. Fast forward at least 20 years. I was visiting the same friend and that night came up in the conversation.
“I remember that night, too,” my friend said. “It turned out that one of those boys was gay. He was going along with it because he was terrified that if he didn’t, they would figure it out. That was the night he got the courage to come out and to be who he was. You gave him that courage.”
I was floored to hear this, and a huge well of emotion rose within me, stinging my eyes. One of those boys was gay? And my words gave him the courage to embrace himself? My words had done this? I had done more than just that moment’s good? I suddenly wished he was been right there so I could open my arms to embrace him, to praise him for learning to love himself, and to tell him how glad I was that I could help give him the courage it took to do so, especially almost 40 years ago.
It begs the question, though – how many people out there who appear to hate are simply terrified of being found out if they don’t go along? How many people live and die in fear because they live in a climate that makes the price of embracing themselves simply unpayable?
In a world full of war, famine, child abuse, cruelty of all sorts – how on earth can we make it a punishable offense to love? And how can we help give courage to people who are still too afraid to love who they truly are?
We have so much more work to do.