Today is apparently National Coming Out Day. My thinking has really evolved over the years on the issue of gay rights. (“Gay rights” is something of a misnomer, I think — what I mean by it is basically the notion that you should treat gays with the same respect and decency that you’d show to anyone else.) I grew up thinking I was homophobic, probably into college somewhere.
Anyway, I think my evolution on the subject was triggered when I actually knew real people who were gay – gays weren’t just abstract, notional others upon whom I could project fears and prejudices. Once they were real people, I had to start thinking about them as such.
The thinking went from “gays are bad and icky; I dislike them.” To, “that guy seems pretty decent; oh, he’s gay; no skin off my nose.” After that first encounter, and the advent of Facebook, I came to learn that I knew a lot of gay men. (Oddly, the only friends I know to be lesbians are online – as opposed to in-person – acquaintances.) I suppose I don’t know what I would have done with that information had I known they were gay in high school or college or whatever. (Maybe they weren’t quite sure, themselves.) Regardless, I’m glad they are friends now. From my perspective, the value of gays “coming out” is that most of us have an easier time hating abstract strangers who are different; it’s a whole different story when it is your friends and family. Maybe when we have a more accurate idea of how many people, and who, are actually gay; we will treat the issue a little more rationally. A guy can dream anyway.