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Get ready, folks. Open season on gays is about to begin. With the announcement that the US Supreme Court will hear arguments on the same sex marriage issue in April and settle the issue by the end of June, we can expect our Internet, radio, and TV to be filled with anti-gay rhetoric well into the summer. Those heterosexuals, especially the far right conservative ones, can't help themselves.
Yeah, I know. They have free speech and religious rights so they can say whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. If the truth hurts, get over it. Funny thing, though, is rights come with responsibilities, both moral and ethical. When it comes to the topic of homosexuality, those responsibilities are sorely lacking among the loudest objectors to anything gay.
Now you might be thinking that because you don't want your child exposed to anything in school that might imply being gay is normal or you really believe "those people" are going to burn in Hell for their "lifestyle choice", there's nothing wrong with stating your opinions because you have the right to state them.
Yes, you have the right as do all the political pundits, editorialists, religious leaders, political leaders, amateur and professional bloggers, talk show callers and anyone else who can get at least one person to listen to them. Unfortunately, when all these talkers shirk their moral and ethical responsibilities while exercising their free speech rights, what the listeners are left with is empty rhetoric. Let's look at how all that empty rhetoric affected the lives of two gay men, John and Allan.
A Tale of Two Gay Men
John grew up in the country. From an early age, he loved animals and plants. He raised rabbits, geese, ducks, and chickens as pets and made a small water garden where he kept minnows and frogs. When he hit preadolescence, he knew he was different. All his friends were hanging out with girls more. His friends were discovering girls didn't have cooties. Girls actually smelled nice. John, however, started feeling differently about his friends. He knew his thoughts were bad thoughts. It's not that anyone ever sat him down and explained what homosexuality was and why it was bad. He just knew what he was feeling was bad...not normal. He was thinking like one of those perverts everyone saw on TV and made fun of.
Allan grew up two hundred miles away in the rural suburbs. He loved his Saturday morning cartoons, science fiction shows (especially Lost in Space and Star Trek), and surf music. He loved gardening and taking his bike to nearby woods to look for lizards, turtles, and snakes. He and his friends were on a quest to look for mutant creatures allegedly escaped from a research lab in the area. When he hit preadolescence, he knew he was different. All his friends were hanging out with girls more. His friends were discovering girls didn't have cooties. Girls actually smelled nice. Allan, however, started feeling differently about his friends. He knew his thoughts were bad thoughts. Having a born again Mom and being dragged to an evangelical Church every Sunday, he was taught that gays were perverts who would burn in Hell. If he couldn't get rid of these feelings beginning to surface, no one would love him...not even God.
At first, John simply ignored his feelings believing they would eventually go away. It was probably just a phase he was going through. He had heard the phase thing before and figured he was simply behind his friends in growing up. The bad thoughts would fade away and he would develop normal thoughts about girls like his friends had done. By the time he entered high school and his thoughts still weren't changing, he learned how to hide who he was, but refused to accept. He didn't want to be shunned as a pervert and maybe even beaten up because he had bad thoughts. He even played the part of a normal, heterosexual teen by taking a girl to the Christmas dance in the tenth grade. Bad enough he was three left feet on the dance floor, but on the inside, his feet didn't even fit him. He was lying - to himself and to his date - and he wasn't a liar by nature. The Christmas dance was the only dance he attended. After that night, he joined after school activities that he knew would interfere with dance nights so he wouldn't have to lie any more. He even joined the track team because he knew the state finals were always held on prom night. The coach made it clear that any runner who chose the prom over running in the state finals would not get their varsity letter. John had a ready-made excuse come that important senior prom night.
Allan struggled through high school in complete denial. He hated school. He hated his Mom's Church. He hated his Dad. He hated God. The harder he tried to be straight and the harder he prayed to be straight, the harder his feelings of who he really was would try to surface. He hated gym class because he thought he threw like a girl and he hated his voice because he thought it was not manly enough. His only escape from his inner torment was to drink beer and get high. God already hated him for being gay and he was doomed to burn in Hell so he doubted God would care if he escaped the world through drugs and alcohol. Despite his personal struggles, Allan managed to graduate high school and set out to find a job. He wasn't a star student and felt college was out of his reach.
John graduated high school and went to college. He knew he wasn't going through a phase. He was gay, plain and simple, but he was determined not to let anyone else know. If everyone found out, his family would disown him and his friends would shun him. He'd be left all alone with only those gay perverts in the university's gay and lesbian club for support. Oh, John always wanted to attend one of their monthly get-togethers just to meet others who had thoughts like him and maybe make sense of what he was feeling, but fear kept him away. The closest he would get was volunteering to work one of their events as a security guard. That is how he met Ray. Ray sensed something different about John and struck up a conversation with him. Later, around campus, Ray would run into John and they'd talk like friends and a relationship grew. For John, it was on the down low, and every time he met Ray, he was scared God would strike him dead on the spot. John was raised in a Christian household, but he never been to Church. Disagreement over Catholic or Baptist between Mom and Dad meant no one ever went to Church. Despite the lack of formal religious upbringing, John knew gays - people like him - were an abomination in God's eyes. That subconscious knowledge was so strong, the first time he and Ray went the equivalent of a heterosexual's version of third base, John hurriedly left the room without his coat, knees shaking and sweating as if it were summer even though it was the middle of a cold, winter, January night. He was nineteen and Ray was his first near sexual encounter...and last until after he left college. Turned out, John's best friend had followed him that night and asked him the next day why he would want to have anything to do with "a guy like that." John didn't want to risk being outed and decided to withdraw his feelings deeper inside or, like his favorite band at the time would say, it was all just another brick in the wall.
Allan found a job at a nursery after high school. It paid minimum wage, but no one out of high school expects to get paid more. It was a start and it was in a career field he loved. It didn't take him long to learn that as much as he loved plants and gardening, he didn't care for the nursery business. His three favorite flowers - mums, poinsettias, and Easter lilies - became his worst nightmare. Getting those flowers to bloom when people want them to bloom is a repetitiously tedious job. But he worked hard and even fought off a rabid raccoon once. He dreamed of the day he might own a nursery of his own. He fought his perverted feeling every waking moment of the day and was determined to live the good, Christian life like his Mom. If he found the right girl, he could marry her and work hard at making the marriage work. His perverted feelings would go away and he'd live his life the way God meant him to live his life. Who he thought was the right girl did come around about the time he was twenty and she accepted his proposal. Because of his strong, religious upbringing, the girl he asked to marry knew long before his proposal that he was gay because he didn't hide behind lies and deceit. They had two daughters and he worked two jobs to support the family since his wife didn't work. Despite his gay desires, he remained faithful to his wife for seven years before his world came tumbling down. Not only did he learn that his wife had been cheating on him for a year, but her boyfriend raped their seven-year-old daughter. While most people would blame the wife and the pedophile for the tragedy and demise of the family, Allan blamed himself. If he weren't gay, God wouldn't be punishing him like this.
In his last semester of college, John decided to drop out and join the military. His decision was strictly financial. Despite selecting a computer science major he had no interest in - but he selected because his Dad said, "I'm not paying for my son to tip-toe through the tulips" (a sly reference to his feelings towards his son's interests in nature) - John put himself through college with no help from Mom and Dad. In his last semester, his financial aid dried up and the military sounded like a logical choice to be able to pursue his degree, either while enlisted or afterwards with the GI Bill. It was during his four years of honorable military service that John honed his skills at leading a dual life. It was easy to do. In fact, too easy. By the time John accepted his honorable discharge four years later, he struggled with a new self he didn't like, a self that had become a deceitful liar, and a skillful one at that. When he was discharged, he decided to stay where the military had taken him, two thousand miles away from his family and friends. He could finally live his life the way he truly was - honest and gay. There were no family, friends, or military to judge him. A little more than a year after leaving the military, he dated a guy who he thought was "the one". Unfortunately, "the one" lasted five years. He came from an evangelical family and was never able to come to terms with his homosexuality. Drugs eventually consumed him as he sought self medication for his emotional problems that John couldn't help him with. The struggle landed John in financial ruin and homeless. He had no choice but to return home once he saved enough money to make the trip.
Fresh from his divorce, Allan was ready to start life anew and honestly. Financially, it was a little harder now because he had two daughters to support, but he paid that child support every month before he spent money on himself. It took awhile for him to get over not being there to protect his daughter from a monster, and he truly never did get over it. His ex wife took his daughters almost a thousand miles away and despite his best efforts, distance, money constraints, and Mom and Dad animosity prevented him from being a part of their lives. His family died the day that monster raped his daughter. Allan vowed to pick up the pieces and start life anew on his terms. God had other plans. The AIDS epidemic of the mid to late eighties was God's warning for Allan to rid his mind of the perverted thoughts of homosexuality. Allan was terrified to walk past a gay bar much less enter one. A couple of years after his divorce, another girl walked into his life. Like his first wife, this girl knew Allan was gay before saying, "I do." Honesty was always important to Allan even if it meant rejection so he never hid the fact. With his second wife, he had a daughter and a son. After fathering three daughters, he was ecstatic to finally have a son. Now you have to understand something about Allan. He's a very simple man. He had a decent paying job, better than minimum wage but not solid middle class pay, either. He worked; his wife didn't. Every paycheck he'd give to his wife to deposit in the bank and pay the bills. As he told the judge when his license was suspended for not paying a speeding ticket, "If you can't trust your wife, who can you trust?" The speeding ticket wasn't the only thing that didn't get paid. By fluke, Allan called out sick one day only to have a sheriff come by his house to notify "all occupants" they had until nine the next morning to vacate the house. The mortgage wasn't getting paid and his house was being foreclosed. He had less than sixteen hours to get everything he owned out of the house. His wife, son, and daughter went to live with a friend and he left to live with his Mom and Dad while they tried to straighten everything out. Of course they filed for divorce, but at the urging of Allan's Mom, he agreed to have a paternity test for his son. Turns out his son of four years wasn't his. The friend his wife moved in with was the father. For four years, he thought he finally had a son, but that was taken from him. Like his first marriage, this one, too, lasted only seven years before collapsing.
John came home after his failures two thousand miles away. By this time, he had grown tired of pretending who he was. Since his military days, he read the Old Testament twice and the New Testament four times. It took him until he was almost thirty-years-old to finally say to himself the lying and being deceitful were worse than being gay. He vowed that he wouldn't hide under the curtain of deceit, so if anyone outright asked him if he were gay, he would answer honestly. He asked God to forgive him for all of his years of lies and deceit and held firm to the belief that God would lead him on the right path. God gave him, like He gave everyone else, the greatest gift of all - the need to love and be loved. John believed the new path God had set him on would lead him to the one he was meant to share the rest of his life with.
After his second divorce, Allan decided not to pretend he was someone he wasn't. Being in his mid thirties, he begun to break free of the evangelical death grip that held him firmly all his life. Two failed marriages, a feeling of letting his daughters down as a father, losing a son who turned out not to be his, having no one in his life, not knowing how to be gay to find someone, doubting his religious convictions and God, and entering a midlife crisis, all weighed heavily on his mind...on who he was...on his very essence of being. A guy at work, whom Allan liked, led him on only to let him crash hard. Jack was straight and played games with Allan and Allan crashed in a nervous breakdown. His boss sent him home for the rest of the week. Two days later, he received a pink slip in the mail. After twelve years of faithful work for the company, they unceremoniously let him go. A week later, when a friend told him nothing happened to Jack, he found the courage to march down to human resources and challenge his firing. "You fired me because I'm gay and yet nothing happened to Jack and then you fire me through the mail, not in person." His bold stance brought the CEO of the company into the fray. He was rehired, put on a leave of absence while he got some mental health help to deal with his breakdown, and then returned to work. The company instituted new policies protecting gay employees, policies Allan's coworkers quickly learned when he returned. Coworkers saying things like "Your ex allows you to visit your son and doesn't have a problem with that?" resulted in three days suspension without pay. Making Allan stand outside of the warehouse in the cold and rain because Jack was inside was quickly nixed. If Jack had a problem with Allan being around, Jack could stand outside. Allan felt his life was changing except for one thing - he had no one to share his life and the pickings at the gay bars were a conglomeration of men who hadn't accepted that being gay was normal and were hiding behind alcohol and/or drugs, and men who didn't have the addiction problem, but hid behind a professional reputation to protect. They didn't want anything more than one night with another man lest people start talking.
John entered middle age convinced he would grow old, alone. People were more accepting of gays than they were twenty-five years earlier when he entered puberty and struggled with his feelings, but he missed twenty-five years of growing and learning what a meaningful gay relationship should be. For him, it came down to nights at a gay bar, dating on the down low, and eventually moving on before people would start talking. He had already experienced being denied housing, being fired from a job, and being denied promotions because he was gay, or at least perceived to be gay. He couldn't prove his suspicions, but deep down, he knew that's why he was a middle-aged failure compared to the idealism he held for his life's future twenty-five years earlier when he was at the top of his class and the whole world lay before him to conquer. While he reached the point of having no problem looking another man in the eye who tried to down him for being gay, too many other men he met wished not to make waves. Being honest and gay became an empty path.
One night, Allan went to a gay bar like he had so many other times over the past couple of years. He had become disenfranchised with the gay community he knew. Guys he liked were only interested in a one night physical relationship. He seriously considered trying to act straight one more time if he didn't meet someone of substance this night. He drank his beer while talking with a guy he dated briefly, a guy who ended the relationship because he had his professional reputation to consider.
One night, John went to a gay bar like he had every Saturday night. He had long ago became disenfranchised with the gay community. Guys didn't understand the importance of strong, monogamous relationships. Party hard while young and hope when you're old, like middle aged or older, you have a good enough job to pay for the young guys to party with. Gay men simply didn't think in terms of falling in love and building a life together. Such a concept was something they were never taught and never learned on their own.
John left his pool game to use the bathroom. On his way, he met a friend he acknowledged while trying to make his way through the crowd. Peter said, "Hey John, this is my friend, Allan." John and Allan shook hands and pleasantries were exchanged. Peter quickly disappeared into the crowd having palmed off his ex. John, however, quickly forgot he had to use the bathroom. He and Allan talked for the next hour plus before the bartender announced last call. John said, "Well, I got to use the bathroom. I'll be right back."
John didn't expect to come out of the bathroom and find Allan waiting. He was. John was surprised. "Well, Allan, I got to get back to the pool table and finish my pitcher of beer before they kick us out. You're welcomed to join me." He turned and headed towards the pool tables not knowing if Allan followed him or not.
When he got to the pool table, he poured a glass of beer out of his pitcher and turned around. Allan was there, smiling. Allan knew he had a guy of good character worth pursuing. John knew he had a guy of good character worth fighting to keep. That was fifteen years ago and both are still together. Their arguments now are whether they will still be together in Heaven or do the vows really mean " 'Til death do us part?" It's only a philosophical argument because death won't separate them. They know it and that's good enough for them.Why did I relate this story? Simple. All to often, we think expressing our views has little or no impact on other people, but you couldn't be further from the truth. Every time you talk about "those people" and how you don't want your children to learn about that "lifestyle choice", you are condemning another child to be ashamed of who he/she is growing up to be. As a result, that gay child will expend their energy during the prime of their adulthood struggling with their sexuality to please family and friends instead of building a meaningful life for him/herself and a family he/she may want.
Free speech comes with ethical and moral responsibilities. Learn what those responsibilities are before sounding like an ass.
For your listening pleasure
God does not condemn homosexuality
God does not condemn homosexuality