A Straight Girl's Big Gay Manifesto, by Andrea

Monday, October 29th, 2012

It is my aim to see an end to discrimination and bullying, both overt and subversive, based on sexual orientation in my lifetime. I’m pretty sure I’ve made this clear to anyone who will listen, but what I don’t think I have made clear is why I care so much.

I started collecting gays before I even knew that I knew gay people. I have pictures from a junior high dance with one of my girlfriends and a guy friend who looked like Ducky from Pretty in Pink. So gay, and so fun, and I had no idea. My Junior Prom date was gay. Of course he was. His name was Kip and he was hot and had bleached blond hair and agreed to wear a white suit with a peach cummerbund (Yes, that is the correct spelling, I kid you not. Google it.). We danced and laughed and I went to see him star in his school play. Doing backflips. Him, not me. He was so freaking cute. And so not interested in anything more than giggling and gossiping with me. I was so confused.

39571_mediumThen I went to college and met the first homosexual who made it clear to me he was gay. Sam at the TeleFund. I remember making posters with him late one night and realizing he had no sense of color or design whatsoever. I called him out on it and he replied, “Well just take away my gay card then, what do you want from me?” That was how he came out to me, and let me tell you, this little girl from Peoria was shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Then I realized I didn’t actually care and we laughed until I sprouted tears, made gurgling sounds and peed a little.

And the stories pile up from there. No matter where I go, I meet “friends of the family.” I don’t seek them out, and I’m 100% certain they’re not seeking out straight women in their mid-30s, but we inevitably find one another. I don’t have a particular affinity for boys who are into boys. I just like people who are interesting, decent, genuine and relatively intelligent, and I’ve found an inordinate number of people who fit that description in the gay community. And certainly it doesn’t hurt that gay men love people with big personalities, particularly women, treat the women in their lives like gold and compliment us even when we look like death on a triscuit. And frankly, each time life has launched laser-guided bombs in my general direction, most of my straight friends have bugged out… My gay friends never did. But I digress.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been accepted into the lives of a large number of gay men over the last 15 years or so. I’ve asked all the stupid questions and had them patiently answered, and I’ve heard stories that shocked me, broke my heart, and caused me to question the future of humanity. And I realized, love is hard enough. Finding it sometimes seems an impossible dream, and keeping it can be even harder. If you’re not looking for it, you have it and are terrified of losing it. And yet we insist upon telling one specific segment of the population that their version of it is not acceptable. Sometimes that comes in the form of, “You can have the impulses, but that doesn’t mean you have to act on them.” Other times it’s, “Do what you want, but I don’t want to know about it.” Or my personal favorite, “God made us so only men and women could procreate, so homosexuality is wrong and people shouldn’t decide to be gay.” That last one makes my head spin around Linda Blair-style.

I say all of this because I’ve been asked, and have questioned myself, why I take up this cause so frequently rather than say, racism or equality for women in the workplace or animal cruelty or domestic abuse… or any number of other societal ills that need curing. Well, I’ve spent time on each of those things as well, and probably will continue to do so as the opportunity presents itself. But when I look around I see the pursuit of love and companionship as the foremost driving force of the behavior of most people I know. No one likes to admit it… But when people are in relationships, even horrible ones, they are happier. They are happier because they feel more secure. They have a go-to when life gets rough or they have a secret to tell or a happiness to share or groceries to carry, or a doctor visit they can’t get themselves home from. They feel they have a leg up on the world, now that they are two. When they’re not in a relationship, all of a sudden nothing else looks quite right either. Everyone is guilty of it and if you say you’re not, you are not being honest with yourself.

Given that primal need for companionship, I see it as a special kind of cruelty to judge someone on the basis of which gender they are naturally attracted to. Of all the petty things. And to go beyond simply judging them to supporting legislation that keeps rights from them that exist for the remainder of the population, and calling them names on the street and in their homes (yes, cyber-bullying counts as bullying) to the extent that they become fearful of displaying any outward indication of their orientation… Or simply allowing the cruelty to happen and looking away. Or speaking about the lifestyle in a negative or sarcastic way in the presence of children who then go to school and taunt the people they heard mom and dad laughing about at dinner. These things are not okay with me. I want them to stop. But as my dear mother likes to say, “Want in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one fills up first.” (She’s a classy lady.) Wanting it isn’t enough.

And here’s the thing that flipped my switch on this: Facebook. Facebook allows us all a window into many different worlds simultaneously, and what I see from my gay friends is a bunch of people preaching to the choir. Hordes of gay people posting and reposting and sharing and liking links to things the world needs to know about. But they’re talking to one another, and no one else is listening. When the suicide rates for gay teenagers shot up and hit the news, you know what my straight friends were talking about on FaceBook? Football. And The Bachelor. They had no idea the gay community was in need of their help because the screaming was happening inside a secure, soundproof capsule from which they were insulated.

But it is the straight people who have the ability to make it stop. We’re the problem. The gays are not the ones bullying one another to death and they’re not the ones procreating and filling the world with more people who feel the need to use my tax dollars to legislate people’s love lives. Oh, and p.s. They’re also not breeding more gays. It’s us doing that. And I want US to pay attention. So, sometimes I open the door so the screaming can be heard, and I will continue to do so to the extent I can without allowing the screaming to become so commonplace it fades into the scenery and becomes muted.

My goal in life is simple. I want to leave the world better than I found it, even if only for one person who pays it forward, and if I can’t do that then at minimum I want to leave it no worse off. So this is my small contribution toward that end.

-Andrea (Chicago)



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