Growing up, a book that had a tremendous effect on me was “A Patch of Blue.” The story goes like this:
There is a blind girl named Selena living in New York. Her mother is a Prostitute, and her grandfather is an alcoholic. They leave her alone during the days, and Selena works stringing beads in order to supplement their meager income. Eventually, she convinces her boss to allow her to string the beads outside in a park, and by being there she meets a man who would become her friend.
As time goes on, she confides in him that her mother is a prostitute, and that her mother allows men to use Selena for sex as well. Determined to bring her a better life, he finds a school for the blind that she can go to. He is able to convince her caretakers to let him take her off of their hands. Eventually, she professes her love to him. But it is not to be, because shortly thereafter as they are walking through the streets people begin to panic because she is with a black man. Up until this point she did not know, but because of her upbringing and the black world in which she lives, Selina stands still as an angry mob chases her true love away. Too late, she realizes that love is blind.
While the book is really one massive cliche, there is still a resounding truth in its message. Your appearance to other people is not what defines you, the way you act toward them is what really matters.
The reason my mind has wandered back to this book is because of some recent encounters. Several times I have heard “I like that you aren’t one of those gay people who try to shove it down your throat.” It’s bothered me tremendously every time, but I’ve never known exactly what I should say. I am not a confrontational person, nor am I someone who is easily bothered. But this has shaken me, and it is because the implications of this statement reflect an attitude that runs much deeper than people realize.
I want you to take yourself back to the 1950s, and imagine that you are black and living in Stone Mountain Georgia, and overlooking your town is a mountain with Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson carved into the ground. Every day you face tremendous oppression. But luckily, there is a miracle drug – a cure – for blackness. When you take this drug, you will immediately be transformed into a white man. Do you take it?
Every day LGBT people face microtransactions that involve a similar choice.
When I am in the locker-room and the entire team is making fun of “faggots”, do I say something? Do I let them know that the things they are saying dig to the very core of me? Or do I continue to hide something important to who I am?
When I am talking to my friends and one of them sees a gay man and says that they don’t like “people who rub it in everyone’s face,” am I safe to say that I think he’s cute?
What happens when people say lesbians are “that way” because they are out for attention?
Anyone who complains about someone being a “flaming homosexual” or that someone “is shoving their sexuality down our throats” is really saying that they are uncomfortable with people that look, act or sound different. It is OK to feel uncomfortable, but we need to recognize when feelings like that are misplaced. There is a simple way to do this, and it involves asking two questions:
(1) Why does it matter?
(2) Who does it hurt?
If our answers are “I don’t know” and “no one”, then the onus is on us to quit judging. But, if we choose to care about the way someone looks or acts without asking those two questions, we are forcing them into making a choice. They can either hide something integral to who they are and have “acceptance,” or they can be themselves and be outcasts.
I think we can solve this problem, though and here is how we do it…let’s all just pledge not to be little shits.