Being Human

We are sensual beings. We are sexual beings. We are joyous beings, if we let ourselves be. Being gay is just one way to be human. Based on the evidence, LGBTQ+ people are a useful and important part of the human species. [Gay people’s] experience is valuable — not just for ourselves, but because we are a way for others to learn more about what it means to be truly awake and aware and human.

David Gerrold, science-fiction writer, commenting on Pride Month

For the record, I am not gay myself. I’m about as cis-hetero as they come, aside from a teeny little man-crush on Chris Hemsworth. Once upon a time, as shameful as it is to admit this, I probably would’ve qualified as a homophobe. Back in the Awesome ’80s, when I was a painfully insecure teenage boy, I routinely used the word “fag” as an insult and pronounced things as “gay” when I meant “uncool,” the same as all the other insecure teen boys of that era. But here’s the thing: I didn’t actually know any gay people then, at least none that I realized were gay. (Even now, I have a fairly wonky sense of “gaydar.” Often, I just can’t tell until someone does something really gay.) I don’t think I even fully understood what “gay” meant. I was speaking and acting from a place of ignorance.

The first time I was aware of being in a gay man’s company was… uncomfortable. Especially when he remarked how well I filled out a pair of jeans. But you know what? It wasn’t that uncomfortable, and I later realized he wasn’t hitting on me as I’d initially believed, he was just giving me a compliment, and what was so terrible about that? I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t terrible at all; it was flattering. As the years went by, I had more experiences with gay people, and a few trans people as well, and none of those experiences were terrible either. I worked with them, I friended them, I shopped in their stores, and I went to parties at their homes. I became a fan of Armistead Maupin and his very gay Tales of the City books. I saw Brokeback Mountain and Milk and was deeply moved by both. In 2008, Anne and I had an incredible vacation in San Francisco, and you want to know what our favorite neighborhood was? The Castro… the notorious gay neighborhood, the one where we were the exception, the token straight couple. And in 2015, I cheered when gay people finally won the right to marry those they love.

I’m not recounting all of this to make myself look good. I know that I’m no hero. I am, by my own admission, a guy who used to be a bit of a jerk, if never a truly malignant one. But I also know that I’ve become a better person, a better human, because of my interactions with LGBTQ people and a growing understanding of their struggles. (I still have a long way to go on that front, but I am trying.) I’m a bigger, more compassionate person than I used to be, I’m a lot more comfortable with myself, and I find that my world has more colors in it than it used to.

In other words, I am what Mr. Gerrold is talking about in the final sentence of that quote at the top of this post. A quote that resonates strongly with this old Star Trek fan, and not just because Gerrold wrote a popular episode of that show. At its core, Star Trek — true Star Trek, not the watered-down action-oriented product that it’s become — was about the way fear and prejudice disappears when you get to know other people. About human beings evolving beyond their petty, childish fears of “the other.” Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

I believe in that slogan more now than at any other point in my life. It’s a shame there are still so many who don’t.

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