How should one live? How should one be? That was the damn question my Ethics professor kept asking last spring. Honestly I don’t have a clue. I make up my own rules as I go and I try to make sure there is very little collateral damage in the process.
I tend to go with the flow, but then again there are moments when I feel like I am about to explode when people offend the things I am passionate about. . .I could possibly be bipolar like my mother but I have yet to need a diagnosis to survive.
Anywho, I was sitting in an ethics class and I originally thought that my professor was an instigator. Kind of like Jerry Springer was when he invited the world’s biggest hot messes to his show to “fix,” things, yet created an even bigger problem after the fact. However, I finally realized what my damn teacher meant when he said, “peel the onion!” He was giving us that Rafiki Lion King moment and telling us to look deeper.
I am a very deep thinker. I analyze everything and I must admit that there are times when the clear answer is on the surface and I have been trying to look so damn deep I miss the fucking point. I had many moments like this in his ethics class but I also had moments when I realized that I am a fight for your rights kind of girl!
Abortion, capital punishment and same sex marriage came up quite a bit in class. I usually gave my input and participated in class discussions. I believe that my classmates and I were typically respectful of one another’s beliefs—typically. One evening our professor was specifically speaking of morality and immorality. He asked, “Is it immoral to be gay?” There were mixed reviews in the class.
He went on to peel the onion. He wanted to get a feel for what was truly considered gay. Did being considered gay require an action, or was a simple thought sufficient enough to be gay? He polled the class.
“Has anyone ever thought a member of the same sex was attractive?”
About ten hands went up, including my own. He then followed up and asked, “Has anyone ever been aroused by a member of the same sex?”
I held my hand up and to no surprise; I was the only one with my hand held high. Some of my classmates looked at me like I had just snorted a line of crack. Really? Give me a fucking break! I shrugged it off and said, “are you all kidding me, have none of you girls ever seen Charlize Theron?” I now realize I was trying to make myself feel comfortable for standing alone. I kind of regret joking about it, I would rather have held my hand high without explanation, but what is done is done. . . but no really, “have you ever seen Charlize Theron, she is like super hero gorgeous!”
It didn’t end there. One of my female classmates turned around and said, “You just don’t have self-control!” Oh, shut the mother fucking front door! She had no idea what she was saying and who she was saying it to. I said, “Excuse me?”
“That is why gays have so many problems. They are an abomination, that’s why god gave them aids!”
I almost fell out of my chair, actually I think I may have even bounced in it because I was waiting for the perfect moment for her to pause and give me a moment to speak.
My little brother Joseph is gay. He is happily out but we went through some ups and downs in his process of self-acceptance. Joseph does not lack self-control, he is gay—no choice in that! I lived with him when he was suicidal and hated himself because he considered himself to be less normal than anyone else and here I was facing a woman—a black woman—who must have forgotten about segregation.
I composed myself because what was originally going to come out of my mouth was a firework of profanity and I try to pride myself in being a peace keeper but the bitch went on.
“Gay people are the only ones who get aids!”
I said, “Is that so, how about monkeys and cats, did you know they get aids too? Or how about Magic Johnson?”
“No, only gay people get AIDS because it is a punishment from God, God made us all and that is what I believe! They are all just an abomination!”
“Listen to yourself, how could you call another person an abomination, isn’t your god about spreading love? We are women, we both have been treated indifferently, we have been accosted for being too emotional, we have had to make up for lost time and even you, you are a black woman, just over five decades ago, there were other people calling people like you, abominations.”
“It’s not the same,” she said.
“People are people, bottom line. How would you have liked to be treated this way? If you don’t like it, disagree with it but don’t disrespect people because you don’t understand!”
I got up and I walked away because I wanted to grab her and throw her out the window, but it was physically impossible. It disgusts me and scares me to know that there are people like that influencing the world—a world that my son is still growing in.
I went to the bathroom and holy Jesus halleluiah—this girl followed me to apologize. She said, “I’m sorry, one day your brother will be saved, I was in the club one night, and God came to me in a revelation, he saved me.” I wish I were making this shit up, but I am not that creative.
Apparently God goes to the club but he gives gay people AIDS! I must be missing something. Did he have to pay a cover charge? Was there a drink special the night he saved her?
I had enough with this joy sucker and stopped her before she went on. My brother—much like some of us—does not need saving. She has her beliefs and I respect them but force feeding me her bullshit in the bathroom was over the top for me. I went there to cool off because I cannot truly put myself in her shoes to understand her frame of mind while I was so angry. I remember the times Joseph was crying balled up on the floor wishing to be accepted. I remember of all the times I tried to understand but could not relate, but that’s not entirely true. No matter the circumstance we have all been in a situation where people said we couldn’t or where people made us feel unworthy. So I can relate and I know that the girl pointing the finger at me and my brother was just fighting back on some level for a moment when she was treated indifferently. So I tried to calm myself down and I responded to her.
“Listen, I get it, God revealed himself to you but he has not revealed himself to me, my brother does not need saving. You know, when I speak people often are surprised to know I am Puerto Rican because I do not have an accent, people assume my brothers are lazy, because of stereotypes. Women see a black man in a dark area and they clutch their bags closer. People judge others and forget that they too have been judged. So I suggest that before you go around pointing the finger at others about what you believe is a choice, that you really consider the weight of your words. The next time you feel offended by another person’s judgment and want to say, “It’s because I am black,” maybe you should remember that you didn’t choose to be black, you were born that way!”
I walked away. At the end of class, one of my classmates approached me outside. She thanked me for speaking up and in my own way sticking up for her sister who is also gay. I thanked her for supporting her sister because it takes courage and guts to deal with the challenges of being considered so different in a world where . . . .guess what. . . .everyone is different but people are not ready to accept it.
After that day, I was viewed as the hot head for gays girl. My classmates were very reluctant to make any comment that could have been taken as anti-gay after that day. I made it a point to address it after the third, “I mean no offence,” comment. I don’t usually behave that way because just as I do not like people force feeding me their beliefs, I do not expect everyone to side with me. I just said, it is a matter of how you say things, not what you say!
I have had many gay discussions in my home. My son is in middle school now and most kids his age use the “F” word to insult one another. Luckily I had a discussion with my son a few years ago but not before his first misuse of the word gay.
Jon was in fourth grade and his teacher sent a note home. Jonathan got a red light in school (they had a light system to track behavior, you pulled a ticket every time you misbehaved and red was the third pull). I did not have Jon that week so his dad called me with Jon on the speaker phone to explain to me what had occurred in school.
So here is what happened. Jon was in the cafeteria sitting at his assigned table. He left his hand on the chair next to him and he was facing the other direction. Jon’s hand was still on the chair when his buddy went to have a seat. The kid sits on Jon’s hand. Jon’s hand touches said kid’s ass and my boy say, “eww, you’re gay!”
So here his dad and I were on speaker, while Jon was in the passenger seat of his dads car. Jon’s dad is a wrestler, I believe he’s received one too many chair shots to the head because sometimes he says things that make no damn sense, this afternoon was no different. I said to Jon’s dad, “okay, so let me get this clear, Jon’s hand was on the chair, and the kid sat on his hand and Jon’s hand touched the kid’s butt (I was trying to censor myself because my kiddo was on the opposite end of the phone on speaker, no time to say ass, mommy says butt!)?”
Then his dad says, “Yes, so that makes Jon the gay one, right?”
“Exactly!. . . .wait, no! What the fuck!. . .Shit, take me off speaker! No you idiot, it was clearly an accident.”
He totally missed the point on that one! He is from Jersey and I was born and raised in Florida, probably not the best public school systems around, so maybe that explains that.
I had Jon a few days later and I had forgotten about the whole ass chair thing until Jon and I had another discussion on the topic one afternoon on the way home. By this point, I can usually tell when my son has something on his mind. We talk all the time and he knows he can come to me about anything but it is usually during the car rides home when I can tell he has a lot on his mind. Maybe he has time to reflect while I drive.
This afternoon he was looking out the window, tapping his pointer fingers together. I asked, “What’s up Jonny boy?”
“Okay, well you can tell me nothing whenever you want.” He sat there quietly for about thirty seconds.
“Mom, is gay disgusting?”
“Why, do you ask that?”
Apparently someone in school said being gay was disgusting. He was still in fourth grade and most kids repeat what they hear, no matter the source. I sat and reflected for a moment before I gave him my explanation.
Most life lessons entail some level of what is right or wrong, but being gay is something that is a matter of fact to me, not wrong or right. I am not gay but I do not feel like I owe it to anyone to explain that. So I thought of how I could humanize being gay to Jon when so many people dehumanize it.
My brother Joe was not openly gay at the time, and I wanted to explain it to him with someone who meant enough to him, someone who was very much a part of his life since he was a toddler.
Fortunately, for me, the answer was in my DVD rack. Finding Nemo came out in 2003; Jon was two at the most that year. He loved that movie from the moment it came out. Dory was one of his favorite characters and he cracked up when she spoke in whale.
Jon also loves the Ellen show, he dances all the time, just like her. Well maybe not the same but he randomly walks into a room and dances. Jon loves loves loves to dance, for fun and to make me laugh.
After reflecting for a moment I thought, who better than Ellen. He has known the sound of her voice since he was two and he enjoys watching her show. She is human, and she is a wonderful human being that brings joy to the world. We just love the shit out of Ellen.
So I said, “Jon, being gay is not disgusting. Being gay is nothing more than a person who is attracted to or loves another person of the same sex.” He looked at me like I was crazy! I said, “You know Ellen?”
“Don’t you like Ellen?”
“I Love Ellen!”
“Do you think Ellen is disgusting?”
“I didn’t think so either, well Ellen is in love with a woman, in fact I think she is married to a woman.”
And just like that gay was no longer disgusting. I went on to tell him that being gay is okay and if he ever told me he was gay, he’d still be my son. He said, “Mom, I’m not gay.”
“I know honey, but if you were, I just want you to know it would be okay.”
He repeated, “Mom, I’m not gay.”
Okay fine, he is not gay, yesterday, today, or maybe even tomorrow. . .but the bottom line is that no matter who he loves he is human like the rest of us!