Last night TBM and I had another interesting evening. Instead of driving, we decided to make it a public transportation activity. We jumped on TRAX at the 2100 South station, rode it to the Regional Medical Center and then caught a bus to “Little Mexico”, about 5400 West.
It was one heck of a trip. More than just a ride on public transport, it was an eye-opening experience on a variety of levels. For a guy who has spent most of his adult life sheltered by a cocoon reserved for the Mormon upper middle class, meeting real people, learning about their real lives, and doing it all with an open mind and no judgment was an education of fundamental proportions.
The first person TBM and I met was a middle aged woman who sat next to us on the first leg of our trip. Our conversation was brief, but revealing. After saying hello and introducing myself, I asked the woman how many gay people she thought were in our car.
Her response surprised me. “Well, I know there are at least three of us,” she said with a smile. TBM and I broke into a laugh that she quickly joined. She then spent our remaining time together telling us about her partner with whom she had lived for seven years, their children and their remarkably normal lives. Her commitment to her family was inspiring. When we left the train some time later, I felt hope that long term gay relationships aren’t just possible, but with work might actually last forever.
After an amazingly delicious dinner of fish tostadas and chicken enchiladas at a grubby little Mexican restaurant in an area that seemed more like Tijuana than Utah, we decided to share a leche dulce at a nearby supermarket, El Rancho. The store, like the area, was Latin top to bottom. We couldn't find anyone that spoke English. Of the hundred plus customers cramming the aisles, TBM and I were the only Anglos—until an elderly man approached us who was obviously more northern European than not.
“What are you two doing in a place like this?” he asked incredulously. We smiled. He smiled. And then we began to talk. The course of the conversation inevitably turned to the fact that TBM and I are gay. The man was respectful and incredulous, especially when TBM recounted my history of church service. “How,” he asked, “could you serve in the Church as a gay man?” When TBM volunteered that I had even been asked to speak in my ward Sacrament Meeting on Easter Sunday, he was stunned. “You must have a very kind bishop,” he said.
“I have an inspired bishop,” I responded.
Then he added with more than a little thought, "Sometimes bishops are more inspired than church leaders. I think the Brethren are no different than the rest of us. They're just trying to do the best they can."
I nodded sympathetically. The man handed TBM and me a pass-along card about the resurrection, wished God’s blessing upon us, and went his way.
Again boarding public transit, we continued to meet interesting people with interesting stories, a bus driver who wished he could carry a handgun, a pool tournament organizer who is marrying his mail order bride in a matter of weeks, and a cardiac ultrasound technician who is saving the world, one life at a time. Each person we met had a story and each was anxious to hear ours. When we parted, we parted as new found friends, uplifted, enriched, and a bit more sensitive to the burdens we each are required to carry.
As TBM and I sat on the last leg of our journey recounting the remarkable events of the evening, reveling somewhat in the uniqueness of our experience as homosexual men meeting the world, the man sitting in front of us turned, smiled, and said, “ Isn't being gay wonderful.”
“Yes it is,” I replied. “Yes it is.”