Saturday, March 17, 2012
Coming out to a friend...and changing the world one small step at a time
A few weeks ago I came out to a client and friend. I hadn’t intended to. He is honestly a good man, but totally ensconced in the bowels of the Utah County culture of fear and homophobia. I assumed that if he knew about my “sexual peculiarities”, it would not serve me or his organization (which needs my consulting expertise) well.
During a business visit, we somehow started talking about a draconian sex-ed bill under consideration by the Utah state legislature. The bill would have restricted school districts to the choice of teaching abstinence only or forgoing sex education altogether. In the abstinence only classes, teachers would have been prohibited from discussing homosexuality under any guise, even in response to questions raised by students.
My friend obviously supported the bill. I, of course, didn’t.
As the discussion ground on, my friend couldn’t help but inform me that without the law, the radical gays would sweep into the classroom promoting sodomy, promiscuity and the greatest demon of them all, gay marriage. I listened politely as he droned, attempting vainly to maintain my tongue and my composure.
Then he went too far. He said, “I have no idea why those deviants choose so-called alternate lifestyles anyway. I’m sure they’re only interested in satisfying their voracious sexual appetites. I think they all should be shot. That’s the only way we can really protect our children.”
Rather than explode as I was tempted to do, I smiled and said gently, “Jim, I’m gay. Should I be shot, too?”
He stopped abruptly, then laughed. “Great joke,” he said.
I continued to smile.
The blood rushed from Jim’s face and he stammered, shocked. After a long moment, he finally mumbled with difficulty, “You weren’t joking, were you?”
As he looked at me through the eyes of a shaken man, I assured him quietly, gently, that I was not a deviant, that this was not a recent revelation for me, and that I like every other gay man I had ever met had no interest or capacity to convert straight children. Instead, I assured him that my sexual orientation was an integral part of me, something I had known about myself all my life. I then declared to him that I was still the man I had always been, that I had and would continue to try to live my life with integrity, and that most gay men I knew approached their lives with similar intent and focus.
In conclusion I asked him how many homosexuals he had known in the course of his life. His answer was not surprising.
“None,” he said.
Then he offered something that surprised me. “I think I’ve got something to learn.”
We parted on good terms as we always had. He continues to be my client and friend. Life goes on.
While I don’t know if Jim will ever stand on my side of the issue, I know that because of our discussion, he has begun thinking differently about homosexuals and his feelings regarding the issue.
I believe that this small step and millions of others like it will eventually change the world for good. With regard to equality and acceptance, I believe the prophet was right when he said, “It is by small means that great things are brought to pass.”