Thursday, June 19, 2003
Gay. I've never really understood that word. I mean, are we all supposed to be happy because we're in love with members of the same sex? If so, is that why some people choose to persecute us, because of our happiness, to prevent us from being happy?
I've never understood persecution, either. I was raised in a family that taught me to love everyone and never to judge lest ye be judged. Still, I know that others believe differently, and that knowledge forces me to react in kind to avoid being the one persecuted.
I love my boyfriend. Nothing will change that. It's just that we have to be careful about how we express our love. When I call him from work, I have to watch what I say and quietly whisper, "I love you," when I'm sure that no one is listening. When he sends me e-mails, I have to shrink down the window on the computer screen when someone comes by just in case they happen to see who it's from. When we meet up for lunch, we have to sneak a kiss in the empty elevator. It's always just minor things, but minor precautions avoid serious consequences.
I remind my straight friends who know that I'm gay how lucky they are. They get to walk down the street holding hands with the one they love without getting funny looks. They get to say "I love you" as loud as they wish without someone making a snide remark. Their expressions of love for their soulmates are for the most part accepted while my expressions of love for my soulmate are sometimes ridiculed. Then, of course, there's the family situation.
I love my family more than I can begin to express, but my coming out to them was not the easiest thing. My parents have gay friends, so they know how hard being gay in the South is. They only wanted the best for me, and it's taken time and effort for me to prove to them that my boyfriend is best for me. He has worked hard to gain their approval, making me fall further in love with him in the process. His family, on the other hand, has not given their approval, yet. They have asked to remain ignorant to what they believe is his choice. I believe that their love for him will win out over their prejudice and misconceptions, but it hurts both of us when I am excluded from events when, if I had been a girl, I would have been included.
Even going out after work means little precautions. We have to act like just friends, albeit close ones, when we go to a store. We can only hold hands in public while in the theater. We have to watch what we say over the table when we go out to eat. In essence, we have to remain as low-key as possible. We can only really be us, really be in love, when we're in a familiar and friendly surrounding such as my apartment, our friends' homes, or the gay districts of nearby cities like Atlanta and New Orleans.
Sometimes when I lie in bed, I try to figure out why people consider me such a threat, why they hate me just for being in love. I have thought about what it would be like if people found out, if I was threatened by someone. I thank God for protecting us one more day, for watching out for us and for letting us live one more day. When I first came to terms with being gay, I used to be afraid to go anywhere in public, to the supermarket, to the gas station, to a restaurant, for fear that someone would know, for fear that there was now some kind of marker on me, making me stand out from everyone else. The fear has eased over the years, but I still keep my guard up because I have to. Until I've locked the door and gotten in bed, I don't really feel safe. Until my boyfriend calls me to let me know that he made it home safe, I don't feel safe for him.
I hope that one day it will be different, that if we decide to have kids someday, they will grow up in a world where people can love who they want to love without having to fear for their lives. I hope that one day our dreams are accepted as part of the American dream. I wish for a time in which our simple dreams of making a house into our home and building a family around our love are respected and not looked down upon just because we both happen to be men. Conditions in the United States have gotten progressively better for gays and lesbians over the years, but it's an ongoing process, a long and winding road that still has many more miles to go.
My boyfriend and I are considering moving to a more gay-friendly city, but we both wish that it would not come to that. We wish that we could stay in Jackson and live the simple life here that we want to live. However, we recognize the reality. It's very difficult—if not impossible—to live that simple life here. As I close my eyes and drift off to sleep every night, I pray to God for guidance on how to make the world a better place and for people to gain the insight to see beyond differences in order to appreciate the common dreams, goals and aspirations that motivate people, whether they are gay or straight.
I come from a family much like yours, where openly gay couples are accepted without ridicule. I fail to understand why Southerners (most, not all) can't seem to get the fact that it's not such a shocking thing to see two men or two women in a relationship. I support you 110%. You don't need to move- there are people in Jackson who aren't discriminating against what you stand for. Please keep this an open portion of your life- you need to eliminate stereotypes and grow to be a happy, healthy human in your environment. So what if it happens to be in the same space as someone completely pigheaded? Stand up for what you believe in! Rock on, and good luck!
I agree with the reader who says there are more people in Jackson than one would think who accept openly gay couples. We are an openly gay couple from Europe and visited the wonderful state of Mississippi last year including Natchez and Jackson. We had absolutely no problems at our hotels, in museums, restaurants, etc. Not that we were openly affectionate, but it was pretty clear to most that we were a couple. We will definitely be coming back. Everyone was friendly and gracious. And we hope you stay in Jackson and keep the diversity going.
I'm in an interracial marriage and appreciate to a certain degree what you are going through (although our taboo is not considered as taboo as your taboo . . . let's get a tatoo?) (sounds like a poem). I know what it is like to be looked at and commented on. I've heard my share of high school kids yell at my wife and me as they drive past us on the road, and have noticed the looks we get from the older crowd when we go out for a bite to eat. I've even been condemned to hell a few times, but who hasn't? All I can say to you is hang in there and surround yourself with good people. If push comes to shove, move to the coast. I've noticed that coastal areas/ port cities seem to be more tolerant. Maybe someone should do a study on port cities and tolerance.