Warning: I use a lot of offensive terms in this post, mostly to show how far I’ve managed to come along, but if the words offend you, I apologize in advance. I don’t use them anymore.
Like a lot of guys that grew up during the 70s and 80s, I was raised to believe that homosexuals were disgusting, gross, perverts, or whatever other horrible epithet you want to think of to describe people who were different than myself.
Perhaps it was because I felt so out of place and unaccepted by my own peers that I was just relieved to find a group of people who I could still look down on. “I may be weird and nobody likes me, but at least I’m not a faggot.” was the thought process I think I went through. “Poofter, queer, fairy, queen, fudge packer, carpet muncher, if there was an offensive word for that group of people, I fear that it came out of my mouth at some point. For that I am terribly ashamed and very apologetic.
But one person changed all that. His name was Craig. He was part of my Role Playing Gaming group in college. I don’t remember the circumstances, but he had been a member of my gaming group for some time, and we all liked him very much. He had a great sense of humor and was very good at role playing his part. One night some of the talk during the game got a bit rude and very bawdy and I will be the first to admit, pretty homophobic. I don’t know what made him feel brave enough to come out to the group, but he did, and for that I will always be grateful to him. You see, Craig was the first gay man I ever knew as anything other than a stereotype.
Before I met Craig, all gay men were caricatures of effeminate men and boys I had known and seen in my personal life or in media. I don’t know that I even thought of them as gay, just annoying as hell. Being “femmy” was something that my childhood friends and I thought of as akin to being a child molester, a pervert, or some other variety of abomination.
But the fact of the matter is I didn’t really know anything. Gay men were just people like me. It was an important lesson to learn, something I had already learned from my father about other minorities.
I remember going to a movie with my dad in the mid 70s when big Afros were making a comeback, I pointed it out to my dad and said “dad, look at her hair!” I’ve remembered his response to this day. “Son, they’re just people!”, he said in a tone that made it clear that it was a foregone conclusion that everyone was “just people”. I admit that my dad’s attitutudes about homosexuality didn’t quite extend as far as his attitudes about African Americans and other minorities did. He was just as homophobic as the rest of his generation was, and I guess I picked that up. I’m ashamed it took me so long to realize that I was being an ass.
In the end, it took my desire to keep my friendship with Craig that led me to reexamine my attitudes. I have to admit it still bothered me a little when he and my girlfriend at the time would scope out guys together in the student union, but I think I dealt with it pretty well in the end.
Honestly, I still find effeminate men annoying as hell, but Craig told me in a conversation the other night on Facebook that he does too. We reconnected on Facebook a while back and one of the first questions I asked him was whether it would be okay if I wrote this. I typically don’t write about people without asking them first. Craig was very gracious.
So Craig, thanks. I appreciate your friendship, and even more, I appreciate your bravery in letting the rest of us into your life in a way that changed all our lives.