We were standing in the gay and lesbian section of Encore Books in Mechanicsburg, shelving books on Sunday afternoon. I have no idea how the conversation came up – that chat with this man I worked with but didn’t really know, that chat about homosexuality. I must have said something about how the Bible says it’s wrong – the standard line that I couldn’t really back up with Scripture at that point, the lesson I had been taught and never really digested.
“Some people believe David and Jonathan were lovers,” he said.
I gaped. . . no, that’s not possible. Why do people have to twist everything to serve their own purposes? ” Oh,” I said. By some grace, I did not shut the conversation down, and we kept talking.
We talked about dating and work and art – lots of conversations about art. We became friends, and we stopped talking about homosexuality.
Within a few months, I was house sitting for this man and his partner in a gorgeous town house on a tiny street in Harrisburg.
At the information desk of Borders one day, two women invited me to go out for a beer after work. We headed to the Winking Lizard in Coventry and took a table by the window; my friend Jen worked the bar behind us.
We chatted about work and one of the women’s plans to go back to school. I told them about my classes, and the other woman talked about her parents, their health. We drank our pints of lager and talked on. At some point, I realized that both of these women were lesbians and that they probably thought I was, too. We ordered another round.
A few weeks later, we went to see k.d. lang in concert in a park, where we laid blankets out on the field and enjoyed that rich, velvet voice of one of North America’s best singers. I knew lang was gay; I assumed that most of the women who joined us at the concert were, too. But our sexual orientations never came up. Not once.
We laid in the grass in that summer sun and laughed and luxuriated. . . .
The blonde man who worked in the backroom, who taught me how to organize the merchandise and use that big tube that sprays styrofoam peanuts. The assistant manager who told me, with such wisdom, that I hadn’t really suffered yet so it was hard for me to understand people who had suffered. The special order clerk who commiserated with me on the day George W. Bush was elected the second time.
When I remember these people, I remember our times together. I remember the backroom clerk’s silver hoop earring and the way we sat in the magazine cage and talked when the store was slow. I remember standing for an hour at 7:00am after election day with my colleagues as we tried to figure out how this had happened. I remember blankets warmed by the sun.
And I also remember that my friends are gay. Not because their orientation is unusual, not because its abhorrent, not because it’s even important. I remember because it is part of who they are, just as my orientation is part of who I am.
Today, I remember them as I pray – fervently – that the Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act (as I prayed yesterday – and will keep praying that they strike down Prop 8). I remember my friends who are denied legal rights that I too easily take for granted. I remember them as I think of the lines of people at San Francisco City Hall a few years back – the people lined up for the joy of a legal union with their partners.
I have changed my views on homosexuality as I’ve gotten to know my friends, my friends who are gay. But it’s not my views on this issue that matter. . . what matters is that we stop equating people with “views” or “morality” or even “Biblical teaching” and start seeing people – what matters is that we all learn how to love better. . .
My friend from Encore, I could not recall his name now for my life. . . but I remember him, and today, I think him for tolerating my bigotry and my inability to see past a position into his heart. I thank him for standing by me even when I judged him. I thank him for opening his home to me so that in time, I learned to open up my heart.
Why do you feel we (and define “we” however you’d like) make gay marriage such an issue?