prejudiiceWhen I was a teenager, my Mom and I had a discussion about prejudice and racism, in particular.  I don’t remember what precipitated such a discussion but it was likely news of some atrocity that had taken place in the South toward Negros.  That was the proper name back then.   My Mom told me that by the time I was her age, there would be no more racism because all the races would have intermarried, creating a single race.  Little did I know then how far her prediction would fall from the truth but it remains a fond memory of the kind of woman my mother was.  A few years later, I would join the first interracial fraternity at the University of Connecticut where I’d have the life-changing experience of talking civil rights as the only white guy in a room of African Amercan (by then, the proper term) brothers. At college, I would meet a pretty Jewish girl who would become my wife and I’d study the world’s religions (against the advice of my pastor, by the way).  I’d like to say I graduated without any prejudices but in a world full of ethnic and religious slurs, it is all too easy to reach for one in my head, even if I don’t say it. And of course, there were new prejudices to deal with as life went on, ones that were at least tacitly acceptable in my young adulthood.

Which brings me to LGBT.   Growing up, I don’t believe I knew what an L was, and a G was more of an epithet thrown as an ultimate insult to other boys, albeit with a different letter of the alphabet, maybe Q or F.   I don’t ever remember discussing homosexuality with Mom, but I know my church regarded it as sin. By college, I’d read about Ls and Gs … probably even met one, but no one was coming out back then. And it still made for a pretty good insult that, even in our racially mixed fraternity, seemed acceptable.  Like most young men, I felt a visceral revulsion if I saw two Gs holding hands or (gasp) kissing, although for some reason, some of my fellows thought Ls were sexy.   I don’t remember thinking much about Bs or Ts.

Things have changed with time, of course, and Older Eyes has changed, too. What I want to talk about is that it hasn’t always been easy.  The intellectual challenge of accepting something that was regarded as a sin and a mental illness in my youth pales in comparison to quelling the visceral reaction I was raised with.   It helps that in my sixties and seventies I have G friends that I’ve seen are: (1) not trying to get in my pants; or (2) not very different than I am, except that they prefer sex with men.  But it still takes work. It takes sensing that old feeling of revulsion, wanting to walk away or look away, but not doing so.   Our modern politically correct culture seems to believe one can simply throw a switch and old attitudes vanish.  I knew that I’d made progress a few years ago we saw the play, La Cage aux Foles, and I didn’t look away when Georges and Albin kissed at the end of Act 1.  But now that I’ve managed to accept L and G and B, there’s several varieties of T‘s to accept.  Saying, Whatever Bruce Jenner wants to do with his body is his business, doesn’t preclude saying, Yikes when Kaitlen shows up on my TV.   And trying to believe that 15 old Johnny identifies as a girl is entirely different than saying, OK, let him use the girls bathroom.

So, what’s my point, you ask.  Well, I understand the impatience of the LGBT community to achieve equal rights.  I even support that.  I know that sometimes reversing prejudice requires pressure in the form of protests and parades that draw attention to issues (while irritating the prejudiced).  But I also know that out there among those with whom  you are impatient, there are people like me who are trying to do the right thing.  It just takes us some time to get where you want us, especially when it involves old habits and religious beliefs.  Some of us may never get there entirely.  For example, I will never think its a good idea to allow that 15 year old boy into the girls bathroom.  And then it may take some time to get what’s in our head to out hearts … or our gut.  So, keep pushing but be patient.  You are making progress.  And so are we. But things take time.  Let’s try not to hate each other in the meantime.

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One Comment on “ABCD … LGBT”

  1. SandySays1 Says:

    Very well said. I am southern born and proud of that fact. Unlike the sterotypes that fill folks minds not all southerners wear white sheets and burn crosses. I’m proud to have integrated a youth football league in the sixties – it wasn’t easy then. My tires were slit so many times I considered buying stock in Firestone. The very fact me and the other coaches were successful is testimony to the fact that there was significant support in the general population or we never could have done it. That said – I have the same problem with boys in the girls dressing room or that matter competing in athletics against the opposite sex. I think everybody as the right to do their thing as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. Seems to me we’re getting into that area.

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