My evolving position on gay rights

When I was younger, I didn’t know any gay people, or, to put it more accurately, I wasn’t aware of knowing any gay people.  So in those days, I had no reality check to correct my prejudices.  I thought of gay people as unfortunates who had something wrong with them for which they shouldn’t be blamed, any more than you would blame somebody for being diabetic or colorblind.  I didn’t care for what I read about the flamboyant, promiscuous gay male culture, but I thought that people had a right to live the way they wish so long as they kept away from me.  In truth, I hardly ever thought about such things at all.

If I had thought about it, I probably would have said that although homosexuals should not be persecuted for something they couldn’t help, they should not be Scoutmasters, grade school teachers or anything else in which they would be role models for the young.

All of this could come under the heading of an honest mistake in thinking.  What I am deeply ashamed of to this day are the times I joined in making bigoted jokes and snide remarks about gay people.  This probably was partly because I have never been tough or macho and I subconsciously wanted to differential myself from a group of people that were outside the pale.  But it was worse than that.  I was generating a false sense of self-esteem by expressing contempt for a group of people outside my group–the same motive that leads people to tell racist jokes.  This was pure malice.

I think the worst thing you can do is to try to build yourself up by downgrading somebody else.  And I was guilty of it myself.

My thinking changed as a result of (1) being a Unitarian Universalist and (2) living in Rochester. N.Y.   The UUA and the Rochester community were not always liberal about such matters, or anything else.  They changed in the same way that American society as a whole is changing, but a little bit ahead of the curve.   The city of Rochester elected one of the first, maybe the first, openly gay city councilman.  He was Tim Mains, a high school guidance counselor.   I met him once and found he had the same values I did.   We had a nice conversation about how kids these days aren’t like we were when we were young.

Some time in the 1990s I reconnected with a former girl friend, then living in Santa Fe, N.M.   I went down to visit her, and she showed me the city.   At the end she told me that she had been reviewing her life, and decided that she was a lesbian.   A few years later I flew down to Santa Fe to attend her commitment ceremony with her partner.   I never saw two human beings look at each other with such love as these two middle-aged, outwardly ungainly women.

What reason other than prejudice could have caused me to question the value of a loving relationship between two adults?  Gay men are condemned for supposedly being more promiscuous on average than than men in relationships with women.   If that is true, then it would be a good thing, not a bad thing, for gay men to be recognized by society when they enter into committed relationships.

It still doesn’t sit well with me to use the same word “marriage,” the relationship between my mother and father, to the commitment of two men to live together.  But that is prejudice, not reason.  I do in fact know male couples and female couples who love each other as deeply as my mother and father did.   I know a couple of gay men with an adopted daughter who are as good parents as anybody could be.

There are a lot of people in the United States who think as I used to think.  If I could change, so can they–or their children.

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3 Responses to “My evolving position on gay rights”

  1. Atticus Finch Says:

    I think one thing I admire about your personal stories, Phil, is that you come grew up in a completely different time as the me, yet you have shown remarkable ability to accept people and change your opinions and perceptions over time.

    Most people can’t do that – they can’t admit when they might be wrong or had wrong opinions. It really says something about you.

    It makes me realize I have to be and continue to be a student of life and allow myself to change for the better all the time.


  2. informationforager Says:

    A very good post that highlights the changes of the world and ourselves. I don’t have anything to add except that some of your experience mirrors my own. Keep Blogging. Keep Writing.


  3. Anne Tanner Says:

    Iowa is a conservative state. When gay marriage was made legal here, it was not because everyone in the state suddenly decided it would be the right thing to do. Instead, it was a court’s decision that not allowing some citizens to marry when others could was a clear violation of the equal protection clause. At the next election, three judges lost their jobs for making that decision, after a campaign by Iowans who believe that the law should reflect their religious beliefs (and only their beliefs). I believe it is a permanent scar on our state that that happened. Another judge is running for re-election this year and I’m hoping that this time, Iowans who understood the first ruling will turn out en masse to show the haters that we don’t agree with them. Your post exactly reflects my own personal journey on this issue.


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