June is Pride Month, and while I identify as a heterosexual woman, my best friend of 30 years that I refer to as my brother is a gay man. Considering how proud I am to have the honor of being his friend, I would be remiss not to take this opportunity to speak a little on my personal relationship and experience with the LGBT+ community.
I know that sexual preference can be a controversial topic because we’ve all formed our opinions and lifestyle choices based on our own unique experience. Thankfully, I met Robbie my first day of kindergarten, so I’ve spent my entire life exposed to homosexuality, even when I didn’t know what it was. From the start I always knew Robbie was different from the other boys in the class. I didn’t know what or why and it wasn’t bothersome, he just fit in better with us girls than the boys on the playground. It’s for this reason that I do take a strong issue when people insinuate someone would “choose” to be gay or different, as opposed to just being born the way they are. I’ve seen it with my own eyes; Robbie was always who he is and there was no conscious decision or childhood trauma that dictated that. Furthermore, anyone who honestly believes a human being would actively choose to make their life more difficult, risk alienation or ridicule from family or friends and continually have to defend their lifestyle is insane. A person’s sexual orientation is no more a choice than the color of their eyes, and should be of just as little controversy because it’s irrelevant and doesn’t affect anyone else in the least.
Maybe it’s my only child syndrome, but with pretty much everything in life, if something doesn’t directly affect me, I really don’t care about it. So when I meet people and they tell me they’re gay or bi or polyamorous or pan or asexual, honestly, I don’t care. I like men. Some women don’t. I like sauerkraut. Some people don’t. It’s really that simple.
Robbie is an amazing person whose spirit is a light to everyone he meets and that is his gift. People from every walk of life, cultural background, age and tax bracket like him. (Quite frankly, it’s annoying. Just last Saturday I took him to a party as my guest and when we walked in the door at least 10 people yelled “Robbie’s here! Hey Robbie! Glad you came.” Meanwhile I had driven 5 hours from Nashville to attend the soiree and got a rousing round of crickets.) On more than one occasion I’ve had vocally homophobic men tell me that Robbie opened their mind a bit and made them less uncomfortable just by being himself.
But all the charm and personality in the world can’t spare someone from ignorance and hate. The ugly stares and slurs from strangers have unfortunately been something Robbie has endured and hardened himself to. Now that we’re older and more confident it’s easy to brush off, but that kind of vitriol is crushing to young, insecure people trying to find their place in the world.
I’ve used Robbie as my main example for this article because he is my closest confidant, but I’m blessed with a large circle of amazing friends in the LGBT+ community, and all of them share a strength that can only come from surviving the cruelty of others. Many of these people can’t cope with the stress and struggle with addiction and substance abuse. Because of the shame associated with being a queer person, many people still live on the “down low” and rely on hook-up apps to meet partners, which as you can imagine can be incredibly dangerous to their personal safety. And when you mix the aforementioned substance abuse with meeting strangers from the internet, that danger is increased tenfold.
This is why it’s so important for me to be an ally for the LGBT community. I think I’ve always felt so comfortable with these folks because I too have always felt different. I’m a weirdo. I’ve struggled with insecurity and negative body image and being uncomfortable in my own skin. These issues transcend far beyond what kind of privates I like to touch. But because I am someone who is in the majority and because I’ve finally healed and learned how to love myself, it is my duty to be a voice for the minority. It’s not because it’s a political statement, it’s just the right thing to do as a decent human being. I’ve never met a more accepting community of people, and while they may judge your choice in footwear, they will never judge you for being YOU, whatever that might be. I just want to be someone who can return that energy and embrace people wherever they are on their journey.
If you’re reading this and you’re someone who is uncomfortable with the idea of anything besides male/female relationships, that’s perfectly ok! In fact, you’re who I want to see this. It’s normal to feel apprehensive about things we don’t understand. I don’t know how a plane works so I still get nervous every time I fly. But I urge you to just TRY to not write people off based on their sexual preference. You could really meet some wonderful people that could change your life if you simply took the time to listen and treated them with the same respect you would give anyone else. And if you’re someone like me who already has experience with this group, it still wouldn’t hurt us to listen a little more. Ask your friends if they need anything. While we’ve never lived in a more inclusive time, we still have a long way to go. Hateful blood runs deep and there are always going to be miserable people who thrive off inflicting pain in others. Be a decent human being and a voice for the unspoken, not just in June during Pride, but all year long.