Article originally appeared on The Good Men Project and can be found here: https://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/love-knows-no-orientation-madison-lbkr/
My Uncle Ernest Washington looked after me as a child. He was my babysitter, my personal comedian, and chef. He made me Banana Pancakes….a bit too regularly but they were made with love. He was kind, Fatherly and gentle with me. He was also Gay, at a time when (especially in the Black Community) it wasn’t acknowledged or popular to be Gay. There was no “coming out” in our community. There where only subtle references to the sexuality of Gay Black men at the time. He was a little “sweet” as some would say.
My Favorite Cousin, Willmack Washington. He was an amazing fashion designer, he could sing, he could dance. He was at times very elegant and at other times very butch and rough because he had to be. He was “almost” flamboyant (and when he decided to turn it on, he could be outrageously flamboyant). He also knew how to fight. Seriously, he could kick ass. Gay men at that time had too. My beloved Cousin died during the early days of the AIDS crisis.
A straight writer, writing about what little he knows about the LGBT Community can only start from a place of familiarity. There where a few gay men and lesbians in my family. I grew up with the understanding, with the knowledge that gay men and women are no different from any of us. And that every interaction with friends and family (who just so happen to be Gay) was warm, loving, compassionate and everything that you would want from a relationship with another human being.
I always wondered when you “assumed” that someone might be “gay” why does it even matter? Why does society label your sexuality first, without knowing who you are as a human? You will find that the LGBT people I know, don’t try to inflict their bedside manner upon you personally. It’s just simple human interaction. I am a firm believer that people don’t “choose” their sexuality, it’s just how you are wired. And who is to say that the wiring is wrong? It’s just what it is. It’s not a disease or something that requires “fixing” it’s in the person, it’s who they truly are and who are we to dictate how someone “should be”? Who are we to judge someone’s choice in how they live their lives?
The church I went to as a child, talked about the “sinfulness” of being Gay (what Judeo-Christian church doesn’t?). I was hurt, offended and disappointed when one of my best friends, Glenn Coutrier died during the AID’s crisis. A humorous lover of life, who danced like he floated on air and who was beloved by all in our church, wasn’t allowed to have his funeral in the church. I was pissed off. The rest of our group planned and attended his funeral at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center in NYC. Needless to say, that refusal wasn’t the most Christian thing I observed in my church.
I always felt that straight men who beat and harassed people whose sexuality was different from “theirs” secretly were struggling with their own hidden sexuality. The people who (some from the pulpit actually) decried the wickedness of the LGBT Community, where the very ones who wished that they could openly express who they were behind the veil (and some did, but secretly until they were discovered). Thou dost protest too much.
This year, My High School (The HS of Art & Design) is having a 40-year reunion in NYC on May 5th. I became who I am as a person because of the growth of personality that I experienced in attending a NYC Arts School in Manhattan. You interacted with people from different thoughts, races, and sexuality. I have fond memories of my friend Bennie Rogers (He was probably one of the best fashion designers in the school). A blank piece of paper and a pencil came to life in Bennies hand with such elegance and beauty, you wondered how all of that talent could be contained in such a demure human being (he was a person of small and delicate stature) with an infectious sense of humor.
One day during class, Bennie and I were asked to go to the fabric room to pick up a few rolls of muslin (for the uninitiated its the fabric used in pattern making for clothing). On the way to the fabric room, Bennie told me that he had feelings for me that went beyond just our close friendship. I was about 16 or 17 at the time. Bible and Christian indoctrinated as a child. What I felt, however, was humility and I responded with the grace that I was given through the men who I knew and loved that were gay and the imprint that they left upon me. I told Bennie that I appreciated his feelings and his honesty. I cared deeply for him as a friend. But I knew that I could not have the kind of relationship that he would have needed because I liked girls…A LOT. We laughed, he understood and I was flattered that he felt that way about me (Bennie had high standards). We were even better friends after that discussion. Bennie, unfortunately, died far too young. God rest his talented loving soul.
As a straight male, I wasn’t freaked out, I didn’t respond stupidly or threaten him with physical violence because he saw something in me that he found attractive in some way. I was honored that he felt comfortable enough with me and trusted me enough to tell me something he had been feeling, and how I chose to deal with that moment, with his truth defined my entire life and interaction with the LGBT community which is this: count yourself fortunate to have people who live in absolute human truth to be part of your life and embracing someone as they are is the most important thing that you can do for any human being. It’s what everyone wants, Hetero or Gay, you want to be accepted for who you are and to not be judged. You just want to be loved. Period.
Love is a hard thing to find. And when you find it, the hard work begins. Who we choose to love, defines our humanity. It is our job as humans to live and let live. To do no harm to others (even though that philosophy is non-existent when money, power, and politics come into play). I also feel that as humans, we should want to ensure that everyone who comes into our path, into our orbit if you will….should be embraced for the best of who they are. Not treated poorly or indifferently because of their sexuality.
Imagine if there was a way heterosexual peoples sexual proclivities could be determined (and therefore judged) when you meet them? 50% of peoples sexual proclivities would be so boring you would snore by the time you got to know them. 25% might be mildly interesting and may give you an idea or two in the bedroom. The other 25% their “stuff” would be so dark, nasty and foreboding that LGBT sexual relations would be vanilla to you. The range of sexual weirdness and darkness runs the gamut of human sexuality. In short, its sheer stupidity to even begin to judge, discriminate against or demean people whose sexuality (or sexual choices) are different.
It was the height of ignorance and stupidity for the Black Community and Black churches to support Proposition 8 in California: “Seven in 10 African Americans who went to the polls voted yes on Proposition 8, the ballot measure overruling a state Supreme Court judgment that legalized same-sex marriage and brought 18,000 gay and lesbian couples to Golden State courthouses.” The MOST discriminated group in the Country chose to discriminate against people who just wanted to legalize the love they have for another. Ignorance and an absolute waste and misdirection of political power. In fact, the stupidest thing I have ever seen my community support. Newsflash…that wasn’t the Christian thing to do. (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/06/AR2008110603880.html)
I am not Catholic, but I like Pope Francis (face it, even us non-Catholics like and dislike certain Pope’s). Pope Francis, for the most part, has it right. “The 256-page document — known as an apostolic exhortation and titled “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love” — calls for priests to welcome single parents, gay people and unmarried straight couples who are living together. “A pastor cannot feel that it is enough to simply apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives,” he wrote.” Sounds like God’s Emissary figured out that this is what a Christian does. (Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/09/world/europe/pope-francis–amoris-laetitia.html)
I am a Christian, I know what the bible says and what’s preached from the pulpit about homosexuality. I also know what the Bible says about love, goodness, and kindness. I know that for me to be truly Christian I have to accept people and embrace them for who they are. I know that God gave me the right to choose what is acceptable and when in doubt? Respond in love and acceptance.
If you’re emotionally intelligent, you realize that you don’t always get to pick who you love. If you find anyone who loves you the way you feel you need to be loved, you’re a step ahead of many of us. Do you know how many stupid love choices I have made as a straight male? One of the smartest choices I ever made was when I married, my Best Man was my Law Partner Emani Pamela Taylor. An accomplished brilliant attorney who just so happened to be a lesbian. She had my back.
The great feminist, poet, activist, Audre Lorde “was a lesbian and navigated spaces interlocking her womanhood, gayness, and blackness in ways that trumped white feminism, predominately white gay spaces and toxic black male masculinity. Lorde used those identities within her work and ultimately it guided her to create pieces that embodied lesbianism in a light that educated people of many social classes and identities on the issues black lesbian women face in society.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audre_Lorde)
How do you deny your love of humanity in her words: “The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference. It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. – Audre Lorde