Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Two Cents: Come Out, Speak Out, And Minds Can Be Changed

I am all about coming out. I want every LGBT person out, and out now, because I seriously believe, and seriously know, that if we were to all come out then most of this anti-LGBT bias would simply fade away because it would be clear that we are everywhere; we live next door to you; we work alongside you; we worship beside you, sit at the bar with you, go to the movies with you.

We’re like the Visa card: we’re everywhere you want to be.

And once everyone realizes that The Gays are not so very different from everyone else — except in whom we love — then maybe a lot of this intolerance and ignorance and fear will dissipate. Oh sure, I’m no Pollyanna about this, I know there will still be those thumping their Bibles about Adam and Steve, and Leviticus, but I think the majority of people will simply look at The Gays and say, “Oh, I see it now” and then move along.

I’ve seen it happen in my own life. I’ve seen people change their views on The Gays once realizing that I am ‘One.’ They see that I’m not the stereotype, the joke; I’m not something to fear, I’m just Bob, who happens to be married to Carlos. The few times in my life where people have not been accepting, who have turned their backs on me for being gay, are from people who are entrenched in their so-called faith; they think God is, if not hate, then intolerance. But, when we do come out — and we do it all the time … we recently changed grocery stores and are now The Gay Couple at Food Lion — it does seem to change minds.

We experienced this with our new neighbors recently. Carlos, the MasterBaker of our house — I’d swear, he’d be MasterBaking right now if he wasn’t at work — made a lovely loaf of Orange-Cranberry Bread to take over to the new neighbor’s home. At their door, the husband answered, and he was a little taken aback by ‘Bob and Carlos’ but he said ‘Thanks’ and took the bread and closed the door; all very politely.

Oh well, we thought, his loss, because we’re nice neighbors; but, cut to the next night when his wife came over — she wasn’t home the Day of the Bread — to thank us and talk with us and tell us about herself and her family, and listen to us about ours.

It’s that simple; coming out, living life, being yourself, people understand. Though, for a lot of folks, this whole anti-LGBT thing is about the “sex” because, you know, The Gays are all about “the Sex.” We do it all the time, every second of every day, everywhere, anywhere — heck, I could be doing it right now and typing at the same time because we gays are quite adept at multi-tasking … but I digress.

Years back, and I know you’ve heard some of this before but bear with me, I met Carlos online. We chatted online, emailed back and forth, and then went to The Phones. We lived on opposite coasts, so I’d call him when I got up in the morning, just as he’d be arriving at work, and he’d call me late in the evening just as I was getting home from work. This went on for a couple of months and then I had vacation time, so off to Miami I flew.

A hop skip and a jump later, it was love. The next month, Carlos came to California to visit me, meet my friends and family. We arrived at my parent’s house and my Mom — who loved Carlos instantly, mainly because her son loved him — told us we’d be in the bedroom at the top of the stairs.

I was kind of shocked, because I’d kind of expected my parents to keep us in separate rooms, as they had done with my sister and her boyfriends and my brother and his girlfriends. But, we shared the room at the top of the stairs, and, years later, after Carlos and I were officially a couple, living to together in  Miami, my mother told me that my father wasn’t exactly pleased that we were sharing a room because, he wondered, “What were they doing up there?”

My mom explained that, most likely, we’d be sleeping, but even if we weren’t, did my father ever wonder what my sister and her, now husband, were doing  ‘up there’?

That’s when my Dad realized that what Carlos and I had, and have, is not just sex; it’s the same things he’d felt with my Mom when they were dating, and when they got married; the only difference is that it wasn’t Bob and Sue — my mom and dad — it was Bob and Carlos. Same love, same gender, but no real difference.

All of this leads to a point — and I do have one — which is this: gay people need to come out.

I recently read an article in the New York Times which seemed to prove exactly what I’ve been saying: that if we all come out, and simply live our lives openly, and talk about ourselves like everyone else talks about their lives and loves, then  world will change for us.

The NYT article talks about a study has come out that which suggests that something as simple as a twenty minute conversation about a controversial and personal issue — in the case of the study, it was a gay person talking to straight people about same-sex marriage — can spark a change in attitude that is not only a lasting change, but also seems to spread from there.

It’s like the telephone game, only with acceptance.

The study, led by Michael LaCour of UCLA, tested whether or not a door-to-door campaign run by the Los Angeles LGBT Center would produce a change of attitude, a change in acceptance of the LGBT community in general, and same-sex marriage in particular. The study, begun in 2008, after the passage of California’s marriage ban, Prop 8, sent canvassers into neighborhoods that had come out strongly in favor of the proposition to talk about marriage equality.

The experiment, or study, mimicked a drug trial; the researchers recruited voters from these precincts, surveyed their attitudes — including those on same-sex marriage — and then randomly assigned them to receive either the “treatment” or a placebo.

The “treatment” was a knock on the door and a conversation, initiated by either an openly gay canvasser or a straight one; the “placebo” was either a talk about recycling or no canvassing at all.

The result: 20% of the voters who were chatted up about marriage equality shifted their positions to being pro-same-sex marriage, and it worked whether the canvasser was gay or straight; it was just the simplicity of the conversation.

It’s like Harvey Milk said, forty years ago, and it still holds true today:
“Gay brothers and sisters ... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.
It’s the only way change can truly happen; it’s the only path toward understanding and acceptance. Sure, there will be some who will still seek to deny us rights, who will still see us as less than, as an abomination. But their numbers will dwindle while acceptance and understanding grows.

Come out. Come out already.
study at NYT


the dogs' mother said...

yummm, any empty houses near you?

Bob Slatten said...

The one behind is for sale!

the dogs' mother said...

Got any nuclear plants out there?

We actually might end up in your Dad's part of the country as all kiddos have/are gravitating to the wet side of the state.

Princess said...

Bob, this is the exact type of conversation that I have had with various people over the years. Part of the difficulty with people understanding "The Gay" boils down to exactly what you stated ... the sex. I had some very open and honest discussions over some years with the pastor and congregation members at my local church that I go to. I've been up front from the beginning with them about "The Gay". This year I was Baptised and gave my testimony before the church and more recently took up full membership.
I guess there really is Hope...

Helen Lashbrook said...

Working, living, playing, learning with those who are different from you for whatever reason....colour, sexual orientation, religion, sex...the more you know them, the more you realise we are all the same under the skin - human beings

the dogs' mother said...

For those still learning - take a look at all your heterosexual friends. Do you spend ANY time trying to picture them in the bedroom? Do you WANT to know?
a) it is none of your business and b) past a certain age, well, gawd!

BloggerJoe said...

That example you gave of the conversation your mom and dad had really sparked something for me. I finally realized that what the straight people fear is the unknown. "What are they doing up there?" seems to boil down to not the "doing" but the "what". He didn't wonder what others were doing up there because he knew. He didn't give it another thought. What you guys did was unknown in reality, despite the rumors he probably heard. Thanks. That was very enlightening.

Mitchell is Moving said...

I'm here!!! I'm here!!! And I never got my toaster...

Amazing to think that Harvey Milk was saying this -- and loudly -- 40 years ago.

Sometimes I resent feeling like I'm enlightening friends and acquaintances. Other times, it feels so rewarding.

But, crap, I wish I had known it was all about the sex! Jerry? Jerry???

Debbie said...

Really beautifully and simply stated Bob. I agree. Most people are freaked out about the sex. They think that all gay people are freaking sex obsessed perverts. I agree that the more people that do come out, the more understanding and acceptance there will be. I work in a big ol law firm here in L.A. and our managing partner is openly gay. He's a great guy, brought his partner to the Xmas party and everyone was like so ok and normal about it. And the last firm I worked at, the managing partner of the ENTIRE FIRM was also openly gay. So handsome too. So yes ... the more people come out the better because folks will see that PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. Sadly though, I think the super righteous Christian people will never see it differently. Unless they really soul search and step outside the dogmatic rules of whatever Christian organization they belong to and realize that Jesus, as all other spiritual leaders who came to this planet came with the same message. Love One Another. Period.
MERRY XMAS HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU AND CARLOS ... and I want that cranberry orange bread recipe. Seriously.

Mark in DE said...

What a wonderfully thoughtful and accurate blog entry! Couldn't agree with you more.