Confession of a Former Homophobe, and What Mitt Romney Could Learn From My Bigotry

Categories: Politics
antigay.jpg
Segregationist also used to go public with this kind of hate.
The first gay person I ever knew had just served me pasta in his home. He hadn't bought a dining room table yet for his new apartment, so we were sitting on his living room floor with plates in our hands. He had made a simple sauce with crushed tomatoes, sliced garlic, and torn basil leaves. It was delicious.

Until then, I had no idea Kevin was gay. I had no idea anybody was gay, because back then, in 1999, many gay people kept that kind of thing to themselves.

"There's something about me I need to tell you," he said with a grim voice as we finished the pasta. "I'm not happy about it, but I'm gay. I wish I wasn't that way."

At that moment, I had a choice, to accept Kevin or embrace the bigotry I had been taught. The only real talk I heard about homosexuality while growing up in the 1980s was when someone made a gay joke. Calling someone a fag or a queer was an insult that struck at his manliness like no other.

When Kevin stopped talking, he looked over with an expression that revealed pain and shame and fear. I think he expected my wife and me to get up and walk out.

That moment came back to me recently when I watched the video of Mitt Romney being confronted by a gay Vietnam veteran. The man asks Romney for his opinion on gay marriage and whether the partner of a gay veteran ought to be entitled to benefits. Romney tells him: "I think at the time the Constitution was written, it was clear marriage was between a man and a woman."

It's a ridiculous argument. He's insinuating that our founding fathers banned gay marriage in the Constitution. There's, of course, no mention of it. Or maybe he's mentioning our founding fathers as a baseline of morality. Most of them enslaved a whole race of people based on the color of their skin. 

That kind of thinking is what results from the ignorance that existed in this country up until the last decade. Before then, few were out of the closet. Even fewer were portrayed by characters on TV shows or in movies. It was easy for someone like me, who had grown up calling people a fag more times than I'd like to remember, to simply not understand what it means to be gay. It's likely Romney had a similar experience.

Of course, Romney isn't alone among the GOP presidential field. Newt Gingrich told a voter in Iowa to vote for President Obama if gay marriage was the only thing he cared about. Then there are Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, who have regularly filled their speeches with hate, calling gay marriage immoral.

They say these things, openly and on the record, the same way segregationists did just a generation ago. Even in the early 1970s, politicians were still fighting to keep blacks out of schools. Like Santorum running on a decidedly antigay platform of fear and hate, the late-Sen. Strom Thurmond ran for president on an antisegregation stance. He told a crowd in 1948: "I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigger race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."

Thurmond never apologized, but he did later vote to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday and hired a black man to his staff -- perhaps steps in acknowledging his former bigotry.

If Bachmann and Gingrich and the others are in politics long enough to see this current generation inherit the country, they will likely have to make those same kinds of concessions or apologies. This current generation grew up with gay characters in pop culture and with classmates who are openly gay. That talk Kevin had with me a little over a decade ago is common now for high school kids, who likely would've been unfazed by such news.

After remembering that night recently, I called Kevin to ask what it was like from the other side. Kevin had been closeted through college, and we met as reporters at a South Florida daily newspaper. He had no idea what it would mean to be out.

"It was all still very new for me being out, and I was kind of freaked out by the whole thing," he recalled over the phone. "I worried that if I was out, I'd lose my job and everyone I knew. I didn't know if I was going to end up working at Barnes & Noble."

Few reacted poorly. "The number of bad reactions, I can count them on one hand. And they were people I didn't want in my life anyway."

It was his parents Kevin feared telling the most. They were Southern Baptists and were staunchly antigay. His father died not long after Kevin came out of the closet. After Kevin found out that his father had died, he remembers thinking, "Thank God I don't have to tell my father." His mom took a while to come around, but she bought a Christmas gift this year for Kevin's partner.

Kevin has been married now for six years. He's an editor at a respected wire service (he asked that I not use his last name in fear that some of the service's conservative clients could object to his sexuality). And the best part: He and his husband are expecting twins from a surrogate.

"Looking back at me at that age, I feel really bad for me then," he says. "I wish I could tell myself that I'll live the life I always wanted. I didn't think it was possible."

There's one way this public display of antigay bigotry ends, Kevin says. "Nothing is going to change until the Dick Cheneys of the world stand up and say we need to change this."

It's hard to imagine Newt Gingrich changing his stance on gay marriage. But like desegregation, this kind of bigotry can't go on forever.


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14 comments
Chris85
Chris85

There are quite a few of us out here who are frankly sick and tired of this "oh woe is me" mentality of the black community: the mentality that slavery that happened over 100 years ago, or segregation that happened over 50 years ago somehow affects your life today. So now there are blacks (not all blacks, by any means, but many) who excuse every one of their personal failings on the basis of this past history that is now long gone. Now we see the other side of this hypocrisy: the attitude that we must feel sorry for every black due to the past, but not extend even the most basic sense of civility to gay people. Well, as far as I am concerned, I have more respect for people who demand only their civil rights, and the right to be left alone, rather than people who want society to give them something (endless freebies) for some supposed past wrongs that happened a long time ago. Enough of pandering to that: lets focus on ending the abuses that occur to people TODAY whose only fault is being different, and wanting to be themselves.

Mireydoe
Mireydoe

Okay,  so to the black Gay hating so called moral people on this site, I say this. You will most certainly be judged on how you treat people who are different from you. For teh LGBT people this is a civil rights issue. Why? Because not allowing people to get married is a violation of their civil rights,just as surely as not allowing them to vote or use public facilities just like everybody else.Yes we wear our blackness and can't hide ( unless you can pass and many still do this) your skin and Gays can often hide their sexuality.And maybe that is what you are reffering to when you say their struggle isn't the same. But how many of us of you " thought " someone was gay and treated them differently because of it? How many of you assume the guy in the gym is a "real Man" like you and hurl anti gay  slurs around like it's okay. How many of you would " Kick a F$#%"s ass" if he told you he was attracted to you, instead of just telling him your not gay? Remember this, our country was not founded as a Christian country. So any attemps to govern through Christian morality is wrong. We are guaranteed freedom of religion and freedom from it. All Men are created equal here and they are endowed by their creator ( even the one they are free not to believe in) with rights. Those being life, liberty and the persuit of happiness. Marriage is part of  this. For those who are picky please excuse the typos. Have a blessed day.

SBaker2
SBaker2

This article is nothing short of the twisted logic of a pervert. Is this like the child who becomes "homophobic" after he was molested by a Mr. Sandusky or the woman who is raped and crusades against the practice? Clearly, with the exceptions cited, fear is not the issue with normal people; the word is disgust with deviant behavior whether it pertains to same-sex relations with children, animals, or the dead. This sickness grows more bold in demanding that others, not just accept, but exalt said behavior as normal. If there is any concern with public health, then let it be understood that male homosexuals are the #1 vector for the spread of infectious diseases among humans and are an unnecessary public health threat costing the system billions. Male homosexuals have the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS, syphilis, drug-resistant gonorrhea, entamoeba histolytica, chlamydia, herpes simplex II, Chancroid, Drug Resistant TB, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis non A & B, just to name a few. Since I have worked in public health for years, you are out of your league.

iknowHimwell
iknowHimwell

This whole article is a load of crap! I'm black..and NOT supporting homosexuality or same-sex marriage DOES NOT make you a bigot, and does not equate with racial bigotry. Only simple-minded weak individuals will believe your deceptive dribble and bow to your immoral sexual whims!

Not this man, and NOT most black Christians.

Kd5eet
Kd5eet

I don't think the churches who hold a strong inerantest view of the bible will ever be able to accept homosexuality as OK.  The verses used in the past for racism could be written of as out of context or only applying to Old Testement Isreal. Paul's bigotry in Romans can't be written off without denying inerrancy. They may accept them "out in the world", like they accept co-habitiung couples now  However, I don't think they will ever accept them as members or ordane them.  Many still refuse to ordain women and never will.

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

Well said.  I remember back in my high school and my best friend came out to me on a road trip to Minnesota during a snow storm.  I remember not caring about that but being annoyed he could not drive in the snow.  A few years later I would get a job with a gay boss who I still call my second father.  He is currently dealing with the death of his long time partner that the powers that be refuse to acknowledge so he will most likely be stuck in a job he hates for the rest of his life.This unthinking hatred of gays just never really made any sense to me.  As long as they were not trying to get into my pants, why the hell should I care?  Same with marriage, since in the long run, how would it affect anyone?This is supposed to be a free country, but it seems that the repubs think it is only free as long as you are just like them, white, christian, and rich.I agree we need to get back to the Constitution, and let freedom be for everyone and not such a small group.

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII

Don't count Newt out. He is likely to say anything to get elected.

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

 Actually that is a myth.  It spread fastest in that community back in the 80s before it was known that you need to wear condoms.  But in reality, it is straight sex that it is spreading in the fastest.  Case in point, Africa.You may have worked in public health, but somehow I bet it was through one of those conservative religious places because your completely wrong.

SBaker2
SBaker2

In recent years, there has been an effort to equate the current homosexual rights movement with the black civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Blacks universally resent being compared to perverts, but the analogy fails for two principal reasons: 1) The homosexual movement can’t find a reverend named Pastor Queen, and 2) unlike blacks, homosexuals generally have to invent their own victimization stories so they will have some “social ill” to eradicate.Of course, such stories are never a manifestation of the illnesses of “society.” They are simply evidence of widespread mental illness in the LGBT “civil rights” movement.

SBaker2
SBaker2

CA dept of public health was my employer for almost 20 years. I have seen all of the disgusting deevs I can stand.  Most people have no idea about the disgusting acts these sick-minded people perform. Actual consumption of fecal material is also highest in this group leading to upper GI infections with microbes that normally inhabit the lower GI--disgusting but there it is. The highest incidence (fathom the concept if you have escaped dementia) of these diseases resides with the male homosexual community by far. This is why the average lifespan of a male homosexual is about 15 years shorter than lifetime tobaccco users.  The Darwin Awards come to mind.

Nut Romney
Nut Romney

So you think being Gay is wrong because it eating sh*t shortens your lifespan.

Wow. So that's where these things come from. You should write for Hannity.

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