“I was so tired of the closet. I wanted out. To marginalize an entire group of people because of whom we love was wrong. I just knew it.”
One summer in the mid 1980s I chose to ride my bicycle alone from my hometown in New York to San Diego. I was so tired of the closet. I wanted out. To marginalize an entire group of people because of whom we love was wrong. I just knew it. It was an over-the-top, outrageous, fabulous way to come out to the world, but it was not without pain. Family members cried, friends sighed. But I was never in fear of my life.
Unbeknownst to me, at the same time as my arrival to a world of rainbows and everything Cher, a new and deadly disease was growing all around and through my new world: the AIDS virus, often referred to as “God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.”
One by one, my newfound buddies were literally disappearing overnight, succumbing to the cancer, the pneumonia, and the banishment. I would actually scan the obituaries each day to keep up with all the death. It was horrifying, but I was still not afraid of dying. I was late to the bathhouse parties that were enjoyed for so long by the socially repressed older gay world, but I was right on time for the education on HIV and AIDS in my slowly accepting world. I had to be careful, of course, but otherwise life continued happily on.
“I was late to the bathhouse parties that were enjoyed for so long by the socially repressed older gay world, but I was right on time for the education on HIV and AIDS in my slowly accepting world.”
Fast-forward to 2001. Two dads from my circle of friends and their recently adopted baby were killed as the plane in which they were traveling slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, on a day when 2977 souls from every corner of the world died. I felt so sad for a long time. It was such bad luck for that gay family to be in that plane. I mourned their passing, but in my mind their death had nothing to do with being gay, but rather they were collateral damage from the actions of ignorant and blind haters.
Since then I have been feeling the dagger of hate that is aimed at the heart of my world. ISIS and al Qaeda claim we are subhuman. The leader of Iran refutes our very existence. Countries like the Sudan, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Pakistan threaten to punish us with death. Even some leaders from around my own country—the land of the free and the home of the brave—liken gays to animals, call us sinners, and deem us unworthy of equal rights. It seemed to me that it was only a matter of time before a tragedy would strike.
“That time has arrived. A shooter who allegedly has ties with terrorism killed at least 50 guests of a gay nightclub.”
That time has arrived. A shooter who allegedly has ties with terrorism killed at least 50 guests of a gay nightclub. I say guests because it’s conceivable that many straight people—who have come to realize just how fun gays and gay bars can be—may have died in this massacre.
So was this a hate crime against gay people, or was it gun violence that has spiraled out of control? Does the fact that gay people are enjoying more and more rights, and more and more gay pride events, mean that homophobia will increase exponentially? The questions will keep me awake the next few nights, and I will keep my three boys close to me and pray for their future. Because I’m really frightened. And I have no doubt that this hate won’t end.