Straights Say the Darndest Things
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, imagine Art Linkletter in front of a roomful of straights. Art asks them, “Your next door neighbor just came out as gay. What will you say to him or her?” Hands go up in the air, and all the straights want to be called upon for their responses. The host points at one straight and says, “Yes, my friend, what do you say?” And then the whole litany of silly straight reactions begins. Are you ready? I am going to share with you some comments gays and lesbians have heard from straights, followed by what would be more apt replies. Of these comments, how many are you familiar with?
You don’t look gay! Oh, and how is a gay supposed to look? Was it the tight Bermuda shorts and huarache sandals that gave it away? Or was it the shirt unbuttoned to the sternum? If we are talking about a lesbian, was it the spiky hair and cargo shorts? I have been around enough gays and lesbians to know that there is no one appearance that says, “I am gay or lesbian.”
Aren’t you just going through a phase? Yes, I am—it’s called LIFE! I was born gay and I will die gay. This is a life-long phase that I am in. Is your heterosexuality just a phase for you? If not, then why do you think my homosexuality is just a phase? Just because individuals’ sexual orientations are different, does not mean that one is right and one is wrong. Each person’s orientation is right for them, whatever that happens to be.
Which one of you is the wife? Uhhh, we are both gay men, so there is no wife. We are equals and our partnership is comprised of two husbands. Just because straights are so accustomed to dual roles in their relationships does not mean that gays and lesbians do the same. (This also holds true for lesbians, not needing one of them to be the “husband!”)
You just haven’t met the right girl yet. No, I haven’t, because there is no girl who would ever be right for me. As a gay person, I am looking for the right man! No girl will convert me, make me see the light, convince me to come over to the “other side,” or even interest me romantically. I like guys!!! Get it?
Don’t you want to have children? Well, yes, I do, and I can still have children as a gay (or lesbian). Haven’t you been watching Modern Family? Often gay and lesbian couples have children. Professional studies have concluded that those children fare no better or worse than children of straight relationships. What matters is that children have loving parents, whether gay or straight.
Since you used to be married, doesn’t that make you bisexual? No, it doesn’t. I used to be married because I had not yet come to terms with my homosexuality. Mistakenly, I thought that marrying would enable me to live a straight life. Later I discovered that was not going to happen. I was sorry to put my wife and kids through that ordeal, but since I came out as my true gay self, I have never been happier. My children and I now have a wonderful relationship and I enjoy a decent, civil one with my ex-wife. But make no mistake—I am gay!
I’m not prejudiced, but…. Well, your “but” gives you away. You really are prejudiced. Otherwise there would be no “but” in your sentence. It’s like saying “I’m not racist, but…” You are! Either you accept me for who I am, or you show your prejudice. There is no hiding the fact that you are, indeed, prejudiced. Your semantics cannot provide shelter for you.
Oh, you’re gay (lesbian)? Do you know ___________ (insert one: Neil Patrick Harris, Wanda Sykes, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ricky Martin, Jenna Wolfe, Barney Frank, Ellen DeGeneres, or any number of other famous gays or lesbians). Well, as I said to Ellen and Ricky just the other day.... NO!! I do not know them. While the population of gays and lesbians is rather small across the spectrum of our society, we do not happen to know each other just because we have the same sexual orientation.
I hate the sin, but I love the sinner. So I love you, my gay (lesbian) friend. Well, I appreciate your sentiment, but it has nothing to do with the love that you are called to exhibit. First of all, one’s sexual orientation is not a sin! And because of that, no one is a sinner simply by being gay or lesbian. But that’s a discussion for another day (and an article for another issue!). By saying you hate the sin but love the sinner, you are automatically putting a barrier between us. You are making the claim that you are not a sinner because you are heterosexual. I beg to differ. We are all sinners, and in need of forgiveness. One’s sexual orientation does not make one a sinner. But then, if you believed that, you wouldn’t have made the comment in the first place, would you?
Allow me to close by sharing two personal experiences. A lesbian friend shared with me that as a nurse manager, she had a co-worker ask her if her child was her own biological son. When she replied “yes,” this co-worker responded that she didn’t think lesbians could have babies. What made this an even more stupid straight comment was that the co-worker was the Director of Maternal Child Nursing!
Lastly, a gay friend shared with me that the worst comment any gay or lesbian can receive is no comment at all. After he came out to his family, his younger brother would not speak with him for several years. If he walked into a room at the family home, his brother would quietly get up and go to another room. There were no dirty looks, no raised voices. He would just leave. Silence can be deafening sometimes, can’t it?
As the straight man writing this article, I struggle to find the right words to describe my feelings toward these totally ignorant straight people. And I mean “ignorant” in both its definitions: uninformed and rude. I am ashamed. I am embarrassed. I want to tell every straight person who utters any of these remarks, “By spending time with gays and lesbians (and transgenders), you will discover that they are just people, too. They are wonderful people who have fears, anxieties, hopes, dreams and yearnings…just as does any straight person.”