If you read last week’s post, you know that I recently had a long, awkward conversation with my friend “Pete”, who was afraid to attend the Chicago Pride Parade with me because he thought some of The Gay might rub off on him.
I’m writing to this report that I had another long, awkward conversation with Pete after writing that post. I felt like I should let him know he was making an appearance on the Tumblr, even anonymously. He was upset. He wanted to talk.
I made the quick trip over to his place, and we sat in his living room, the air conditioner loudly beating back the 90° temperatures, the sun streaming in through the blinds, and we just talked. Through the afternoon and into the evening. And something maybe a little miraculous happened.
I think he’s changed his mind.
We talked about his father, who taught him that racism was absolutely wrong, but homophobia was a-okay. We talked about his mother, who had trained him to worry about his projected levels of masculinity, or risk being rejected by women. We talked about his friends, who had always taken the “whatever” route when one of them came out, and how he had masked his discomfort by feigning a similar nonchalance.
We talked about why some men find male homosexuality terrifying, but think female homosexuality “doesn’t really count”. We talked about the fact that he finds bisexuality utterly confusing and impossible to understand. We talked about the disconnect between who a person is, and what a person does, and the essential link between who a person is and what a person does.
It was an amazing conversation. Difficult for both of us, but so, so honest.
And, in the end, useful. Very late that evening, after a long pause, Pete turned to me and said he understood why he had been wrong. And he apologized. He was really apologizing to everyone whom he’d ever treated differently because they were LGBT, but I just happened to be on hand. And then he asked me what he could do.
We talked about what it means to be an ally, that it’s not just thinking and acting a certain way yourself, but encouraging others to do the same. That it’s about speaking up for what’s right. And I think he got it.
So thanks for coming aboard as an ally, Pete. I’m so, so proud of you.