When I was growing up, “That’s so gay!” was a definite insult. People called each other “faggots” regularly, casually. Get out in foursquare, complain about how “gay” that was. Someone cut in front of you in the lunch line, cry, “What’s the deal, fag?”
I remember asking my dad what that word meant.
My mostly conservative father, in his supreme tenderness explained that that word was a word that Robinsons do not say. He said it was an unkind way of characterizing someone who is different. Because that word wasn’t on the list of four-letter “no no’s” many of my peers said it often from a young age. I did not say it because my father taught me so. That word was unkind. For the record, my father also got mad at me once when I offhandedly called someone on TV “White Trash.” And I didn’t even know there was an N-word until High School, because derogatory words just weren’t part of the Robinson vocabulary. Some will call this being sheltered—sure. Maybe. But more so, for me, I think this was my family drawing their line in the sand and only tolerating kindness.
It wasn’t until my freshmen year of high school that I realized the way people said “That’s so gay,” was unkind too. I was in the parking lot of Chipotle on a lunch break. Some careless teenagers complained that something was gay, something inanimate and without sexual preference. My friend Hannah leapt to this charge, a Social Justice warrior the likes of which I’d never seen. Never mind that these boys were upperclassmen, never mind that she was not formally invited into their conversation. She snapped right in and said, “Is that gay? Is what you’re referring to as bad actually doing something ‘gay?’ Choose your words more carefully next time.”
I’ve thought about that a lot over the years. It is one of my favorite things that Hannah ever did. I learned something that day.
I belong to a religion that has drawn its line in the sand about Gay Marriage. It’s been easy for some to agree with, and I’m glad for them, but it’s been hard for me. I’ve been a supreme Middleman for a long time on this issue, (or, as I prefer, Middlewoman) and I’ve been able to see both sides so clearly. Being able to see both sides can feel ironically very muddy. I’ve cried a lot about the inability to reconcile the church that I believe in with the politics that seem logical (and kinder) to me. It’s been soul-wrenching, but sometimes I think that’s ok for thoughtful individuals to feel a little torn.