Overcoming Homophobia in 5 Steps

Earlier today I was interviewed by a writer for the Associated Press about my “evolution” from being a homophobic jackass to being somewhat enlightened and accepting same-sex marriage. The AP was referred to me by a friend who had read something I’d written several years ago, regarding California’s Prop 8 and my Uncle Mark. You can read that here. I think it is very important that I make some things very clear. First, I was very homophobic. I wasn’t the sort that beat up gay men, but I definitely thought less of them, and was prone to launch into verbally abusive tirades. Second, I thought that under no circumstances should gays or lesbians be afforded any sort of rights, and I was insulted whenever gay rights and civil rights were ever mentioned in the same context. I no longer think that way. My personal evolution came over many years, but here is how it happened for me.
#1. Get to Know Homosexual Men and Women. I don’t mean this in some sort of sexual way—like, “Hey, you need to get to ‘know’ a queer guy to like a gay guy.” I just mean that despite sexual preferences, homosexual men and women are still human beings. Prejudice and discrimination thrive when we are able to marginalize different groups of people, and thereby rob them of their humanity. But once you get to really know a person as a fellow human being, and not as an “other” your perceptions begin to change. For me it took one of my best friends coming out of the closet when I was about 21 years old. At that point we’d be friends for years. He was like a brother to me. I knew him as a human being. Even if I wanted to marginalize him as “one of them,” I simply couldn’t do it. And that was the first step for me.
#2. Know that Homosexuality is NOT a Choice. This is one of the biggest arguments of the homophobe. I used this argument all the time. It wasn’t until I went through Step 1 that I began to understand things differently. Yes, maybe it is a choice for some people, but over the years I have personally never met anyone who chose to be gay. In fact, one close friend said to me, “Do you think that if I had a choice, I would have chosen to be someone who is harassed and hated by society?” So, yeah. Being gay is not a choice. The only choice involved is in choosing to accept who you are, or living a lie. If being gay was a choice, I’d have turned gay along time ago, simply so I would have to deal with the nonsense women put men through.
#3. Leave Your Religious Views Out of It. Look, I get some people are religiously opposed to homosexuality. Okay. So then don’t be gay. But the last time I checked, religions that believe in Heaven and Hell, and the redemption of the soul, and all that other stuff—well, all those religions are pretty clear that you’re responsible for your soul, period. Don’t worry about the soul of anyone else. If homosexuality is indeed a sin—and I DO NOT believe it is—then let Bob and Joe worry about their souls, and you stay the fuck out of it.
#4. Don’t Be Afraid, Homosexuality is NOT Contagious. You can’t become gay by being around gay people, or shaking their hand, or whatever dumb crap some people think. And queer people don’t try to turn straight people gay. Sure, some gay guys try to screw straight men, but that’s because they are men. Men want to have sex, period. It doesn’t matter if their hetero or homo—guys just want to get laid. I’ve been propositioned by gay men before, and I said, “Gee, thanks. That’s kind of flattering, but I love the poonaney too much.” And that was that. No one clubbed me over the head with a dildo and tried to turn me gay. I’ve never been sprayed with some sort of magical dust that suddenly made me want to suck cock. Trust me, if being gay was contagious, I’d have caught it from one of my friends a long time ago. As it is, my queer friends can’t even get me to dress more fashionably.
#5. Understand What “Equal Rights” Means. One of the main arguments I get from my homophobic friends is that gays don’t deserve equal rights, especially not the way other minorities like blacks do. Trust me, I know this argument. This was my favorite anti-gay screed, right after, “Being a homo is a choice.” But again, I now know better. I believe that to a large extent arriving at Step 2 will lead you to Step 5. Here is the bottom line—once you deny any group equal rights, for any reason, you are leaving the door open deny equal rights to other groups. There are people who would deny equality to blacks just as quickly as they would to Jews, homosexuals, or anyone else that they hate because they are different. So, it comes down to this…either you are one of those people that support discrimination, or you are not. I believe that it is not possible to be a moral person and be selectively discriminatory. Some people will argue that gays are monsters—diseased abominations, that prey on children—and that sexual predators do not deserve equal rights. Well, I’m not talking about sexual predators. I agree, sexual predators that abuse children do not deserve equal rights. But gays and sexual predators are not the same thing, just like Catholic priests and gays are not the same thing (although some sexual predators are gay, just as many are Catholic priests). When we are talking about equal rights for gay people, we are talking about equal rights for law-abiding citizens

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