LBGTQ Pride month. Fifty years since Stonewall. Three years since forty-nine killed in Florida at the popular gay bar Pulse. Two weeks since four died in Detroit in anti-gay murders. So amid happy parades, rainbow flags, and “how far we’ve come,” more work calls out for us to see people as people.
What needs doing for us to evolve? How do we open our hearts? I want to know what births change in this world brimming with love, progress, promise and hate, regression and anger. What can one person, what can any of us, do?
I wonder if our homework assigns us this: get to know the humanity of one, two or a few gay or transgender living, breathing, human beings. Lean in to understand “those others”.
Maybe our fears would lessen.
Can I tell you about my gay son? He sweats out long days in hot kitchens. He creates menus and writes budgets for the huge restaurant group whose pastry department he leads. He opens bakeries, hires and trains cashiers, chefs, dishwashers; he gives people jobs. He walks his dog. Just like me he pays his bills. He’s an artist and chemist and speaks his basic Spanish with his sous chefs so they feel respected at work.
And just like me, my friend Barb and her wife advocate fiercely for their children. They moved from one town to another so that their autistic son Jay can receive services in school and a curriculum designed just for him. Barb’s wife is a cancer surgeon. Barb works in criminal justice. They like to fish.
And my IT guy. He and his boyfriend, both quiet, aim to eke out a living and live a sane life after insane hours at work, managing chaotic teams of people. Just like me, they eat at home more often than not, yet love a fun funky restaurant. They bought a small house in a small neighborhood in a small city for a simple life.
Change needs laws, protests and marches, of course. Time, too, grows acceptance. We might argue that society has awakened a bit. PFLAG, Outright, and It Gets Better have expanded the safety of “out.” In 1950, could libraries have hosted Drag Queen Story Hour? In 1960, would Rami Malek have won an Oscar for playing a bisexual man? How about a gay male as an inaugural poet? And did you see the diverse Tony Awards? Arts, culture and literature often lead the way to inclusivity.
But how do we do the interpersonal work of getting in close to each other? Poet John O’Donohue said, “Ithink the beauty of being human is that we are incredibly, intimately near each other, we know about each other, but yet we do not know or never can know what it’s like inside another person.”
I sent that quote to a friend, and added “right?” She responded, “Right. But we can try.”
Today I tried. I asked my son, “What are you doing this morning?” He said, “I’m going to work. We have deadlines on a huge project.”
I asked my IT guy. He said, “We’ll visit my mom.”
I asked Barb. She said, “We have meetings with the education team.”
I don’t know what it’s like inside another person. But maybe the 13th century poetRumi had a clue: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there….(where) even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.”
What are we afraid of?