Sunday, April 27, 2003

Where Does It Come From?
I've been thinking a lot about homophobia this past week, trying to understand where it comes from and perhaps why I am not inflicted with it. I grew up in an upper middle class family, in a nearly all white town. I didn't know any gay people growing up. Like many of my peers, I made gay jokes. I was in school prior to the era of sensitivity and most teachers would turn a deaf ear to the boys calling each other "fag", "queer" or "homo". Not that we fully understood what a gay person was, to begin with. We just knew that calling someone a gay slur was a major put down.
I don't know that my parents had any gay friends; I suspect that they did not. I am sure there were probably some gay people in my town, but they were pretty well closeted. I can recall, however, that making certain jokes was not tolerated in my house, most of the time. Sometimes I could sneak in a gay joke or a black joke, but most of the time I wasn't able to get away with it.
My family was not overly religious. In fact, I don't think we ever went to church except for weddings and funerals, as best as I can remember, as a family. I had my own foray into religion as a youngster when I would attend church with my grandmother at the local Methodist house of worship.
So then how did I end up being so tolerant and such an advocate for gay rights? I didn't have my first gay friend until the age of twenty-three, when I was in law school. I can still recall him coming out to me, and my response was somewhere along the line of "so what." Am I more tolerant than others because I am not very religious? And that is not a swipe at religious folks, it just seems that the biggest homophobes are religious zealots. Is it because I am more educated than the average person (studies do show that people's opinions tend to be more tolerant the higher their level of education)? Then again, Senator Santorum and the President each have post-graduate degrees.
I think the reason why I am tolerant is because of how I was brought up. I had parents who instilled in me that you are to treat others they way you would want to be treated (Golden Rule, I know). They taught me to judge people for who they were, not the color of their skin or their gender, or some other superficial trait. My parents didn't need to beat me over the head with sensitivity seminars or retreats. They just instilled a very basic tolerance in me, and the results are that I respect other people and I treat them with the same respect I want them to afford me.
So I guess that people who have prejudices, whether it is racism or homophobia, just were not brought up right. And it is at times like these that I am most grateful to my parents for helping to shape me into the person I am today. Thank you mom and dad.


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