Back When I Was a Homophobe…

I am not a “Goldstar Lesbian.”  A goldstar is a term used for a lesbian who has never had sex with a man.  I believe with sexual fluidity becoming more and more “accepted” among women, at least, a goldstar will become a rarer and rarer breed.  I mean, think about it.  You’re young.  You think you might be gay, but how do you know, for sure?  For me, there was only one way – TRY IT.  But, the reverse was true also.  How did I know I wouldn’t end up with a man?  There was only one answer – try it.  Or in my case – try it many times.  Try it for years, even.  (Insert silent smile to self, here.)


Do “goldstars” wear these? It would be hard to pick them out otherwise.


I was born in Queens and we stayed there until I was about 5 years old.  My parents, who did not want to put us in Catholic school, left the city so we could be closer to a better public school district.  (I think my strict, religious, conservative father regrets not having put us in Catholic school now.  Little does he realize, it wouldn’t have changed a thing.)


We moved out to a suburb in Long Island.  A suburb where everyone was, and mostly still is, Republican.  When I was 17, I was a registered Republican.  Yep.  Now, I shudder when I think of that.  For me…for me, it makes me shudder.  If you are a Republican, god speed.  But, it is NOT the right party for me.


Eventually, I left home and went to college in a city located about an hour outside of Manhattan in New Jersey.  The school was liberal, as most universities are.  There I was exposed for the first time to EVERYTHING.  Not just the gays, but every race and affiliation you could think of.  For me, this was perfect.  I had been longing to get back to New York city since I was 5 years old and my university was the perfect stop-over ground of open minds and cultural diversity.


Now, this was the early 90s.  So, even in college – though there were a few established gay groups on campus – gay was still something that was sort of tiptoed around.  I had a coach (go ahead, insert lesbo joke here) who, though in a position of authority, was not much older than me.  It was pride week at the school.  On the cover of the school newspaper were two men making-out on the steps of the main dining hall on campus to commemorate/ provoke/ mark the event.  Regardless of the intention, ultimately, I’m glad that photo appeared when it did because here’s what happened…


Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable to grow…


Leisurely, as my coach dropped a bunch of us off at our dorms (the campus was very big) we talked about the controversial cover photo on the school newspaper.  She asked me what I thought about it.  And I said, “I think it’s gross.”  I said something to that effect.  I don’t remember exactly, but I know I said that the photo pretty much skeeved me out.


The coach was young and adorable.  She was in her early 20s, maybe early 30s – at the most – as I think on it now.  She tried to poke around in my head to discover what it was that grossed me out about the picture.  As we were talking, slowly, ever so slowly, it dawned on me…She’s gay!  Holy sh*t, she’s gay.  I, literally, until that very moment, had no idea.


Then a second realization flashed across my mind, I felt terrible.  I really liked this woman.  More important than that, I respected her.  Yet, here I was saying that what she was…well, “gross.”


I think I stopped being a homophobe, almost immediately.  Seriously.  In that instant, it was over.


I believe this is what people mean when they ask the question(s), “Does that gay-hater know any gay people?  Does that racist know any black people?  Does that person willing to eviscerate the Muslim community really know any Muslims?”


Because once you truly know people it is hard to hate them.  It’s hard to find them so different.


And when I say “know them,” I don’t mean you have a friend who has a friend whose cousin might be gay, that’s not “knowing.”  I had a polite argument with a woman on a blog, here, at WordPress who wrote a whole diatribe on why she’s against gay marriage and I calmly asked her, “Do you know any gay people?”  Her answer was, “a friend of a friend of a sister-in-law’s, workmate…”  That’s not knowing a gay person.


I mean, REALLY knowing them.  Sharing a car, a coffee, a face-to-face chat, that’s knowing a person.  Eventually, this kind of interaction leads to respect and once you have respect for a person, it’s hard to not understand where they’re coming from.  We all share a commonality of human experience.


Now, you can say – here is Sweet Mother, by all intents and purposes, a gay and out blogger, comedian, writer, and you could say – I was just another one of those closeted homophobes.  You could’ve said, “She doth protest too much.”  She’s just saying, “it’s gross” because – Hello! – she was gay.  You could say that, but I don’t think that’s it at all.


My sexuality was always my sexuality and for me it’s somewhere in the middle of the Kinsey scale, but tipping a bit more towards women.  An important “bit more,” just enough to make me gay.  However, my head, that’s a whole other story.  My head was the result of my upbringing.  My head was the result of my surroundings.  When that false set of principals and ideas was pushed and prodded and debated with, I went to an even simpler place.


I said, “Who is that person?”  Forget – are they gay, black, poor, disabled, etc.  “Who is that person and are they a good one?”


My first gay friend was a good person and that forever shattered my notion of gay people being anything other than human.


This is why I have hope for homophobes always.  I joke on here, but I do have hope.      I have hope because I was one once.  The truly authentic among us can change and come to a place of reason.  The rest are just kidding themselves.



Quick end-note:  I’ll be traveling up to San Francisco to perform tomorrow, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday.  Tuesday night I will be playing at Harvey’s in the Castro.  Thursday-Sunday, I’m at the Punchline in SF.  I am the feature act for John Heffron.  If you’re coming, let me know, so I can stop by for a chat.



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49 thoughts on “Back When I Was a Homophobe…

  1. I grew up in a similar home. I get it. We used to run around saying, “that’s so gay!” when we were kids. When you know better, you do better. I just wish some folks out there would know better a little faster, ya know?

  2. I like to think all of us has it in us to change our perspectives in life. I also think that at a point in my life I too was a homophobe but that was because I never knew any different. As a child of the 80’s I grew up in a world where things were slowly starting to change. People were starting to speak up and come out and the world would never be the same, at least in my eyes it never was. When I was in school, being called gay (people called me gay all the time) was one of the worst things in the world to be called. If I look at it now, being called gay isn’t the same as it was back then, I don’t believe it carries the same impact that it was meant to by the people that say it. I could be wrong, but when I look at the world and see that same-sex marriage is a recognized thing by the law, I think we have come a long way.

    Your note about your dad wishing he had sent you to catholic school made me think of this.

    Not the same but I think it fits lol. Sorry to babble.

    1. shane, this is such good commentary and i just watched that whole grey’s clip all the way through. that sara, i think her name is, the actress that plays the female doc, is great. in the hands of a less gifted actress it might’ve come off cheesy, but she really pulls it off. hector elizondo, the dad, is no small town game either. looool. but, yeah, upbringing ‘does’ a lot in terms of forming initial thought and then i think it’s our job as adults to find out if that thought is true or not. thankfully, i’ve done that and it sounds like you have too. 😉 much love, sm

      1. Thanks! I didn’t expect it to embedded though. I like how she used religion to plead her case it was so powerful and well done.

  3. The term ‘gold star’ reminded me of ‘pureblood’ in Harry Potter—someone who is of pure magical origin—just a term used by elitists.
    You are right. When you KNOW-know a person, it is easier to empathize with them. But, I think more often than not, it’s a matter of attitude; knowing a person or a culture is not necessary to respect their way of life.

    1. you, know, aparna, you are right. it is NOT necessary to respect a person’s way of life. however, if you’re indoctrinated as a kid into being against certain things, knowing a person can really help one see that it is all hogwash. but, do you need that to respect another person, no, you do not. one only needs empathy. thanks for leaving that great point here. much love, sm

      1. My pleasure, sm! I see your point on the indoctrination aspect, and, yes, in such a case, knowing a person can go a great way in surmounting biases.

  4. Many years ago, when a dear friend came out, I looked at him, still saw the friend I’d always loved, and moved along. Judgment always baffles me…have fun in SF! xoM

  5. I love this post and agree, agree, agree. Super post. But I also believe that we should afford respect and rights for people that we don’t know, whether we like them or not. For example, I am not super keen on fundamentalist Christians who hate everyone and everything that isn’t biblical (assuming they all forgo wearing mixed fibres etc) but I don’t want them to not marry, or get fired for being Christian, or be bullied to the point of suicide. I know the world doesn’t work that way, but it bothers me nonetheless.

    1. this is so true, roller. you don’t necessarily need to ‘know’ a person to respect them. a very good point, well made by both you and aparna. and i love the christian switcheroo you did there… very powerful stuff. much love, sm

  6. I’d never heard the term “gold star”. See, your blog is educational. I grew up in a very gay-friendly city but I still remember the first time I saw to guys making out. It made a big impression and pushed my boundaries, which is all a part of growing up I think.

  7. Looooooooong story, but I’m working with a group that’s doing research into how conversations can help advance the LGBTQ movement, which is exactly what you’re talking about. Meeting, knowing, befriending, respecting someone helps you accept them. True for LGBTQ, true for other “marginalized” groups. It’s hard though to have those conversations, it’s easier to hang out with the people who already accept and love you completely. But the results of these conversations are real. Myself, I’m a mouthy gay ally!

    1. you are such ‘a mouthy gay ally.’ loool. and thank god for that. i have arrived in sf, as well. yaaaaaaayyy. so, i plan to hear about this work in person. 😉 xo, sm

  8. Super post, Sweet Mother. I love that bit about having to get uncomfortable to grow. I teach the same thing in my metaphysical classes. And I have always maintained that to fall in love, to truly fall in love, you fall in love soul to soul, not gender to gender or race to race or hot bod to hot bod. Souls don’t discriminate in love. They choose what they resonate with. They choose what they can cherish.

    An end to homophobes? And racists? And religious extremists? I’m hopeful too. It all starts with soul growth – with kindness, and knowing and accepting people – soul to soul.

    Big love to you, SM, you and your awesome wise blog! xx

    1. i could not agree with that more, cauldrons. i have always thought it was a soul connection i was seeking as opposed to anything else. you always leave such insightful commentary on here and i’m always honored when you do. much love, sm

  9. Excellent! My husband comes from the Bahamas, the entire country is hugely homophobic. Add to this he was raised in a Pentecostal church….gad, I thought to myself when we were dating, what I have I gotten myself into.

    Sooo… day I was driving along in Atlanta with a good friend and talking to him on the phone. He pissed me off. I handed the phone to her after telling him she was his only competition. Six weeks later he came to visit and I took him to Burharts to meet some friends of mine, at the time she was bar-tending!

    I figured, first he had to behave himself around my friends. Not act like an Azzhat. Second he had to figure out these were people, not threats and no they didn’t want to ‘do him’.

    She is still my friend. He still wants to know if I was dating her, I have never answered the question and never will.

    1. val, you never cease to amaze me. truly, you are one of the peeps i’d like to meet on here and have a beer with one day. your hubby is lucky to have you. much love, sm

  10. My dad gave me poignant insight once (and it’s remarkable because he was a half-assed…make that one-eighth-assed…father) while we drove in his car through the Castro on the way to his Eureka St. home:
    “It’s hard enough finding someone to love in this world, that it shouldn’t matter who it is”… and then … “but there’s no excuse for being fat”.
    He was 50% awesome that day. I was 10ish, and now, with my own kids, I try to teach them to not hate people based on race, gender, religion, or sexy time partners. Hate them for being douchenozzles and twatbuckets, individually, case by case.

  11. Loved your post, was directed here by a friend from Oz. So, glad I stopped by and will be doing so often…

  12. I have a threory that sexuality is more of a scale than just clear cut gay/straight – Unless someone is repulsed by a gender I don’t think they can be 100% either way.

  13. I’m late, I’m late! I actually read this awesome post this morning but then I had to race out so I haven’t had a chance to say how happy it made me!

    In WWII the Nazis dehumanized the Jews so the German people could hate them and blame them for all the ills of the times. It also made Jews easier to kills because nobody ‘cared’. But there were good people all over Europe who sheltered Jews because they knew them as people.

    The hate machine ramping up against gays in our modern world is doing the same thing as the Nazis – dehumanizing and distancing a whole segment of the population so another segment can hate without guilt.

    You’ve shown that all it really takes to bridge the gap is a little bit of friendship. This is your best post ever, well at least since I’ve been following you. Well done Mum!

  14. I knew I was lesbian from a very early age, but I’ve never heard the term “goldstar” until reading your post. Even though I knew I was gay I did make a few nice guys suffer some of the dullest sex ever with a woman I was so not into doing it with them. I suppose that makes me silver or bronze star. It is true that it’s hard to hate an entire group of people once you get to know members personally that you discover you genuinely like like you did when your teacher enlightened you. I think fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar has a lot to do with prejudice and a narrow minded outlook. Being gay is not contagious but for some that lean gay and respond by trying to suppress it, that just seems to lead to suffering and, at its core, massive self-loathing. People that hate others passionately for what they are have very complicated psyches to me but I do try to keep my distance from the angry types if only to protect myself from someone that I think would like to hurt me. Maybe by doing that I contribute to the problem, but prejudice and ignorance will never completely go away and I’ve no interest in being a martyr for the cause. I do agree with you that more people that personally know LGBT people, the better it is for LGBT people. That’s why attitudes have evolved so much over the short span of little more than the 43 years since the Stonewall riots. I think we’re going in the right direction but there will also be speed bumps like Chick-fil-a trying to roadblock progress and turn back time to an era that is gone even if Romney is elected president in November.

  15. I’m not a goldstar either, I actually figured it out through trial and error as well! But I disagree that people need to experiment to know whether they are gay or not, just like straight people don’t need to experiment to know they are straight.

  16. Momma, this was brave and honest. So many people are afraid of what they don’t know, and they turn it into a much bigger deal than it needs to be, whether it’s color, sexuality, religion, whatever. Underneath it all, either you’re a good person or you’re an ass. You found that out. Just get past the packaging that might be different than yours and move on. Why can’t everyone else do that?

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