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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