From time time I get to speak with one of the 'O.G.s' of the LGBT community. I'm not talking about 'original gangstas' from rap songs. I'm talking about the 'original gays.' It's a treat. They remember what it was like to be a secondary citizen and live a closeted existence because the consequences were MUCH greater than they are today. They were around during the Stonewall Inn Riots of 1969 and the days when hate crimes were ignored because they weren't considered hate crimes, rather a citizen's duty.
Yesterday I spoke with an 78 year old man who spent his life as a professional dancer. He never had the chance to marry and never had kids. In a previous telephone conversation, he mentioned his partner had recently passed away. I told him I was excited to hear his story.
I met with him in his home and he had his newspaper clippings and photos all layed out, ready to tell his story. And tell his story he did! It took the better part of 2 hours and I heard it all! He told me about his professional dance career, military service, boxing and acting. But never once did he mention his partner who recently passed away.
This confused me a bit but I went along with it. Towards the end, my patience was growing short and I wanted to hear his LGBT battle stories. I didn't think he was going to offer them so I strategically mentioned that I was married to man in hope that this would make him feel comfortable enough to share.
He got real quiet and reverently folded his arms. He slowly leaned forward and said in anxious tone, 'I'm going to tell you something that I've never told anyone before."
I thought, 'Could it be that he is still in the closet and he is going to honor me with this disclosure?' I was so excited and I could barely handle the anticipation.
Softly he said, "The worst things the gays ever did was come out of the closet."
WHAT?! It took everything in me to not burst out laughing. I wanted to laugh at myself for my clear hipocrasy for stereotype assumptions that I really try to avoid. I wanted to laugh because It took 2 hours to get to this conversation. And I wanted to laugh because I found his comment a little funny.
From this point on, our conversation was so different. It was me trying to respectfully convince him that he didn't need to worry about husband and I brainwashing our kids to be gay. I also had to provide some education on where gays come from because prior to this he was convinced that I chose to be gay, I was abused as a child between the ages of 10-14 and my father was absent. I handled all of his concerns by assuring him I was never abused, my dad raised me right and we supported our children regardless of their sexuality.
My take away from this experience is to NEVER assume. I know I shouldn't but sometimes I still do.