“Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience. Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.
Two Degrees off Center
By Rich Keys
The Lessons of Life
A few weeks ago I took Tony, a close gay African-American buddy, to a restaurant that has delicious food and delicious servers. Chad introduced himself to us and I asked if he was related to the “Hanging Chads” of the 2000 election. He got the double meaning and said, “No, but I wish I was.” We joked back and forth, and I finally asked him, “Are you gay?” He said, “No, I have a girlfriend.” I replied, “You should be—you’d make a great gay guy.” He laughed, and my silly critters took over.
“Really, you’d make a great gay guy. You’re really attractive—you hit all my hot buttons. You’ve got a great personality, a great sense of humor, and you really interact well with others…and I bet you’d really like gay parties—they’re so much more fun than straight parties.” He said his mom is gay, so he grew up with lots of gays.
Then I hit him with it…
“Would you like to take the lessons?” That really got his attention.
“Come to the first lesson. It’s just an overview, an orientation of what it means to be gay. If you’re interested, you can take the rest of the lessons. No obligation, no pressure. I’ll be there so you’ll be with someone you know and I’ll introduce you to the other guys. They’re really great. Tony and I just came from a meeting, and Tony’s really interested in making the switch.” Tony played along, and I continued.
“After the lessons, you have a brief interview, sign a few forms, and you’re gay. That’s it. It’s really much easier than people think…and I don’t make any commission on this. I’m being totally sincere. Chad, if you’ve ever thought about being gay, maybe now’s the time.”
Chad said he’d think about it, and I promised to follow up the next time I saw him in the restaurant. Good laughs all around, we made a new friend, and I validated myself by coming out to acceptance using my silly critters.
The next day came the news of Charlottesville. Suddenly, KKK was no longer just three strikeouts in baseball, and I wanted to hide in the white closet, but, like being gay, I was born that way and I can’t change it. I watched the white hatemongers with their torches, and I thought back to the moment I realized I was gay, when I identified with the underdog for the first time in my life—the blacks and their slavery and their civil rights struggles made all too real by today’s bodycams; the Hispanics and their fight for rights in the fields; the Asians who built the railroads and were sent to internment camps; today’s undocumented immigrants who are torn apart from their families by bureaucratic red, white, and blue tape. As President Martin (I’ve changed his name to protect his privacy) blamed everyone, then just the KKK and white supremacists and neo-Nazis, then switched back again to blaming everyone, part of me was ashamed of being white, and identifying with him and his justifying cronies around him just by having the same color of skin.
I called Tony and asked if there were any lessons I could take to become black.
I love my LGBT tribe. Membership isn’t restricted by color. Every shade is welcome. We love and judge by other, hopefully higher, standards. We seek to find the good in each other, where we have common ground, and we seek to build true empathy by listening and learning, sharing and caring. As part of the LDS tribe, we are also driven to our Father in Heaven, staying closer to the Savior, and depending on the Spirit, “not knowing what to do.” That bond sustained the Israelites for 40 years, black slaves for hundreds more, and LGBT’s in our ongoing journey for respect and equality both here and abroad, all on their way to the Promised Land.
If others truly realized the beauty of the view from where we are, they’d all want to take the lessons.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.