On my best days, I am so excited by the possibility of equality for gay people that I could jump up and down with joy. I can almost taste how close we are: schools enforcing no-tolerance policies in regards to bullying, states legalizing same-sex marriages, interesting, multi-faceted gay characters in books, TV, the movies.
On my worst days, it all feels like a never-ending battle, like Sisyphus really is condemned to push that rock up, up, up, only to watch it roll back down the hill again.
Two nights ago I dreamed that I was canvassing door to door with President Obama for his re-election. As we approached one house, I saw that instead of a knocker on the front door, there was a young man’s face, sort of a robot, emerging from the wood, designed to look and feel like a real human. I turned my head and started kissing its mouth, knowing that this was what we had to do instead of ringing a doorbell. The mouth started kissing me back, and I found myself really enjoying it.
All of a sudden I thought, ‘Oh my God! How embarrassing! I am getting excited in front of the President of the United States!’ I pulled away, only to watch Obama start to kiss the door. After he stopped, the face said, “Wow, you two are great kissers. I think you should make out with each other.
So we did.
While locking lips, I found myself thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m kissing Barack Obama. Who can I tell?’ Obama pulled away, looked at me, and with a shoulder shrug said, “Everybody kisses boys now and then. What’s the big deal?”
I don’t really understand the dream’s significance. But since it’s my dream, I decided what I want it to mean: that more and more, everyday people like the ones you find behind closed doors are opening their minds, are realizing that there’s nothing wrong with being gay. Furthermore, that our laws are changing, backed by a modern, good, rational, and progressive government, represented by President Obama. And that these laws are beginning to normalize, to uphold and protect, that which in the past has been vilified. The symbolism of a black president, something many of us hadn’t been able to imagine or hope for until recently, telling me that being gay was no big deal, is very powerful.
All of this is in contrast to an incident last Monday. I had honked my horn at an SUV that was blocking traffic at an intersection.
The driver’s side door opened and a woman leaned out, saying something to me. Thinking she might need help, I pulled forward and rolled down my window.
“You’re so important, so busy in your little life that you can’t wait? What a big shot! This is a school zone, by the way!” she yelled at me.
When I told her I wasn’t sure if she knew the light had turned green, she yelled more.
“Oh, is this how you communicate?” She honked her horn a few times.
“You need to slow down, mister.”
And then the clincher:
“Don’t be so gay!”
With that, she slammed the door shut, revved her engine, and drove off.
My throat went completely dry, and I could feel the blood drain from my face and my arms.
I had many reactions to what she said, ranging from incredulity to anger, but the one that has lasted this entire week was shame. The woman had looked at me the way you do when you realize that you’ve stepped in a pile of dog crap.
It didn’t dawn on me until later that the woman might not have been attacking my sexuality. She may have just used the word “gay” the way some people use the word “retarded;” as a tacky, general slam, not a specific character assault.
But her use of that word, the way she used it, really did a number on me. I can forget sometimes the blanket hatred that exists out there. I have surrounded myself with loving people these days, folks who either never had hang-ups about who I am and how I love, or have done enough introspection to set their bigotry aside. Sure, I read about it in the news, or hear stories from friends. But personal assaults like that? I forget they can happen to me.
And I spent moments this last week feeling despair, on both a global and a personal level: globally, that we may not get to where I think we need to be as a species, and personally, that I will never be free of the shame of being gay, that it is like barnacles stuck on a boat, or mold in a dank basement. That it will never go away, no matter how hard I scrape and clean.
What do I make of all this? Of the road rage, and then a few days later, the dream where I kissed President Obama? Maybe it’s simply this: that my own brain, or my own heart, is working hard to help me heal, one quirky little dream at a time, and that this is the way to true equality.
Maybe Obama and I were reminding myself that true freedom is in my hands, not the hands of a kissing door or a raging SUV driver.
At least, that’s how I choose to see it today.