I Was a Teenage Homophobe

I am not shy about expressing my progressive politics. I am a feminist and an atheist, a supporter of LBGT and civil rights. I laugh out loud when I hear corporate friendly, drone happy Obama called a radical leftist. I was also a full blown homophobe when I was I was a teenager.

I grew up in Massachusetts in the 1970s. While the Bay State is known for being a Democratic stronghold, I can tell you that it was also home to plenty of racism and bigotry. When I was a kid, homophobia was the norm. Fag was a dire grade school insult. There were rumors about people in the community being gay, but I never met someone who was out. As far as I could tell, gay people were weirdos and degenerates. That’s what everyone said. It was known, Khaleesi!

In one hilarious incident, my aunt got me a Village People album for Xmas when I was 10. She worked at this department store called Lechmere and she had gone to their record department and asked what the kids listened to these days. I was polite about it but secretly appalled. This was disco bullshit and we liked rock and roll! It did lead to a serious (and in retrospect, hilarious) conversation in which we debated whether the Village People were gay or not. After due consideration, our jury of 10 year olds decided that no, that couldn’t possibly be true. If I may continue the GoT theme, we knew nothing, Jon Snow. And apparently, neither did the US Navy, because I remember very clearly seeing a TV special in which the Village People performed “In the Navy” on a ship to a crowd of sailors. No, really.

So how did my opinions change? Well, it started at a party at a friend’s house my freshman year of high school. It was one of those parties that went late because we were having what we considered to be “deep” conversations. Somehow the topic of gay people came up, and I spouted that classic hetero dude opinion, “Lesbians are OK but gay guys I can’t deal with.” And for the first time, someone challenged me on that bullshit! My friend Lisa, who was a couple of years older than me, put me on the spot. “If two people want to be together,” she asked, “what business is it of yours?” And that gave me serious pause.

I went home and thought about it. I never really had before, just accepted the common attitude. When I worked it over in my mind, I had to conclude that Lisa was right. Other people’s sexual orientation was none of my goddamn business. If people love each other and want to be together, isn’t that the most important thing? That was a big breakthrough for me. Then, of course, I moved to New York City for college and became friends with actual, out gay people. And hey, they were just people whose tastes were a little different than my own. This was NYC in the 80s, with ACT UP on the rise, so my education proceeded swiftly.

My step-daughter Kate grew up in a society whose attitudes were already changing. She had multiple friends in high school who were openly gay. This was inconceivable in the 1980s. For Kate though, she grew up with LBGT people in the community. I think she views homophobia as a relic of a bygone age. And I hope that’s true in another generation or two. Today’s Supreme Court decision was certainly a major move in the right direction. I’m glad all my friends now have the chance to legally marry if they want to in all 50 states.

If this decision has made you angry, if you can’t believe the nerve of these uppity queers, allow me to follow Lisa’s lead and call you on your bullshit. Who someone chooses to love is none of your business. I encourage you to chew that over.

One thought on “I Was a Teenage Homophobe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *