Everyone asks me if I’m gay.
No, I’m not insulted by it. In some weird way, it sometimes feels like a compliment, but I’ll get to that some other time…
I’m, for the most part, confused by it. I’ve never really got to the point where I was absolutely certain that it mattered, and that my sexual orientation affected my ability to do any of the things I did as a son, poet, writer, activist or any of that. I definitely wasn’t convinced that it affected the ability of other people to work with or confide in or trust me. As far as I am convinced now, the fact that people always have to ask means that it matters less than those people think.
But a friend and colleague of mine asked the Million Dollar Question two nights ago. That made the second time I was asked in an hour, and the first time was in her presence, but she still decided to ask. I gave the same answer I gave then, with my signature delightful smile. In her defence, she was asking because she was always curious as to why someone who did not consider themselves a member of the LGBT community would be interested in equality for LGBT people. Now, if she asked me that question – are you a member of the LGBT community? – I would answer differently;
Yeah, of course I am.
Which is why I don’t think that it matters. My sexual orientation matters when we’re trying to figure out if I can imagine myself having sex with a certain someone else (even then it’s not really as important as, say, whether I’m attracted to that certain someone else). What’s important is whether I’m connected to other people around me. I want to argue that what really determines whether we can connect to each other and trust and respect each other as people is whether we are connected to communities out of Love. For instance, I can trust a member of a Christian community. I cannot trust a member of a community of bigots, regardless of whether that person considers themselves a bigot as well. I can’t trust a non-bigoted bigot-community-member because he accepts bigotry and feels comfortable making a home around and within that bigotry. In much the same way, I know a lot of people that I consider members of an LGBT community that are ‘absolutely heterosexual’ – friends or family members of co-workers of LGBT persons, and are connected to them and their issues and want them to be better and happier and healthier people.
Why I think this is sometimes hard to grasp is that, maybe because of globalization and other factors, we don’t really remember what community means. We form societies together with folks who in some way ensure that we can access food, clothing, shelter, Love and affection, fellowship…you’re getting the picture. Of course, with email and smartphones and MoneyGram, the community grows larger in ways that we’ve not even been able to accurately measure. But one thing is certain; if the person won’t help you get food, clothing and shelter, they’re from a rival tribe. But now it doesn’t matter whether the person is single-handedly responsible for farming the chickens or baking the bread, once he’s not one of the folks fighting to take away your food.
I’ve spend a few years making sure that all sorts of people can still metaphorically eat the food that they need to live and thrive. Some of those people are LGBT. And I care about them getting food to eat because everyone deserves to eat and live. And I can care about that – about people living Peaceful and Blessed and Loving lives – without being the same as those people. It works in the same way that seeing a young boy or girl bleeding on the street wouldn’t only matter if the person was a particular race or class. With all that in mind, I’m just going to go ahead and say it – I’m not gay. That distinction’s actually prevented me from being written up in Advocate’s Top 40 under 40 in 2010, because to them the most meaningful advocates are those who are gay. And maybe they’re right, I don’t know. But my personal opinion is that, once you’re a member of the community, whether you’re the person that personally bakes the bread or someone whose mother used to live in this town or came there to help with relief efforts after a devastating storm, you’re still part of the community.
I’m not gay. I’m just a member of the LGBT community.