How I Came to Accept Gay & Transgender People
Slowly & Then All-at-Once
As a 50s-something white guy from Maine, I grew up in a rural world and related attitudes, so you might imagine we weren’t overly gay-friendly back at school in the 70s and early 80s. If a guy had an erring, he was called gay, at least until a friend or two had one in the punk era or to be different, and we accepted it, more or less; the earring, not any possibility of being gay.
Fast forward to my college years, and while I was aware of the gay club on campus, had little-to-no contact and rarely thought about gays, lesbians or others. Other than probably to have modestly negative feelings toward them, and their lifestyle.
Then around graduation, by chance, a new girl I wanted to date suggested we go to her favorite club on our first date. She, being from the Caribbean with lots of gay friends, choose a gay club, without telling me until we arrived. She wanted to ensure I could accept and be positive around her gay friends and their lives.
I was pretty surprised, but as I hate no one and try hard to get along with everyone, went along with it and had a decent time. I even ran into a couple guys I knew from school, who I had no idea played for the other team.
Fortunately, most gay guys, then and now, have good gaydar, and knew I was not into them, so contrary to my expectations, no one hit on me, so I was able to people watch.
Well, almost no one, other than an amusing run-in at the men’s room urinal, when the guy the next urinal over commented on my exposed body parts. An amusing story, then and now. But I didn’t care.
We went to that club several more times, but it got kinda boring, as it’s hard to talk to guys in a gay club, and there were few girls; so we started going elsewhere.
And that was it. Gay guys are just guys, maybe better dressed and sometimes more colorful, but that’s it. From that point onward, I completely accepted gays and became a strong supporter of LGBT issues.
In fact, after moving to San Francisco years later, I was disappointed to not be in town for the brief period of gay wedding registrations in 2004, as I would have been right at city hall volunteering to help manage the crowds and process, super happy that gay folks could finally marry the ones they loved.
A few years later, I was working with an insurance software company and we were in Chicago, on-site at a customer to install our products. They had a transgender woman in the software department, who made a slow years-long transition male to female in the time I was around.
There were plenty of snickers, and some jokes, mostly due her having a wife and kids, and we wondered about the effects on them. And later about bathrooms, which did indeed seem to be in issue in their offices (until she got a dedicated toilet).
And while I never worked with her, and we only shared a meeting or two, she was universally regarded as a very nice person and very competent at her job. Most people were happy to work with her, and in a big city mixed-race and gender office with thousands of people in the ’90s, no one really seemed to care.
And that was it. She was just a person, good at her job, and while there were a few jokes for a while, no one really cared, and that was it. And from that, I accepted trans folks, and it never bothered me (if it even even had).
Years later I moved to San Francisco where I lived near the Castro, which I took my nieces & nephews to see, for a sense of GLBT folks and their life, and that’s it’s all normal.
That’s it. Gay and trans folks are people, too and while their path has often differed from our own, it’s no less valid, and likely a lot more difficult. Support LGBT folks and their community, regardless of your path to get there.