While attending a local meeting the other day to discuss LGBT civil rights here in my hometown of Tulsa, OK, a participant related a story about a firefighter she knew in a small town nearby. This firefighter had been married for some ten years and had a couple of kids. He got along well with his co-workers and appeared to be part of the community. After years of fitting in, he decided he could no longer continue to live a lie. He was gay. His co-workers were shocked and threatened to beat him up. Needless to say, he no longer works in that town.
This story reminded me of another story that my 14-year-old daughter told me. Her eighth grade English class had been assigned to read “The Lord of the Flies”. In preparation, they divided into four groups and were each given a list of twenty fictitious people with various skills and characteristics. They had to decide as a group which of the twenty people would live and which would die. One of the people on the list was a gay man. Immediately, a jockish member of the group suggested killing him off and other members of the group were quick to agree, all but one. My daughter pointed out that the gay man was on the verge of graduating from medical school. None of the other people on the list had any medical training. The smart thing to do would be to save the almost-doctor who just happened to be gay.
As it turned out, her group was the only one that did not kill off the gay doctor. After completing the exercise, the teacher berated the class for killing off someone with such valuable skills. I’m sure it was a valuable lesson for some, if not all, of the students on how dangerous an unreasoning hatred of gay people can be.
As I told the people in the LGBT civil rights meeting, sometimes it only takes one person speaking out to get others to see the light. Had just one of those firefighters said “Hey, this guy is our friend,” then surely some others would have gone along with him. If no one is willing to speak, then a mob mentality ensues. Adults begin to act like middle-schoolers, afraid of being different, of not being part of the crowd.
So I ask you, both you gay people and you straight people who know us, are you adults or are you still stuck in your pre-teen years? Who among you is brave enough to speak out for LGBT people?