Believe it or not, I actually dated other people before I met my wife, Briana. There were blondes, brunettes, even a redhead or two over the years I was single. Some I dated for awhile; most didn't make it beyond a first date.
My very last date before I met Bri was with someone a little older than me, which honestly wasn't unusual for me at all. Moira and Gavin's biological mother was two years older than me and I lived with a girlfriend for eighteen months who was four years my senior.
What was unusual, for me at least, was that my date was another man.
We had met online. My date (we'll call him Mike) was a very successful business man and the founder of a multi-national corporation that utilized an up-and-coming technology which they had patented. While Mike made it very clear that he was deeply in the closet for professional reasons, he sent me photos of himself and links to his company's site (which also had photos of him meeting with various foreign dignitaries). I took things a step farther as you don't meet a multi-millionaire every day who wants to take you out on the town, so I dropped into Google and searched for his name to appear in the newsfeeds of the countries where he did business.
Sure enough, there was not only his name but his photograph. Mike was exactly as advertised.
We exchanged email and photos. I talked about the kids, he talked about what he could offer the three of us - the strings he could pull to make our life a living fantasy. Backstage passes to any concert imaginable? Done. Backstage passes to any concert imaginable anywhere in the world? Done. Any vacation I could dream of? Done. Any college, anywhere in the world, for the kids? Done.
While I keep my private life rather protected, I've never been one to be anything but open about my lifestyle and what I believe. So when my date with Mike drew closer, I talked about it - to my friends, to my close co-workers, and to the biological mother of my children.
About half of the people I talked to were curious. I got a lot of, "I didn't know you were gay," responses from people. To which I replied, "I'm not gay. To me it's what's inside a person that's important - the package they come wrapped in simply doesn't matter." A very small percentage were disapproving, either openly or in a barely concealed manner. The rest? Including the vast majority of my friends? They were excited! To be honest, they were actually more excited about it than I was.
The responses I received ranged from, "I've always wanted a gay best friend and now you can be it!" to "Thank goodness you're gay - since I'm a woman we can hang out now without anyone wondering. Want to go shopping with me?" To many people, I had come out of a closet that I had never been in. I was very clear that I wasn't declaring that I was gay, but people so very often need to fit us into a certain shaped hole in their world - squares as squares, triangles as triangles - in order for them to be truly comfortable.
Talking about the up-coming date also indentified my true friends to me. From them, their response was like it was for any other first date that I shared with them - guardedly hopeful, offering the standard cautions not to move to quickly, and playfully challenging me "to have fun but not too much fun."
What I realized is that everyone else was judging the situation. They saw a man dating another man, so of course he must be gay. Or they thought, "Your date is rich? Lucky you! I wish I'd married rich." Only my true friends saw me; they were the only ones that realized that me - a real feeling, breathing human being - was getting ready to hopefully and cautiously open his heart to another human being.
When I hear that one of my friends is a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgendered (LGBT) person, my first thought isn't about their lifestyle, their sexual behavior, or the politics of the situation. My first thought is that they're a person - and my friend.
I don't completely understand the challenges of being LGBT in the United States but I have an idea of what they're like. For three and a half years I lived downtown in a predominantly African American city on the East Coast. Given the population of that city and the neighborhood I lived it, I was clearly and overwhelmingly a racial minority. It was normal for me to look up in a crowd and realize I was the only person like me (in this case, Caucasian) that I could see for blocks. People yelled profanity and racial slurs at me when I walked down the street, simply because I was white. Beyond the obvious discrimination, it's amazing the subconscious shelter we find in being near others like us, even if we're a stranger in a crowd. When we know we're alone, that the others around us don't even share basic commonalities but may turn on us simply because of our differences, you feel that. It's isolating - and I imagine that many of my LGBT friends, whether they're in the closet or not, feel that way.
Being LGBT in this country means that you're discriminated against. There's no other way to spin the situation. Imagine that everyone else can get married but you can't. In many states it's actually illegal for you to marry the person you love. Or that your partner is fighting for their life in the hospital, but you can neither visit them nor make decisions regarding their care. Imagine that you turn on the television to hear words like "abomination" and "sinner" used to describe the very core of you - your heart - and the person you love. Or that you will be harassed, bullied, and beaten up if people learn of your hopes and dreams. That's reality for many in our country.
When you face those types of challenges on a daily basis, you develop one of two responses - you push everyone away or you learn to look beyond the immediate into the core of a person.
I've always had a large number of LGBT friends, not because I seek them out, but because they're typically extremely accepting of who you are instead of what you do, how much money you make, or how you fit into a particularly shaped hole in their world. Sure there's also the other extreme of LGBTs - those who learned to push everyone away - but you'll find that everywhere in every group. My LGBT friends are worth fighting for, for taking a stand for, and fighting for their right to be beautifully unique people whom I adore.
And what's more, all LGBT people are worth fighting for - simply because they're human beings.
My date with Mike went extremely well. He was a cuter version of Robin Williams and took me out to a very upscale restaurant, one of the two fanciest places I've eaten in my entire life. A woman I had casually known for years previous to the date ended up being our waitress - and her words only stumbled once as Mike and I held hands across the table. His compliments were honest, the conversation great, and I had a really wonderful time. Even the kiss at the end of the evening - and to plagiarize Katy Perry, "I kissed a man and I liked it" - was very sweet. However, Mike had just come out of a bumpy, long-term relationship and having several years of unsuccessful dating history under my own belt, there were numerous red flags related where he was in the healing and recovery cycle. Besides, and it wasn't the package he was wrapped in, something about Mike wasn't "quite right" for me.
A week or so later, I met a woman named Briana. Ironically, when I went out on the date with Mike, I didn't break any of my established "dating rules." While Mike was the first and only man I've gone out on a date with, a person's heart and soul have always been more important to me than their physical form and going out with a guy was simply an extension of that. With Bri, however, I broke several of my rules right out of the door. Bri was younger than I preferred to date. Circumstances dictated that I not only met her extended family shortly after we initially met for coffee on our first date, but that we had to drop her then two year old daughter off with the child's biological father as part of our date. However, there was something about Bri that was "exactly right" and where I had dated unsuccessfully for years, we were legally married less than three months after our first date and not only going strong, but growing even stronger each and every day.
Am I gay? Obviously not. Am I bi-sexual? Even that is pushing things. It's what's inside a person that is important to me. The body a person comes packaged in is as unimportant to me in the bigger scheme of things as their eye color or their chosen hairstyle. If it would have been Briana's soul in Mike's body, I would be partnered with a man, not a woman, and happily so. It's Bri that was "exactly right" and, in all honesty, her gender was irrelevant. So while I might not be gay - and I may not be able to completely relate - I think I understand.
All that to say, to all of my lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered friends - you're just "my friends." You don't need to add a qualifier to that. I could care less what your orientation is - it's YOU that's important to me. I will fight alongside you for your right to love and be who you are in small ways, like I have today in my blog, and if it ever comes down to it, I'll stand by you and fight for you in big ways as well. You're not an abomination - you're beautiful - exactly the way you are.