This week I have been required
by certain events in my life to
answer the question "What makes a gay person different from any other person?"
Well, we pay taxes; we open checking accounts; we get the flu; we get our cars towed by the meter nazis. We are like everyone else in every way. . . except one: we are attracted to same-sex partners and we engage in sexual and emotional relationships with them.
But the heterosexual world, in general, sees us as a large group of (dare we say) defective individuals who are NOT like the mainstream-as though we were fish without gills in the stream of life, or as if we can't swim. Or maybe we have just evolved enough to crawl out of the stream and to walk upright.
There are those who think that they can identify gay people, too. And by this ability to ferret us out, they can and will avoid us, the businesses we operate, the places we frequent. However, in a city like New Orleans with its large gay population, avoiding us is more difficult than they think...in fact, it's probably impossible.
The truth of the matter is WE ARE EVERYWHERE. We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, mechanics, painters, electricians, servers in restaurants. We own cafes, dry cleaners, car dealerships, antique shops, art galleries, charter boats, retail stores. We drive taxis, limousines, buses, airplanes, and helicopters. We are performers, singers, dancers, chefs, and even meter nazis.
So why is it that the "mainstream" thinks that they can avoid us? Or put another way, why would they even want to?
I'm perplexed by this attitude. Some heterosexuals believe that businesses will not succeed if gay people are associated with them. Some believe that customers will walk in and immediately "recognize" the homosexuals on staff and will just as immediately leave. Some even think that a business will be labeled "FOR GAYS ONLY" if some of the employees are gay.
This has got to be one of the newest URBAN MYTHS, right? I mean, when did heterosexuals learn to identify gay persons? When did the closet disappear? When did gay people forget how to navigate through a straight world, and quite successfully too, thank you very much.
I am befuddled by this latest phenomenon of heterosexual "gaydar." Is it because the gay community is now "out" more than ever? Are our rainbow flags tattooed across our foreheads? Do we all introduce ourselves these days by saying "Hi, my name is ____. I'm a homosexual."
We are strong, productive members of the human race on this planet. Our sexual preferences are not the end all and the be all of our existences. We have goals and dreams. We have jobs. We know how to drive. We vote. We go to church. We sing in the choir. Some of us are even the ministers who give us guidance from the pulpit.
We sell merchandise at Sears; we flip hamburgers at MacDonald's-in some cases, we even OWN MacDonald's. We are computer hackers, college professors, dentists.
So what makes someone say something so cruel and crude as "People come to New Orleans to see tits and ass, not tits and dicks."
Now, I am not referring to drag queens here. I am referring to that well-dressed waiter at Mr. B's who served you dinner last week...or that guy at the parking garage who jumped in the Lexus and drove away...or that attorney who argued against the City for you and got that traffic fine reversed. I'm talking about that police officer on horseback who chased down the purse-snatcher, thereby risking her life for your credit cards.
And I'm not just talking about tourists and the French Quarter, either.
Did you know that there are gay people who live in Metairie, in Kenner, in Covington and in Gentilly? Did you know that we are cooking your meals in swanky restaurants and corner cafes? Did you know we cleaned your teeth last month and gave you your flu shot last week? Did you know we deliver your newspaper and your bottled water?
And did you know that you CANNOT tell who we are just by looking unless we want you to know? You see, it is my opinion that gay people control their own lives. We make decisions concerning who know what about us every day. For example, only we can tell you if we have 60 parking tickets or not. Only we can tell you if we have a broken tooth that needs attention, or if our driver's licenses are expired. Only we can tell you if our sock has a hole in it or if we're wearing the same socks we wore yesterday.
In other words, our sexual orientations do not totally define us, nor does sexuality make us identifiable. Heterosexuals are not defined by whom they sleep with; neither are homosexuals. In fact, we would all be better off if we defined ourselves by our HUMANITY and how we express it.
So as the sound of my soapbox recedes into the night, let me leave you with one final thought: In this life, on this planet, a person is ultimately known only by her/himself and, if we're lucky, by at least one other human being who loves us. Some of us have only our dogs or cats who have that privilege.
Am I a homosexual? Yes. Am I a tax payer, a business woman, a teacher, a writer, a driver human, a Discovery Channel fanatic, a Catholic, a college graduate, a person with a rare blood disease called ITP, a fan of Tina Turner, a woman, a Barq's drinker, a patient allergic to Codeine, a coward at the dentist, a horseback rider, a nervous flier, a dog owner, a cat owner, a home owner. Yes, I am all these things.
And I am also happily married to a wonderful woman who loves me and excites me and challenges me and works beside me everyday.
This is not the least of who I am, nor is it the sum.