Years ago when I was little more than a toddler, my Uncle John passed away from AIDS. The family didn’t know much about him in the last years of his life. But one day, when he showed up with his “partner,” as my mother referred to him, the fact that he was gay soon came to be known. I often think about my uncle whom I never really knew and wonder what kind of life he had. Was it a good one? Was he ever met with hostility or prejudice because of his sexual orientation? Was he happy with the person he was? I hope he was. I once found myself in tears for my uncle although, I wasn’t sure why. The only memory I have of him was one put in my head by my mother of him holding me as a baby and the discomfort felt by the family when he was around. But as I cried that day I thought about how much I wish I could have known him. I wish he could have been open with our family about who he was. But it was never discussed back then. My family wasn’t and still isn’t accepting of the things outside of their conservative lifestyle. It just wasn’t something to even be acknowledged.
When I think of the rights not granted to homosexuals I think if all the things that my uncle might have missed out on. I hope that he never had to suffer from homophobia that one sees today. When words like “fag” or “queer” assault my ears I can only grimace and shake my head in disgust. These words are so hurtful and hateful. People who gather around with their picket signs, hate scrawled across the surface and shouting those very words are, to me, one prime example of what is wrong with today’s society. It is disgraceful and infuriating.
Recently, I saw a movie that showed a scene with those same rioters holding their signs outside of club where a party for homosexuals was being held. As the party goers were leaving at the end of the night the rioters gathered around blocking their path. They spewed homophobic obscenities and told them that “they were all going to burn in hell.” The camera pans across the faces of the party goers after they were called “fag” numerous times. You can see as one man cries into the shoulder of a friend. He is clearly hurt by these words. Was my uncle ever one of those party goers, I wonder?
All my life I have been the quiet observer keeping my thoughts and opinions to myself. If ever I did share some of my views it was to someone who only partially listened and didn’t truly care or seemed not to. But as I come upon adulthood I feel the need to step up and let my voice be heard. I think now is the time to get up on my soapbox and tell the world how I feel and volunteer my heart and soul into a cause that I believe in 100 percent. Although I am not homosexual, I strongly support those who are. I believe in gay rights: the right to be treated as the people that they are and the chance to be given the same rights granted to every man and woman of this country. That is precisely what they are, men and women, just like you and I. I am proud to be able to say where I stand and I am proud of my uncle for the person he was and always will be to me: a man, a person whom I love.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.