Matthew Brown published a video on Vimeo.com last week (on Valentine’s day) to communicate a powerful message about acceptance of gays and lesbians by society. I thought re-posting the video would be a good way to communicate a similar message in my own words but Brown pulled the video down; the video was meant for his partner’s eyes only. This blogger quoted Brown from the video summary:
This is the Valentine’s Day video by me for my partner, XXXXXXX XXXXX. My partner lives somewhere across the Atlantic. He lives a hidden life because of the way his career, some of his friends, and family might treat him if they found out about him being gay. I’ve made this video for him to show the support and passion toward my Love and human rights. It was supposed to be a private video, solely for my boyfriend’s eyes, but it turned into a statement of fighting for the one you love when I realized I wouldn’t be able to say his name or show his face in the video. XXXXXXX, Happy Valentine’s Day! Someday society will let us feel fully accepted!
I can identify with their experience. Worrying about how people might respond if they find out about our relationship, Dan and I have kept it hidden. Because of things people at one of my job sites say about gays and lesbians, I don’t mention anything about my relationship status. They probably see me as the boring single guy with two cats who sits at home on the weekends. Not being out at this job creates some awkward discussions. A co-worker asked me what my plans were for Valentine’s day. I mentioned I’d be going to dinner at a nice restaurant, and he gave me pointers on how I could impress my (female) date.
While out on Valentine’s day we got plenty of stares. It’s not a common experience in small-town Logan to see two guys sitting together at dinner, apparently. It ruined a portion of the romance to be stared at and whispered about. I guess I understand what zoo animals feel like: you’re constantly on display, every little move. Sometimes we joke about reversing the roles and comment privately on how disgusting it is when straight people hold hands and/or kiss in public.
It’s surprising what people don’t think we see. While driving to campus one day a car full of family pointed and stared while we were stopped at the stoplight. The husband noticed us first (I had my hand on Dan’s shoulder/neck), who then pointed us out to his wife, who then leaned forward to get a good look at the freaky gays, who then pointed us out to her children in the back seat, who then proceeded to stare. They acted surprised when I waved at them. If nothing else, we’ve learned that a sense of humor goes a long way.
When I dropped Dan off on campus, we swapped pecks on the cheek and said goodbye. A passerby noticed and looked back over his shoulder until he disappeared behind the cars and buses. Or there was the time we walked hand-in-hand through a parking lot passing people emptying contents of bags in their backseats and trunks. As we passed, they froze, lowered their voices to a whisper, pointed us out to friends, and snuck secret glances.
Then there are the people who don’t bat an eye; the people who treat us as human. They are the strangers who say hi, wave, smile, and strike up conversation. And there are the strangers who go out of their way to say something nice. We went to Las Vegas on New Years last year. A guy about our age walked up to us as we were watching the fountains at the Bellagio and said, “I just want you guys to know you’re beautiful just the way you are.” It didn’t come across as creepy–it meant a lot to us at the time. They are the people who pause to tell us we look happy as a photographer snaps photos of us (also a true story). They are the people we meet hiking. They are the co-workers (at job sites where we are out) who invite us to social events or ask about our weekend plans. They are former roommates who come over to play video games or go out of their way to make sure we feel comfortable. They are former mission companions and friends who don’t distance themselves. They are the family members who go to lunch with us or invite us over for dinner. They are the extended family members who go out of their way at weddings and other family gatherings to meet Dan and ask about our plans for the future. To them we offer thanks and appreciation.
My intent with this post is not to complain. I hope the juxtaposition of good and bad experiences raises an important question to readers: What would you do? How would you react if you saw a gay couple at dinner on Valentine’s day? Would you keep to yourself, smile, stare, point, talk about them, talk to them?