Just recently a very good friend told me he's gay and that he's "finally come out of the closet." I suppose I'd been expecting the news for years even if I'd never given it any conscious thought. "C'mon I bet you've known all along," he said. And he was right -- I think I knew it the day I met him. I never knew for sure because he never talked about being attracted to anyone, male or female, and he might have even mentioned an ex-girlfriend.
See, the way I saw it, whether he was straight or gay didn't matter to our friendship. And even after knowing for certain, I still feel the same way; his news has not redefined our relationship. To me nothing much has changed; he's still my friend, not my new gay friend. I'm not expecting him now to suddenly drag me off to a Bette Midler concert and then force me to sing show tunes with him while we're driving over there, you know? And if we're planning a trip to the Barney's Warehouse Sale it's because we discuss this every year without fail. If anything is different I would wish that he feels freer, that he can breathe easier knowing now that he's well on his way to living authentically. That he's now keeping it real.
But what I wish for much more is that my friend didn't have to come out of the closet at all -- I wish there had been no reason for him to have ever hidden in the first place. I've just never understood the hate and intolerance that forces good people to curl up inside themselves for protection; no justification I've heard or read has ever made sense to me. None. Ever. And I can't empathize with those who keep coming up with these reasons -- excuses -- to marginalize, ostracize, and dehumanize other people.
I don't feel and think like this because I have a friend who happens to be gay. What I've always known is that when we allow society -- individuals and institutions -- to decide who is worth more or less, we run the risk of one day being devalued as well, for simply being born who we are.