Because it is the Right Thing to Do
Photo by Steve Heron. Used under a Creative Commons license.
We had hired two new workers in my department, a young woman and a man. During their second week on the job, we all went out to lunch together and took one car.
Rachel, the young woman, was talking about something, and suddenly I heard her say:
“But they’re gay, so they won’t be parents.”
I drew in my breath. James, the new guy, who was driving, seemed pretty obviously gay to me. For instance, he had talked about his “roommate” of nine years, someone he had moved with to four different states.
For a second, I was pissed at her for speaking in what I thought was a ignorant, prejudiced way. Then I realized that she might not have an idea he was gay, or she might not realize she was making stupid assumptions.
I thought “I should say something.” I try to speak out in the face of prejudice, but I get tired of always having to be The One. On the other hand, I figure being the one who speaks up is easier than being the one who is the target of other people’s prejudice and ignorance. I waited a second to see what James would say. He looked straight ahead, driving. Nothing.
I also felt like I had to let James know I was on his side, that his new workplace was a safe place to be who he was.
So I said evenly, “Plenty of gay people have kids. Plenty of gay people are married to people of the opposite sex at some point. Other people adopt. Or…”
“I know, I know,” she said, laughing at my mini-lecture.
What I didn’t know that day was that not only was James a gay man, but Rachel was a lesbian. She was testing the waters to see how LBGT-friendly the rest of us were and I had just passed her test.
We became good friends, and I was eventually the first person she came out to at work.
The ironic part was that James didn’t come out to any of us until three years later.
It taught me a lesson. When you do the right thing for one person, it is often the right thing for others, too. You just never know who that might be.
This post was inspired by the voters of North Carolina enshrining prejudice in their constitution with the passage of Amendment One, something that sickens me. If I had my druthers, the state would get out of the marriage business entirely and let people set up contracts to govern how they want to live their lives together. I think we could get the Bar Association to lobby for this idea!