Monday, October 5, 2009

I'd Wish It on Everyone

A few weeks ago I read a short yet compelling story on I'm from Driftwood. I've been turning over what the author said ever since. I thought I'd share it with you and see what you think.
People don’t usually ask you what it’s like to be gay. They ask you how your parents reacted when you came out to them. They ask you when you knew. But they never ask what it feels like or what it means to you. When I tell straight people that I’m gay, sometimes they fall all over themselves trying to let me know that it’s okay with them. Sometimes, they get really quiet and end the conversation. Lately they’ve been asking if I got married before Prop 8 passed.

The only time I can remember anyone asking me what being gay means to me was in Paru Paru, Peru. I was working with a group of American teenagers and local Andean farmers planting potatoes. One of the teenagers started telling me about a friend of his who’s a lesbian.

“She’s awesome,” he said. “Really fearless. Like she walks around town barefoot. But she thinks being gay is the worst thing that’s happened to her. She wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What’s it like for you?”

There was the question I always wish people would ask. (And here it was coming from a sixteen year old.) In the least expected place, thousands of miles from my hometown and my current home, I finally got to tell someone what it feels like to me.

I got to tell this young kid that being gay has brought me an incredible relationship with my partner, a unique perspective on the world, a community of interesting people, empathy for those who are “different,” the comfort that my family loves me in spite of what they might see as unforgivable, and a whole lot of confidence in who I am. I finally got to say that being gay is one of the biggest blessings in my life.

“I would wish it on everyone,” I told him.

I wish someone had told me that when I was sixteen.
I've been asked before whether, given the existence of a magic pill, if I would choose today to not be gay. I've also been asked, if given the opportunity to live my life again and the power to choose my orientation, would I choose to be gay.

But I've never really considered the question of whether I'd choose for someone else to be gay.
I would wish it on everyone.
Wow. I didn't know what to think about this the first time I read it. I've been thinking about it for awhile now, and I definitely have some thoughts to share.

But first I'm curious to know what others think. Does this statement provoke any thoughts for you? For that matter, what would you say to the other two questions I alluded to above? Just to summarize, the questions on the table are the following:
  1. If you had the power to select your orientation from this moment onward, would you choose to be gay?
  2. If you had the power to live your life again and had the power to select your orientation, would you choose to be gay?
  3. If you had the power to select the orientation of others, would you choose for someone/anyone to be gay?
Happily mulling my own answers to these questions and eager to hear yours,

Joe

5 comments:

Pomoprophet said...

I both like and hate these questions. I like the thought provoking nature but I hate them because they're hypothetical and of no real consequence to our lives and I don't want to pretend to play God. You're an engineer! I thought you didn't like the hypothetical?!?!?! ;)

I don't like being a minority. I'd rather life be "easy". But I also look back on how I was in the past and am so thankful I am not that anymore. Could I have gotten here without being gay? Doubtful. So I guess for me the question comes down to: am I a better person now?

I have to believe that I am. I see the world differently now. Better. If I could do it over and choose something else to get me here would I? I dunno.

And of course I wouldn't wish everyone could be gay. Then none of us would be here! And having sexual minorities brings diversity to this great world. But I do wish people would have more tolerance and love and respect.

Still, its all hypothetical :)

Breten said...

I often wished I had a "gay ray gun" that I could use to zap people with just to give them an experience of my life....but then I thought...what would making them gay actually do to them? It wouldn't make them understand me really, because being gay is only one piece of me. There are lots of gay people I don't understand or understand me.

It guess it would be kind of like if I could magically turn someone into a Canadian (If I figure this one out I am definitely coming for you Pomo!)What would it do? Make you drink beer and say eh alot? What I don't do those things either! Make you realize socialized medicine is a good thing maybe?

Its hard to find, I saw it on an airplane, but if you can see it anywhere check out the movie "If the world were mine" it basically is about this very question.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0476991/

Amanda said...

I know - I'm a woman and studies show my sexuality is more fluid than a man's, so my answer may be irrelevant. But, I still want to give it a go - so, humor me.

If you had the power to select your orientation from this moment onward, would you choose to be gay?

I agree with Pomo that to be mainstream is always easier than being different. Choosing gay means choosing the difficult over the ordinary - difficulties with parents and family, difficulties with career and work, with benefits and laws and difficulty in so many arenas of life. Sometimes there are extraordinary blessings hidden in the most difficult situations. I don't think any of us want everything to be easy all the time. It's hard to say if I would choose gay, but I am certainly thankful for the life I have lived and the friends I have made - whatever my sexuality.

If you had the power to live your life again and had the power to select your orientation, would you choose to be gay?

This one is easier, as I stated above - I think my experiences have been overall positive. Heart-wrenching at times, but positive. I would live this life again without changing the struggles in sexuality. I would never want to give up the amazing people I have loved.

If you had the power to select the orientation of others, would you choose for someone/anyone to be gay?

I don't really understand this question. or maybe I don't think it's valid because our experiences are so different. Looking at your life, Joe - I would choose in the space of a heartbeat that others experience the love you know. I wouldn't wish on anyone the heartbreak so many others have experienced.

Gay or straight - I would wish we all experience a profound love that changes us. ...and that we all have something to fight for, something that binds us. To me personally, there is no connotation anymore to the word gay vs. straight. we are who we are - we all have struggles and heartbreak. Being straight doesn't make you immune to hardship or guarantee happiness anymore than being gay denotes some kind of terrible vapid life. Is there really that much difference among us? Does the gender upon whom our attractions align themselves matter that much? ...and yes, I'm aware how naive this sounds - but it's a world I'd like to imagine, and a dream I'd like to live.

Topher said...

In response to Breten, I think a "gay ray gun" would be amazing because of the very difficulties you point out. Being gay is just one part of you, but some people don't understand that. Being gay doesn't mean only thinking about gay sex all the time, but some people also don't get that.

The beauty of being zapped and experiencing what it means to be gay is that it would show that person how absolutely the same their life would be, except that they would have a same-sex attraction.

Brandon said...

1) If you had the power to select your orientation from this moment onward, would you choose to be gay?

I guess this is sort of the magic pill question. Sometimes I think I'd just assume be straight and be able to maybe live out the more traditional life (date a woman, get married, have kids, and so forth). Other times I think being gay is just a part of what makes me "me", and if I were no longer gay, I'd no longer be me. But my reaction to this question just sort of depends on whatever mood I'm in, I guess.

2) If you had the power to live your life again and had the power to select your orientation, would you choose to be gay?

This is sort of like the first question. I would probably choose to not be gay. The only reservation though is that being gay has impacted a lot of my life. So, if I weren't gay, I'd be a very different person I think, and I'm not sure that's really what I'd want. So, the question is really do I like the life I've lived so far, or would I prefer the life I might have lived had I not been gay? I don't know. Who can really say which life would be better in a hypothetical sense? The only reason I'd say I would choose being straight though in a redo of life is because I think if I'd been straight I wouldn't have had any (or at least not as much )sort of internal conflicts about myself.

3)If you had the power to select the orientation of others, would you choose for someone/anyone to be gay?

I don't think I would choose for anyone to be gay. Being gay just makes a lot of things more difficult in life, in terms of how people react to you, how you feel about yourself, what you're able to do or not do in life (like having kids, or getting married, or certain other things). Frankly, I think I'd rather everyone were straight. But since that's not the way it is, I'll agree with Pomo--I wish people would just be a bit more tolerant, loving, and respectful of their fellow man. And really that goes beyond sexual orientation as well.