I was looking at new refrigerators tonight at my favorite home improvement store when a familiar employee approached me to ask if I needed help. He is a nice, twenty-something guy and is always helpful. But, I get special attention when he is working. That's just the way it works when you both "know." Yeah... it's that "gay-dar" thing. (It's not a myth... it exists.)
But there is often a wall that exists with gay people in public - especially at their places of business. I didn't know if he was comfortable talking about "it" at work, so I let him take the lead. That is an unfortunate truth about being gay. "Gay-dar" may provide an unspoken knowledge that the other person is also gay, but comes with a greater understanding that if you "out" that person, they could lose their job. It's just a fact.
Tonight, my home improvement friend opened the conversation asking "Where's your partner in crime" - referring to K.J, of course. "Oh, he's out of town." I replied, and we proceeded to chat about refrigerators, cabinets and counter tops. At some point, he mentioned his fiance as a "him." That let us open the door to a genuine conversation beyond business. Again, that's how it works sometimes.
Then, he noticed my ring and complimented it. We compared rings and talked about wedding plans, home remodeling and our partners. It was a sincere, normal conversation between two people who had some things in common and shared a common excitement.
But... it was more than that. It was the first truly genuine conversation about my engagement that has happened in quite a long time - at least, that didn't cause me to feel uncomfortable or awkward.
Some straight people instantly turn on the "uncomfortable voice" and start looking to turn the conversation toward a different topic. I've had some send their children away by distracting them, ("Why don't you go get Mommy some pickles.").
On the flip-side, even other gay people are sometimes uncomfortable. There are many gays for whom it seems to remind that they are under the same scrutiny - and can't fathom how someone else is facing it head on.
But tonight, for the first time, I had that moment that so-called "normal" people have. It was a combination of the straight guy being patted on the back by his buddies, or a straight girl showing off her engagement ring. But, don't confuse that with gender-confusion... I'm only referring to a form of unconditional acceptance that does not yet exist among the majority of people.
Ladies, imagine for a moment of having to hide your ring, or not wear it at all for fear of being ostracized, fired or even hurt. Guys... imagine fearing your buddies will beat the crap out of you, or losing your family and friends just because you popped the question. Now... let yourself go to that day when you were on cloud nine and wanted to scream it from the rooftops.
I don't need to stand on a rooftop. I just want to be able to stand in a crowd of people as who I am. I don't need your approval, but I do hope for an enlightened, educated response free of shame. I don't need you to carry a banner for me, but I also don't deserve you carrying one against me.
The next time you're faced with a gay couple, or a gay engagement announcement - remember that the person you are responding to just told you they are in love. They just told you they are happy. They didn't ask you to participate in their relationship or try to convert you. You don't have to prove anything. It just IS... Besides... if you are so confident in who you are... how could I change you?
I'm simply a person who has found joy... and tonight someone let me have that. And... there is far too little joy in the world.