My best friend for a quarter century has been "out of the closet" all of his life. Me -- since I was 26.
We find we agree on almost everything except Mariah Carey, Katy Perry and gay pride. Our opinions on Carey and Perry are insubstantial.
Pride is another matter.
He calls Pride "a bunch of half-naked gays taking up space on a main street -- why bother?" I say it is one of the most important celebrations a gay or lesbian may choose to partake in. How can two people who are so close have such differing views?
I believe it has to do, in part, with the fact that we each came out so differently. My friend was born out; I had major orientation confusion until my mid-20s.
But there were many other factors:
- I was raised in a rural area in a fundamentalist religion, whereas my friend was a city boy raised by liberal-minded parents.
- I never met an open-practising homosexual until I first entered a gay bar at 25. My friend had gay family role models.
- When I finally figured out I was gay, I wanted to shout it to the world. For my friend it was just another day in his life; there was no milestone, no turning point.
I found the label "gay" something to be proud of. The first quarter century of my confusion and pain needed a day of reckoning. My quest since coming out has been to be a positive, healthy example of a homosexual life style -- well, as much as humanly possible.
When people think of me, I hope they think of the human being first and what that means. The gay label is just one small part of the big picture. But take it away and I wouldn't be me.
My friend thinks some make a spectacle of themselves on Gay Pride Day. Well, "some of us gotta do what we gotta do!" I shoot back. He says, "You don't see other minorities having parades."
I don't agree on both counts. I don't consider myself a minority -- just part of the human race. And I feel there is no difference between the importance of our Pride Day, its origin being the Stonewall riots of '69, and the 1960s Afro-American civil right marches. At that time their marches were also considered radical gatherings.
What my friend and I do agree on is that we believe we are living proof that our orientation is as much a part of us as the skin colour we were genetically given. We don't think our orientation is up for debate.
The problem is there are still a lot of people who don't agree with us. Even though we believe that is their problem, that they should "get with the program," I differ from my friend in that I feel we still need Gay Pride days to show the world we are what we are and we're here to stay.
Certainly in many parts of the world we have found acceptance but the images of solidarity can mean a great deal to an individual experiencing "pride" in solitude.
For example I have pen pal from the Ivory Coast who is studying in Ghana. He envies our freedom as he writes, "gay interaction is illegal here."
But I understand why my friend doesn't have a similar desire to proclaim his sexuality on any given day. He's been doing it all his life. In his own unique way, he's been proclaiming his gay pride every day of the year.
Because I was a caged bird growing up, I'm the one who had the desire and need to sing it in a pubic manner. I guess I was trying to make up for lost time.
Where I have to give my friend some credit is that the spirit of Gay Pride day, although positive and moving in itself, is not always displayed by all members of the gay community year round. But what group of humans doesn't have similar growing pains? Our differences are what make us, as individuals, unique.
I respect my friend's point of view.
He appreciates my desire to celebrate Gay Pride day (even if it's as simple as supporting a parade passing by!) in view of the long journey it took me to get to the place where I could be proud of my sexuality.
Oh, and in case you're wondering -- while my friend is watching the latest Mariah Carey video, I'm listening to Katy Perry's song "Firework" playing on my headphones.
Ironically, I'm trying to resist the urge to message him, "Can you tell your Mariah, 'Put some clothes on!'"