It’s no secret that when it comes to acceptance of gay people and their rights, the world is going through a great deal of change. We’re moving toward a more accepting future and learning to see all humans as, well, human. Of course, not everyone is willing to go along with this change. Those of us who have left homophobia behind, or who never embraced it in the first place, find it tremendously frustrating that some people still refuse to allow change and acceptance. Can’t they see what’s in front of their faces? Can’t they see the right thing to do? Well, no. Some of them can’t. Not yet, anyway.
I ought to know; I used to be one of them. I used to believe that gay people weren’t entitled to the same rights as everyone else. I was homophobic.
Before you turn away from me in disgust, I want you to think about something: I’ve just said that the world is changing, moving in fits and starts toward a place of universal acceptance. We’ve gone, for the most part, from abusing people who aren’t straight to holding parades in honour of their acceptance. Many people simply don’t care who an individual sleeps with, in a society that used to condone physical violence against gay people. I want you to think about where that change comes from.
To see the answer, just go out to a mall or a busy street and look around you. The people you see – the ordinary, everyday people going about their lives – that is where change comes from. If society is making the move toward acceptance for gay rights, it’s because individuals have looked at themselves, looked at the beliefs they learned at the same time as they were learning facts like “rain is wet” and “don’t touch the burner on the stove,” and decided to change.
For those people who have never made a change to their core beliefs, let me tell you that doing what’s right doesn’t always mean doing what’s easy. Changing beliefs that were taught to you by people you loved and trusted is one of the hardest things anyone has ever had to do. It’s a surgery you perform on yourself with no anesthetic, and make no mistake, the healing period can leave you feeling raw, fragile and exhausted. The surgery to remove a cancerous growth leaves you in better health, but it is difficult, frightening and nearly impossible to do alone.
People who are midway through the process of cutting out their own homophobic cancer are not bad people. People who have not yet started the process are not necessarily bad people. I like to believe that they have the potential to become very good people, but speaking as someone who has made the change from fear and inflexibility to a more open mindset, I can tell you that these people need your help.
So I ask you, as a favor to the whole world, male or female, religious or atheist, gay or straight or somewhere in between: Please. Be kind to people who aren’t quite there yet, but who are taking steps in the right direction. Be gentle and understanding. Cheer them on when they make the right choices. Don’t call them names or belittle them when they make the wrong choices. Remember that they are going through a process, not flipping a switch from wrong to right. The fear and doubt they feel is real, and I cannot stress enough how much of a difference your love and support can make.
In the end, I made the change from a homophobic woman to a woman who writes for an LGBT-friendly publication because of the people who knew what I was and loved me anyway. I changed for the gay man who held me while I cried on the day I caught my boyfriend cheating. I changed for the LGBT-friendly people who trusted that I could be a better person than I was and who never saw me as anything more or less than human. It’s what made me able to expand my own view of humanity, and I will always, always be grateful to them. I feel so much lighter without all that hatred and fear.
Just like the world isn’t finished changing in favor of the LGBT community, some people aren’t finished fighting homophobia on a personal level. Every person who changes their minds brings change to the world. Help them out, would you? You’re changing the whole world when you do.