Here's your assignment, citizens. I want you--especially those of you who are always worried about what other Americans are up to--to decide beforehand what sort of person you will fall in love with. It doesn't matter what criteria you establish for your mate-to-be, just as long as you pick the criteria before you pick the mate. Then, after you have made your selection, I want you to go out into the world, find one of those people who fulfill all of the requirements you have on your list, and fall in love with him. Or her.
Let me know how it works out.
Didn't work out, did it? I didn't suppose it would. Whatever else love may be, it isn't one of those things you figure out first. Let me put it this way: even if gentlemen do indeed prefer blondes, it isn't like they all met one night in the back room of a pool hall somewhere and voted on it. (And even if that were true, you know as well as I do that half those guys would have gone head over heels over some redhead or brunette as soon as the meeting broke up. Hah, hah! Silly gentlemen!)
But seriously ... who we fall in love with is out of our hands. We all know that. And from what I've seen, trying to pre-determine where our hearts will take us is the kind of waste of time only children can afford.
Then why is it so many of our neighbors and countrymen insist that for gays and lesbians, love is a "lifestyle"? That homosexuality is something homosexuals choose, like Martha Stewart chooses mauve over teal for the bathroom tissue, or like yuppies choose a condo in Boise over a five-acre lot in Kuna? What? Do gays possess an enormous will none of the rest of us have? Are lesbians, each and every one of 'em, wielders of some hidden super power that allows them total control over their own affections?
I don't think so. I think gays and lesbians fall in love as willy-nilly as the rest of us. In fact, I think they do most everything just like the rest of us, and in the accompanying feature article on page 16, I intend to offer as much proof to that effect as I can cram into 3,000 measly words.
It's no secret that where there is a demonized population beset by a demonizing population, the demonizers' most effective weapon is to hold the demonized apart by emphasizing what makes them different--to stress even the most insignificant mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of the others while conveniently forgetting about the greater body of shared experience. We Americans may not do it to other races as much as we used to, but we still do it to our enemies in war. We still do it to those who disagree with us politically or philosophically. We still do it to other religions, and under the banners of many of those religions, we still do it to homosexuals. We do it most venomously to homosexuals. Fact is, we are at our most vile when it comes to homosexuals. I once heard Floyd Cochran, a repentant ex-Minister of Communications for the Aryan Nation knotheads, tell an interviewer that their most effective recruitment technique was not to spew racial epithets like you'd expect. He said when they took their homophobic poison to the street corners, even blacks and Jews would join in.
And face it, what other issue has ever prompted a U.S. president to propose an alteration to the Constitution that would deny rights and privileges to certain Americans?
So ... for whatever good it will do ... I am introducing you to a few homosexuals. Six of 'em. Trust me, there are a great many more homosexuals in Boise than six. In fact, I'd be willing to bet there are more than six homosexuals in Melba. Or Star. Your church, even, or your bowling league. But given the restrictions of a newspaper article, six is all I can fit in. Besides, as Alan Virta, one of those I profile, pointed out, "You don't grant rights to minorities according to how many of them there are."
Think about it: it hasn't been so long ago that even a frank discussion of homosexuality was no-no. "The love that dares not speak its name," they called it. (Even in my own lifetime, I had to wait for The Boys of Boise to hit the shelves to find out what had gotten my parents and their friends into such an ultra-tizzy 10 years earlier.)
The conversation has opened up considerably in the last couple of decades, but we are still fed a constant download of prancing stereotypes, butchy caricatures and the flagrant shockery of anti-gay propaganda. My intention is to show that gays are no more slaves to their sexuality than you and I--that gays are every bit as career-oriented, as household chore-performing, as family-involved, as domestically dull and as un-prurient as anyone living up and down your Wonder Bread street. Be prepared for a boring read, folks, because the truth is, outside of a handful of humans, most of us--gay or straight--are far too commonly pleasant, irritatingly subdued and habitually mundane to satisfy either titillation seekers or hate mongers.
What good will come if you to learn a thing or two about some local homosexuals? Hell, I don't know. Some of you are so insanely hateful of gays that you can't bring yourself to do the decent thing even if your own child is one.
But I am betting once the greater share of you get a slice-of-life clue about what so many see as a huge threat to whatever it is they call "normal," you will be too forgiving, too accepting and too understanding to contribute any longer to this fear and loathing--this national bash that befouls our land. You've done it before, neighbor ... remember? And I have little doubt that eventually, you will do it again with gays. I mean it. Time's a wastin' and life is too short for this to go on any longer. Just as you once looked beyond the stereotypes of racial bigotry and found the man, the woman or the child beneath, you must now do the same with gays.
I don't expect to get the likes of Fred Phelps, Jerry Falwell, Dennis Mansfield and George Bush off these people's backs. I frankly doubt there is anything to be done that would change those particular atrophied brain cells. But I am hoping, for those borderline followers of Phelps or Falwell--for those teetering on the cusp between an attitude of hatred and an attitude of reconciliation--that once you meet a homosexual or two, learn he or she is so little different from you--you will no longer take part in the vileness that plagues this nation. It may not help, but as the old punch line says ... "it can't hoit."