A while ago, then governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed his thoughts on gay marriage on a radio program. He said “I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.”
He of course meant to say “I believe marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.” but the sound clip became a joke among people on the left. Of course, it is still quite funny and is often cited as a classic flub from those against equality.
Fast forward to today, where the Supreme Court made the unprecedented decision, ruling that bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional, instantly rendering such marriage legal in all 50 states. Obviously, a lot of people are celebrating, especially on social media. The colors of the rainbow are being superimposed over profile pictures. Most of my friends have put the rainbow banner over their face, proudly supporting this great day for the country. Even here on WordPress, the rainbow is displayed on the header for the site as I type this article.
Even though I disagreed with Arnold on a lot of things, I still liked his page on Facebook. Now given his past comments, imagine my surprise when I checked my newsfeed and saw that Arnie himself had changed his profile picture to this.
Arnold, the man behind the infamous radio flub was on social media, defiantly showing his support for marriage equality. I was stunned. Of course some people tried to ruin the occasion. This closed minded person complained about Arnie’s new stance on the issue. But this guy forgot something. Arnie is a cool guy. You put him down, his response will be epic. And epic it was.
This understandably put me in stitches.
How did this happen? What happened to change Arnold’s mind? What events transpired that led him to reconsider his stance? What kind of things did he see? What kind of people did he meet? What conversations did he have? What liberated him from the confines of a closed mind?
Perhaps his story is similar to my own. What I type next is one of the hardest things I have ever had to type.
My name is Eric Hanson, and I used to be homophobic.
Though I was raised in a religious household, it was a non denominational Lutheran take on Christianity. My family are avid supporters of science and enthusiastically embraced evolution as a scientific fact that enhanced our faith and paved the way to a grander vision of God. Regular topics amongst us were such things as the horror of racial prejudice, the injustice of war criminals being allowed to roam free, and the dangers of ravenous greed. We never talked about crap like the apocalypse or the rapture or conspiracy theories. What we talked about was love.
One thing I was told over and over again was respect and love all, because they are different from you, and diversity is where beauty comes from. After all, a rainbow is more beautiful the more colors it has.
Despite holding these views, I still became homophobic, and I can pinpoint exactly when it happened. I had heard the term gay before, and asked someone what it meant. Their response was crude and ugly.
“It is a term for men who stick their penises up each other’s butts.”
From that once sentence alone and onward, I was homophobic. It wasn’t even for religious reasons as I didn’t know the religious context behind the bigotry. It wasn’t from my parents. My mother even scolded me after hearing some of the things I said.
It was not religion or upbringing. It was just that image. Honestly, I believe that is where most homophobia comes from, obsession with the physical act. Some people, myself included, just lacked the wisdom to see beyond that. I didn’t understand that some people just are not attracted to the opposite gender, and that love is not only colorblind, it is gender blind.
My heart was filled with hate. Senseless, vile, unforgiving hate. I could not be bargained with. I could not be reasoned with. I didn’t feel pity, or remorse or fear, and I absolutely would not stop, ever! Until…
Okay. You all know where that joke is going.
So, how did it change? It all began one night, when I was spending the night with someone who, at the time, was my closest friend in the world.
I idolized this guy. I mean really idolized him. He was my hero. Someone I aspired to be like. Someone who was confident and strong and assertive, and someone who had enough compassion to put up with my childish bullshit.
Somehow the topic came up in conversation. Obviously he tried to talk sense into me, but I wouldn’t have any of it. Then he dropped a bomb.
“I’m gay.” he said.
The revelation ripped the words from my throat.
Afterwards, I tossed and turned in my bed. There was a feeling of panic. A strange sense of betrayal at the announcement, as if what he said had somehow harmed me. I must have been lying up in that bed for hours until the thought finally occurred to me.
He didn’t just turn gay the moment he told you that. He was always gay. He was gay every day. He was gay whenever you played games. He was gay whenever you watched movies. He was gay whenever you hung out at school and had fun. He was always gay.
So what is your problem?
That realization clicked like a light switch, and the anxiety I felt melted away. I have never slept better.
The following morning I told him I was sorry, and begged that he forgive me for all the things I said. That he was still my best friend in the world.
We are still friends to this day.
A few more years on, I was gradually exposed to a side of the argument I had never known. I saw the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, about the murder of one of America’s first openly gay politicians. I watched a lot of Law & Order, a show that shunned bigotry and granted great sympathy for those frightened souls hiding in the closet.
One of the most pivotal opportunities in my life was granted me by a lovely gay couple, two lesbians named Brenda and Cheyne. While seeking a film job in Columbus Ohio, these two were kind enough to invite me on the set of a short film they were writing and directing with a friend, and I had my first ever movie making job. Brenda and Cheyne have since gotten married, and they are one of the happiest couples I know.
Meeting such wonderful people, and learning so much about the horror and despair that gays and lesbians had to endure from people like me, it has instilled me with a great sense of guilt. How dare I hold such small minded and horrid views. I was raised in a good home by good people, and taught to love and accept people no matter who they were.
My upbringing was not to at fault. Some people say hatred is taught and learned, and most of the time this is true. I was a rare exception. My hate was discovered, and there is no one but me to blame.
But my hate was weak. Though I discovered it, it sputtered and died, left to rot in some hole where it can be forever forgotten. That part of me is dead and buried, and for that I could not be more grateful to my friends and life experiences for being the cure I needed.
There was a time when the news of today would have turned my stomach. Now I am leaping for joy, just at the thought that my neighbors are now a little more free.
The above picture is one I shall forever treasure. Arnold may have felt the same way as me as one time, but it is clear he has changed. If he can change so drastically, and show such resounding support for the gay community he once derided, maybe this is something I should remember. Maybe it is time for me to stop feeling so guilty, and celebrate that I can now count myself among one of my childhood heroes. We both once had a disease, a disease that is now gone.
Arnold was brave enough to make the declaration, and so am I. This was my profile picture this morning.
And this is my profile picture now. After all, a rainbow is more beautiful the more colors it has.
That’s damn right.