Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Goodbye, Old Friend

Still in my pajamas and half awake this morning, I learned from a neighbor of the sudden death of an long time friend. Like knives, the words I heard this morning pierced my heart and mind. They hurt and I feel very wounded.

My friend, in his early 60s, was gay. Most did not know this as he was not openly gay. Even fewer of his friends knew he was HIV positive and under treatment for many years.

We talked about him being gay some, and his HIV and treatment, but he was a very private person and besides, being gay was "who" he was, not what he was. He was not an activist which, among many of my gay friends, appears to be characteristic of many in his generation as openness often slams doors shut and opens lines of hostility.

I am going to be 55 in August, so I am his generation. I know what many believe, and I also know what I believe to be true. Primarily, it doesn't matter one whit to me whether someone is straight or gay. I could care less. But the stigma, especially in a small community--and particularly among straight men--is real, and often real ugly.

I am no stranger to the social contexts of being gay. I hear the hostile rhetoric, the name calling and the black "jokes". I am also a devout Episcopalian and the American Church (TEC), a part of the Anglican Communion, has been struggling with the issue for years. Recently, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling in essence, finally, resolving the legality of same gender marriages in the affirmative. At least this ruling has finally, legally, forced the concept of equal rights under the laws of the state. As with the Civil Rights movement, it will take time for humanity to catch up and the rhetoric and violence against gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual persons is likely to increase in the short term, sadly.

So where does this put we who are straight? Well, it puts ME squarely on the side of equal rights, in the secular context, and full participation in my church in the religious context. If one believes God creates perfection only, and does NOT create "junk", one must believe this way. Therein the the split: Those that believe anything but heterosexuality is a "preference" (often backhandedly referred to as a "life style") and those that believe one is or is not straight.

And what does my belief, as a straight woman, call me to do in this regard? To stand with those who are gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual both constitutionally and under the Triune God that is such an important part of my life. It calls me to stand with my lost friend. It calls me to stand with strangers. It calls me to stand apart from prejudice and deceit always. It calls me to speak up. It calls me to march with and defend. It calls me to help and support through action and prayer.

None are free unless all are free. ALL are blessed.

Goodbye, old friend. I will stay for a while and help.

You are finally free.