Conservatives, Lib’rals and the Empathy Gap

Finding the beauty in someone very, very different from you.

By Scott King

I HAVE BLACK friends. I have white friends. I have gay friends and straight friends and friends with benefits and friends with timeshares.

What I don’t have are friends who really aren’t so cool with the gays or the blacks or, you know, whatever. But that makes sense, right? Or does it?

This one time at band camp my friend from work who was really cool came to a party I was throwing and brought along his friend whom he had warned me was a little bit “backward.” Dude walked into my party and said, “Hey y’all. My name’s so-and-so, and I’m straight.”

Instead of getting angry or territorial or, you know, snappy, I said, “Nice to meet you! Would you like a shot?” We fed him tequila shots – while we downed what we told him was silver tequila, but it was actually water.

Dear God. I’m sorry. I know that was real fuckin’ bad.

POSSIBLY BECAUSE OF TEQUILA, by the end of the night boyfriend loved us and all gay people around the world. He wanted to point out the fact that we were gay, that that was okay, and that there were similarities between straight people and gay people.

You have to let people be themselves and not be shy around you so they will tell you what they think. Then, if you want to, you can have a conversation. Giving people evil stares will not change the way they think. Neither will telling them that they’re wrong. Let it breathe, girl.

For example, when you come out to your family and friends, they have to come out, too. It becomes part of their identity to have a gay son or daughter, or friend.

Give them time. Give them space. Give them literature from PFLAG.

IT’S TRICKIER WHEN YOU’RE dealing with hardcore subversive conservatives. Anyone who intimidates you or threatens violence or genocide probably should not be engaged. Stay away from the prey away the gay.

But with people who just want to express how they feel about the world and Jesus and homosexual sodomy and lib’rals, give ’em a chance. Especially if they’re cute.

I’m fortunate that I’m 6’3” and most times gender conforming. A lot of unobservant people assume that this means I’m heterosexual. I don’t get harassed too much for looking or being different, unless people aren’t down with my rough trade punk rock vibe.

All that is to say, I don’t hide who I am or doublespeak or use ambiguous pronouns, but sometimes I can have a conversation with someone for three minutes without mentioning how hot a male celebrity is. My new, non-queer friend and I can talk about the way things are and learn something new about the world. It’s funny when you look into their eyes and you can tell that they really just want you to be yourself – and not judge them in return.

Before you start ranting about how that’s ironic because they’re judging everyone else, think about all the people you judge. It could even be a fellow gay person who just doesn’t look right or act right or use the correct terminology when discussing a sensitive political topic. You feel like you have a right to judge because you’re in the right, but so does my new conservative friend.

As long as he doesn’t talk sports, we’re good.

THIS OTHER TIME AT BAND CAMP, I was walking home from the Megabus, and I was wearing a UT Vols football t-shirt that my family had gotten for me for Christmas. It was gorgeous and orange and grey, and I was like oh girl I’ll walk down Peachtree and I’ll be a jock and everyone will give me the bro nod.

Walking down Peachtree on a Sunday afternoon means lots of tourists and straight people. I’ve never been hate-crimed more in my life than by the vicious stares straight men gave me for wearing the jersey of the wrong sports team. I would have been safer and in better company if I’d worn a rainbow striped t-shirt that said ‘I’m a BIG homo!’

When it comes to what matters, people just want to love you. When it comes to sports, politics, or religion, bitches wanna hate.

God is love. And obviously gay.

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