Jim Mitchem used to dislike gay people. Now he’s got more gay friends than he knows what to do with.
We didn’t discuss homosexuality in my house growing up. In fact, the first time I even heard the term was on the TV show, “Soap,” which had a gay character named Jodie Dallas, played by Billy Crystal. And although Jodie seemed normal enough, he preferred to have intercourse with men—and, well, that was gross.
So, yeah, I understood why we didn’t talk about homosexuality in our house. Besides, there weren’t any gay people in our neighborhood.
When I joined the Air Force at 18, I had a fear of being in the shower with a gay man during basic training. After all, everyone knew that gay guys couldn’t control themselves and had to have sex whenever other naked males were present. Let’s just say I never dropped the soap.
But, as it turned out, my fears were for naught—as I later learned that there were no gay people in the military.
Years later, I finally encountered a gay man. He was a friend, actually. A really nice guy. Good looking. Great dresser. And I had no idea he was gay. But one night, after we’d hit a few (straight) clubs, we were at his apartment drinking beer when he told me that he was extremely attracted to me and really wanted to have sex.
He then began to cry because he knew that I was straight and that there was no way I was coming over to his side. And there wasn’t. In fact, I was so freaked out by the whole thing that I left his apartment and never talked to him again. But despite my ignorance for another person’s feelings, I learned something valuable that night—that gay people aren’t monsters.
Everything changed for me after that.
Today, my wife and I joke that we have more gay friends than straight ones. Our daughters have classmates raised by gay couples. To us, gay people are no different than we are (other than they fall in love with people of the same sex). They’re subject to the same fallibilities and emotions as every other human on the planet. Things like cancer and alcoholism, fear and love. Universals like these don’t discriminate because of sexual orientation.
Which brings me to a new campaign supporting the legalization of gay marriage, Let Love Reign. Last fall, a friend introduced me to Catalina Kulczar-Marin, a photographer gifted in capturing the emotion of her subjects that live just below the surface. It turned out that Catalina was fed up with the inequities of the law concerning gay marriage, and she facilitated a photoshoot featuring gay couples engaged in normal, loving interactions.
She asked if I’d be willing to help create a campaign supporting the legalization of gay marriage. I immediately agreed. And after many months, and the help of many people, we’ve officially launched LetLoveReign.org.
I don’t know if gay marriage will ever be legal in most states, but I do know from personal experience that enlightenment goes a long way in overcoming fear. I encourage you to visit the web site to learn more about the campaign, to take action for the legalization of gay marriage, and to get a better understanding of what it must be like to want to spend the rest of your life with another person—but be forbidden from marrying them.
Love doesn’t discriminate. It took me a long time to understand that.
Photo by Catalina Kulczar-Marin.