Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Big Gay Blog Post

Well here it is, ladies and gentlemen. My big, formal, "coming out" (some day I'll blog about why the entire concept of coming out is gross to me, but the short version is, I don't remember going into a closet and I didn't choose to be gay, despite what the Onion will hilariously lead you to believe). So anyway, I'm gay. If you've had more than a surface-deep conversation with me in the last two years or you have decent gaydar, that's not news to you. If you haven't heard from me since high school or you're a guy who has a crush on me (does that happen?), it might be. Hurray!

It's really hard to write one blog post that sums up a struggle you've been dealing with for nearly fifteen years, but I'll do my best to save the details for my novel. Or my solo show. Or my future sitcom (struggles can lead to comedy- neat!).

It's been a long and not-so-easy journey, mostly because I'm homophobic. Or rather, I was. I don't know exactly why I grew up homophobic, my guess is a combination of many factors. I went to high school in Texas in a very white, Christian, Republican neighborhood, and while you can be all those things and gay, it's definitely not the norm. 

My family knows I'm gay and has no problem with gay people. They got me a framed sexy picture of Tina Fey for Christmas this year. For the record, that was not on my list, but yes, I probably will hang it up somewhere in my home. You know, to inspire me to work hard like her... My family is made up of really good people and I don't blame them for my homophobia any more than I blame them for making me gay (after many attempts with some awesome straight girls, I can confidently say, you cannot make someone gay).

Homophobia to me wasn't about hating gay people, it was about not relating to the image I had in my mind of what gay was. I was very much a good girl growing up, and for the most part I still am. I was not a partier and I liked to follow the rules. Don't invite me to your game night unless you plan to play fair. I was and continue to be a very outgoing introvert; I'm great with people, but on an average Friday night, a movie and a comfy couch sound way better than a bunch of drunk people in a loud bar. In other words, if you had kids my age, you wanted them to hang out with me.  

My senior year, I had a best friend who I was virtually attached to at the hips. I was at her house all the time, her little sister thought I was the bee's knees, and her parents made me feel welcome. Then one day at school, she completely blew me off. I called her out on it, and she said, "I can't be friends with you anymore. My mom thinks you're gay and doesn't want me hanging out with people like that."

At the time I was aware of feeling different, but I kept trying to convince myself it wasn't a gay thing. It was an artist thing, or a big city thing, like once I lived in a place like New York the self-doubt that weighed me down would magically go away. Even then I think I knew that wasn't really it. After school that day, I had to tell my friend's mother to her face that she had nothing to worry about. I was in fact, "not gay at all," but rather, I was a good kid. Because obviously those were different things.

I have enough life experience now to know that my friend's mom, who I still think is a good person at heart, was just ignorant about what being gay really meant. We were in the same boat. Neither of us could reconcile that someone could be a good girl and also be gay. We knew stories of gay people from television, ones that made you believe all gay people did was party and have sex (I can tell you my gay lifestyle has very little of either, so don't expect me to create the lesbian spinoff of Girls); we didn't understand that being gay just means you're attracted to this person instead of that one.

There's been a big to-do lately about Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty. He voiced his homophobic opinions that probably didn't surprise anyone and as a result his show was suspended (publicity stunt? Who knows, I've never seen it and probably never will). I love this article in response to that whole affair. It's worth a read, but if you're lazy or pressed for time (I know, Facebook is blowing up today!), here's the short version: whether you think homosexuality is a sin or not doesn't matter. Why? Because, "kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life."

I never tried to kill myself, but I can relate to what those kids felt. The closest I ever came was in college when I sat in a parking lot for two hours because I felt so broken and alone that while I was driving, all I could think about was driving myself into a ditch. I thought that maybe if I wound up in a coma, I could wake up and just start over as my real self. Surely if I'd nearly died, nobody would care that I was gay, they'd just be happy I was still alive. I didn't even consider the physical consequences.

I'm not going to talk about religious beliefs. For me, church and religion should be about love and community, not judgment. Yes, many people think the Bible says homosexuality is a sin (I'm not super religious, but I think this is a great argument against that from a young man who spent a lot of time researching it), but there are a lot of things the Bible calls a sin and we're okay with keeping quiet about those things. 

Did you know that only 3% of people actually save sex for marriage? But you're not going to go around advertising that having premarital sex makes you sinner because you would most likely be calling yourself or someone very close to you a sinner. So let's say that 97% of your friends had sex before marriage. If you gave a big public "Amen, brother!" to someone who said that people who have premarital sex don't deserve to inherit the Kingdom of God, you'd probably lose a lot of friends really fast. Apparently, nobody likes it when other people make them feel like crap, and it doesn't matter what their sexual orientation is. If 97% of your friends were gay, you'd understand why gay people and gay allies get upset over the Duck Dynasty drama (wait, allies? You mean you can be straight and support gay people?!). 

If you believe that being gay is a choice and that God thinks less of those who choose to be gay, then you don't understand what being gay is. If you believe in God, I hope it's not because someone else told you that you should, it's because you just know in your heart that God exists. You can't explain it, but you know it's true. I can't explain why I'm gay, but I know that I am. Just like accepting God into your life made it infinitely better, accepting that I was gay has lifted a weight I assumed I'd have to carry around forever.

Here's my problem with people using religion to remind everyone how bad homosexuality is: it hurts. It hurts like nothing I can even put into words. You're not judging a group of faceless strangers who live in Manhattan who don't care what you think, you're judging the 12-year-old kid next door who already feels like it's going to be him versus the world because he's gay, a kid who probably looks up to you. And it's good, well-meaning people who are reinforcing to him that being the way he is, is a terrible thing. 

You know how much it sucked when your parents said they were disappointed in you? Telling a gay kid growing up in a religious community that being gay is a sin is like telling him that God is disappointed in him. GOD. That's way worse than your parents.

I'm 29 years old and I live in a liberal, loving city. I'm confident bordering on cocky, and I'm very comfortable with who I am. And yet every time Dan Cathy (owner of Chick-fil-A) makes the news about some new homophobic comment or tweet, I dread seeing the "Freedom of Speech!" posts from people I haven't seen in over a decade who live a thousand miles away. That much time and space between us, and yet, their opinions still hurt me because they are my people. They may not understand me, but they will always matter to me. It's hard not to take it personally when people you care about will defend a strangers' right to say something that as a kid made you fundamentally question if who you were was okay.

Please, believe in freedom of speech. It's part of what makes this country great. And don't give up your religious convictions because someone else asks you to. But the next time someone says something hurtful about gay people, picture a kid you love and imagine that he or she is gay. Imagine the struggle that kid is facing already, and ask yourself this: How can I react to this in a way that helps support that kid instead of tearing them down? If you stand up for the guy who is saying hurtful, homophobic things, you might as well tell that kid that they're right to question if they are okay. 

If the class bully makes fun of the smart kid in glasses, you don't defend the bully's right to free speech. Yes, God bless America, he's allowed to say that (O'Doyle rules!). But you're an adult who understands that all kids deserve to be supported and encouraged. You try to teach the bully to be respectful of others, and in doing that, you also reassure the smart kid that she IS okay the way she is. 

In a perfect world, homophobia wouldn't exist at all, but that's not realistic. There will always be homophobic people like there will always be racist and sexist people. Fear and hate aren't new concepts. How people react to those things CAN change, and it will make a difference.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Reply All - Because You Can!

Dear Ron in California (and the rest of the company),

Hello! I wanted to apologize for my co-workers here in Chicago. I'm sure Kim didn't mean it when she hit Reply All on that email and changed the subject to, "PLEASE STOP HITTING REPLY ALL!!!" You might have copied 150 people in the Chicago office on an email that has nothing to do with us, but to be fair, so did 23 people before you. It's odd, normally Kim LOVES getting involved in other people's business (ask anyone around the water cooler), but her divorce sure has made her bitter!

I, on the other hand, enjoy hearing what the California office is up to. Has anyone been able to locate that fundraiser pamphlet yet? I sure hope so!

Email inboxes have been blowing up around the country with updates on things like the upcoming merger, people losing their jobs, and which handful of people have been offered new positions. The new emails about missing papers in California have given me and my next-cube neighbor a new game: email roulette! We take turns blindly deleting one email- if you're lucky, it's one that was sent to you by mistake. If you're unlucky, you lose your job! It's a lot more exciting than the post-it note tic-tac-toe we used to play on the window with the office building across the street. "The Man" may take our windows (and jobs!), but he'll never take our fun!

In the spirit of making sure you know what's going on here, Shirley's kids are doing great (the baby is adorable), Jean's menopause has been rough, but it seems like she's nearing the end, and my Shania Twain tribute band is starting to get paid! Neat!

By now I'm sure a few more people have Replied All to this thread, and I'm pretty sure it's my turn to delete a mystery email. I can't help with the missing pamphlets, but if you ever need post-it notes, shoot everyone in my Division an email; we have plenty!

Your Co-Worker (though you didn't know it before today),

Rebecca Marquardt