Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Burden of Being Gay

I recently talked to an old friend, a wonderful man who is a long-time AIDS suffer. He’s had poor health for twenty years, and had several near-death experiences. While we talked I asked about his health status—which is not good—and I remarked that, yes, AIDS is a heavy burden, obviously the worst one of his life.

He thought about that for a moment and said, “No, it’s not.”

I asked, “What could be worse?”

“You may not believe this, because you’re a well adjusted gay man in a happy marriage,” he said, “but for me, being gay is the greatest burden I’ve had to bear.”

I shook my head, not believing it.

“No question about it,” he said, “being gay has always been my biggest adversity. Having to live as a minority in America is beyond hard. It’s dehumanizing. Even now it continues to feel like an extra weight tied around me, dragging me under.”

I can still feel my surprise and my pain. I simply had never thought of comparing the two conditions before. However, I now understand his remark. Having AIDS is the result of biological factors over which we have little control. Racism/sexism, however, is entirely made by people’s ignorant hate, and therefore it hurts and inconveniences infinitely more. It’s there spitting in our face every time we step out our front door.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m proud to be an American, and proud to be gay. And these are exciting times to be gay. But being a minority—a hated minority—in this country is a heavy hardship that I’ve lived with daily for the last fifty years. And I can well understand where some people would think poor health and several near-death experiences would be a walk in the park by comparison.

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