Due to the discussion surrounding same-sex marriage in the news at the moment, with hundreds of companies supporting measures to lift different bans preventing equal rights for same-sex couples under various state laws, I felt it necessary to share a few anecdotes with the readers of Camp Campaign.
Philadelphia is a fairly liberal city. Encompassing a wide variety of cultures among its over 1.5 million inhabitants, the City of Brotherly Love is, at its heart, a blue collar town full of people who care about community. Philadelphia boasts a diverse array of artists from all walk of life, and celebrates the humanities like no other city I’ve experienced. Marathons are run, events are held, and we celebrate the creation and expansion of local businesses and entities, which only serves to strengthen that sense of community.
Of the many neighborhoods in Philadelphia, perhaps none are as interesting as Washington Square West or, as some have taken to calling it, the Gayborhood. Home to several fantastic shops, bars, and restaurants, the Gayborhood knows exactly how to celebrate diversity and drive a community.
The other night I had a friend of mine come out to me in a most unceremonious fashion. He’s a good friend, who I’ve known and respected for a good while, and in the middle of telling me a story he says frankly “and at the time, I was seeing this guy.” I couldn’t help but interrupt him.
“Wait, you’re a bi man?”
“Yup!” he replied, and continued the conversation.
This may not seem like a big deal for some people, however, as someone who grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line, I encountered my fair share of bigotry and frighteningly regular dehumanization of people whose only crime was that of being themselves. To me, my friend’s frank and candid exposure of his sexual orientation after knowing the man (and his girlfriend) for the better part of my time in this town, was a demonstration not only of the kind of guy he is, but the kind of friendship we share. It didn’t occur to him to bring it up earlier because it had never entered into the conversation, and it had never occurred to him to be discreet about such an admission because it bears absolutely no weight in regards to our friendship.
This is a sharp contrast to a more peculiar admission by a friend back in 2006, wherein I was pulled aside at a gathering and asked if I had any qualms about homosexuals. I explained that I did not, to which my friend whispered “Oh, okay. Because I’m bi.”
I was astonished at the discretion he exercised as I’d found that particular friend to be very open generally and not one to care much about what other people thought of him. He explained later that he’d had several friends stop talking to him because they didn’t know how to handle the fact that he was attracted to both men and women.
This is the part that both saddens me, and yet makes me hopeful that we as a society will one day be free from this sort of irrational nonsense. When I lived in Baltimore, it was a regular occurrence to hear derogatory terms cast toward homosexuals, blacks, hispanics, and any other minority group you can think of. Since moving to Philadelphia, I can’t say I’ve experienced any such behavior. Now, this may be confirmation bias due to my impression of Philadelphia, or it could be due to the company I keep and the places I tend to visit. However, I tend to visit similar places and keep similar company to the kind I had in Baltimore, and I don’t think I’m less attentive now than I was a year ago.
The unfortunate thing about Philly is that Pennsylvania is, for a large part, still very rural and conservative, even for a blue state. Many attempts have been made to grant same-sex marriage equal treatment under the law, but all attempts have been met with strong opposition from Republicans and religious organizations.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand the fear and the hatred. Nor will I understand how groups of people who claim to be all about individual freedom and the “do unto others” notion can be so unbelievably backward.