Andrew Sullivan spotlights this quote from Todd Glass, a comedian who came out of the closet last year on Marc Maron’s podcast. He explains how he told girlfriend jokes for years while doing stand up by just turning his boyfriends into girlfriends:
“You know, at least I’m not lying saying “my girlfriend” anymore. And in all fairness, all my girlfriend jokes — for anybody who thinks, Oh, that’s sad, he had to make up whole stories — I didn’t make up whole stories; they were real stories, I just changed the gender. And by the way, if that doesn’t prove how much same-sex couples are the exact same as heterosexual couples, not once in my career did anyone ever hear a story I told and say, “Wait a second, that doesn’t sound like anything we … ” It’s all the same.”
Quite right. And Sullivan picks up from there:
On the hundreds of interviews and radio call-ins I’ve done on marriage equality over the last two decades, one question was very common. It was: “I’m not anti-gay, I think. I just don’t understand homosexuality. I have no real way to understand how a guy is attracted to another guy. It makes no sense to me.” I loved getting this question because it helped get closer to the core of the issue. My response was simply: “Yes, you do understand homosexuality very well. Because you’re a heterosexual. It’s exactly the same – but with the gender switched. It’s the same bundle of love, pain, misunderstanding, passion, anger, communication, frustration, happiness, joy, respect, and sadness that all true romantic and conjugal heterosexual love entails.
Every straight person already knows everything important there is to know about a gay person’s needs and loves and lives. Just look in the mirror. We are human before we are gay or straight. We are you.
When I was in college I went to see Melissa Etheridge in concert with my friend Sandy, who is lesbian. This was in 1988 or so, long before Etheridge had come out publicly. After the show, we stopped to grab something to eat and had the following conversation:
ME: Was I the only straight person at the show tonight?
HER: (Laughing) You might have been.
ME: Why does she have such a big gay following?
HER: Because she’s gay.
ME: (Loudly and incredulously) No she’s not!
HER: Yes she is.
ME: (Making my best argument) No she’s not. Listen to all of her songs, they’re all about love…and relationships…and breaking up…and…that was a really dumb thing to say, wasn’t it?
HER: (Cracking up as she watches it dawn on me what an idiot I was being) Oh hell, you straight people got nothing on us. Our breakups take drama to a whole new level.
It was that moment, at the tender age of 20 or so, that it suddenly occurred to me that gay and straight are irrelevant characteristics, that as human beings we all experience love and loss and longing and pain in exactly the same way. I don’t know why such an obvious thing hadn’t occurred to me earlier, but it hadn’t. And this is exactly why I’m so vocal in my support for equal rights for my gay friends. I don’t see them as a Them anymore; they are me, in all the ways that matter.