Hi Anna. I am a first year university student and currently in the process of meeting plenty of new and interesting people. In fact, nearly every conversation I have is with someone I’ve never spoken to before and I love it.
However, I can’t help thinking, no matter how interesting or pleasant the "talk" is that I have with someone, I can’t help thinking whether or not they would be speaking in a similar manner to me if they knew I were gay. I come across as very feminine and no one can ever figure it out. (Even the ones I want to know, wink!)
But I guess what I’m asking is whether there is a way to get my head to stop being so close-minded. I just want to be friendly and outgoing and make as many friends as possible, but as soon as I run into a Republican or a devoutly religious person (of any religion), I seem to run away scared. I know that friendships are based on a lot of things, and not necessarily dependent on whether or not we agree politically or socially. Yet I just can’t seem to get this one concept out of my mind, "would they vote against rights for me?" or "they’d never be speaking to me if they knew" or "how much would they be preaching at me to change if I told them?"
Is it all right to limit my friendships to open-minded, liberals? Or should I just get this out of my head and be truly open-minded myself and let everyone into my "circle of friendships?"
Anna says: There are a few situations in one’s life where it’s perfectly acceptable to have dealbreakers that are irrational or make sense only to you — choosing friends and lovers are two of those situations. And you don’t have to justify those reasons to anyone, not even Oprah.
I won’t date a smoker, for instance. Or someone who lives in another city. Or someone who doesn’t know who Kelly Clarkson is. (True story. That chick was clearly not my soul mate.)
Is that unfair? Of course. But it’s my party and I’ll defy if I want to. Surrounding ourselves with people who nourish, challenge and inspire us is the ultimate aim though. So don’t make hard and fast rules before getting to know someone, at least a little. There are, after all, Log Cabin Republicans and agnostic rabbis and hippie stoners who don’t support gay marriage and lesbians who don’t actually move in together on the second date. Just because someone says they’re Christian doesn’t mean they’re going to lecture you on the evilness of Lady Gaga.
But, on the other hand, I totally get your reluctance. There are definitely situations and people who make me less comfortable gaying it up — family reunions, job interviews, being within a six-mile radius of a Wal-Mart — so, you know, we can’t always wave our big rainbow flags all the time. Though I’ve found that the older I get, the easier it is for me to just be myself, which is a shameless, Evanescence-loving queer. Sure, I’ve gotten a few “I’ll pray for you!” diatribes and uncomfortable silences, but you know what, why should we have to accommodate other people’s bigotry and intolerance? Plus, learning not to care too much about what others think of you is a valuable skill to learn, and not just for one’s sexual identity.
Continue to be friendly with new people, and choose your battles. Is it worth getting into a loud argument with someone you meet in line at the Chick-fil-a who says they supported Prop 8? Probably not. But, you’re also at the age when people start hardcore questioning their ideologies and beliefs. Being out to people and showing them how awesome you are just might turn a bigot into a big gay supporter.