Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Easter journey

I have to share this. I just have to.
Today I boarded the train for NYC from Washington DC....decided I needed to get out of town, spend some time with by brother and relax. I had intended to open up my laptop and "get some work" done during the three hour ride, but that didn't happen.
First let me set the scene. I'm a Marine, and yes I look like one too. I sorta have that Marine "recruitment poster" look. I'm also not particularly religious, although when you have spent time in Iraq (three tours) and have seen the things I sorta develop a special relationship with God. I'm also bisexual and enjoy having straight and a gay relationships.
Let me get back to today ......
I end up sitting next to a middle aged lady who was on her way home from a Christian retreat. She looked decent enough. She was dressed in jeans and a nice halter top that revealed that she had the attributes than any straight man might desire. She had no reservations talking to me about her experience wonderful it was and how it "re-invigorated" her faith. Then she started going on and on about gays.... and how they were trying to "take over" and wanted special treatment. She went on about gay marriage and how they were trying to destroy American values.
I was, at first, surprised that she would be so open with a complete stranger, then I realized that my appearance said nothing about being gay and everything about being a "read blooded' straight man. She felt "safe" assuming that I was "on her side". She immediately  assumed that I shared her attitudes and values... That scarred me. But that's another story.
I sat there listening to her and the hate that came from the lips of this "Christian" woman was growing more and more intolerable. Her once gentle pretty smile was replaced with a hard jaw and clenched teeth as she went on about how "they" were ruining America. She complained that Disney had gay days, the Home Depot had a float in a gay parade, both businesses she would no longer support. I listened intently for at least 20-30 minutes. I didn't show her any signs of agreement or disagreement.... I just listened.
Then she said the words that gave me an in and allowed me to respond. She said, "I'm sure that you don't have to deal with "that kind" in the Marine Corps she lowered her voice and said, "no fags there".
Here's how I responded:
I said, "Ma'am, the Marine Corps, and the entire armed forces, just abolished the policy of Don't Ask....Don't Tell, it's now perfectly legal for any member of the armed forces to be openly gay. The truth is ma'am, there have always been gays in the military and YES, we do have a few of them in the Marine Corps. One of them happened to be a Gunnery Sergeant that saved my life on two separate occasions. Frankly, I could care less who he goes to bed with....I'm here today because of his bravery and selflessness. He was decorated by the President of the United States for those efforts...TWICE... and although I don't think the President knew about him being gay, I really don't think he would have cared. I didn't realize that my voice had carried as far as it did, but evidently a few of the people sitting nearby had heard the conversation... and a couple responded with claps, and a few HoooRaws. Not shying from an audience, I decided to go for broke. I said "Ma'am, the thing that I can't understand about "Christians" like you...that have so much hate for gay people is how can you call yourself a Christian? Christ asked you to love your fellow man....and all I hear from you is hate and disdain. God made gay people, just like he made you straight. He never told you to hate them...he told you to love them. So before you sit here and profess your grand Christian values to might examine your heart and ask yourself whether your beliefs are really Christlike. Maybe, just maybe, God put all these disgusting gay people here to test people like you think you could REALLY love a gay person?  Ma'am, I've got better things to do than sit here and lecture a bigot about their misguided if you'll excuse me, I'll sit elsewhere". At that , half the dam car erupted in applause and I got up and moved to another seat, exchanging a few "high fives" along the way.
I sat in a new seat and just thought for a few minutes. I had to stuff the anger that had risen in me and just had to try to understand why people like this were so hateful and bigoted. She had no idea that I had a "gay" side and that one of the people she was talking about was sitting right next to her. Then I heard her whimpers....she was crying. After about 15 minutes she got out of her seat, came up to mine and apologized. She said that I was right, that she was acting nothing like the "Christian" women she thought she was.  Then she started sobbing, and dropped to her knees...."Holy Shit....what had I done? This women was going though some kind of crisis of faith before my eyes, and the eyes of half the train car. I went to her and helped her up and gave her a big hug...after a minute I looked in her eyes and said, " It's OK, I forgive you.... she sat down next to me and we talked for a while longer...she was genuinely contrite....she honestly realized that she was acting the complete opposite to what she professed. Then I dropped my bomb....I said, "Ma'am, I'm gay and have had to hide that fact for the last 12 years of my Marine Corps service.... we are just as hard working as you are, we love this country just as much as you do...all we want is to live our lives and not be discriminated against because of what we do in private. It's not right for people to be fired or evicted because of who they are or what they do in the privacy of their own homes. THAT is un-American, THAT is discrimination and bigotry, and THAT is not Christian. She looked up at me and smiled and said that I was right and that she had a lot of soul searching to do. The train pulled into the station.... we smiled at each other and I wished her a Happy Easter, she thanked me for my service and we left the train.
Walking through Penn Station to catch a cab, I couldn't help but wonder if she really had changed....I want to think YES....but will probably never know. In any event, I gave her a lot to think about the next time she goes to Church.
Happy Easter folks,...going to St Patrick's tomorrow for Easter Mass...and I think I'll have a little more to think about as well.

Semper Fi

Doc Spad


Bock McMillan said...

Happy Easter, Doc!

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. buddy.

You should be proud of your behavior in this situation. At this time in history it is essential for us to break the wall of silence and not just move away when we are confronted by bigotry.

As for your question concerning whether or not the woman had come to a change of heart or not, I firmly believe she has. And if she hasn't it doesn't really matter much because you have taught her to be even more careful of spreading her vile homophobia in public with strangers. At the same time you have reinforced many others in their positions of acceptance about LGBT-people.

Ooorah, and have a good Easter vacation with your family!

Chaz Longstaff said...

Very well written, a compelling read, Doc! Cheers!