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Confessions of An Ex-Homophobe

Confessions of An Ex-Homophobe

It’s been 10 years since my best friend came out to me.

No one I knew in person had ever identified as gay before, so this was entirely new to me. I could tell from the way he came out that he was scared and embarrassed. We didn’t even have a direct conversation. All he did was show me a picture of his crush, which turned out to be a guy. At first I thought he was joking around. Then, the more I thought about it, everything made sense.

For a long time, he had been hinting that he was crushing on someone in our class. He tried to make me guess correctly, but I never succeeded...even when I carefully listed all the girls in our classroom.

In my naivete, I never even thought to consider his sexual orientation. I just assumed that he was straight, because everyone around us was straight (or at least acted straight). It was the only “normal” we knew. How difficult it must have been for him to keep a secret so big in a community that largely functions on conservative Christian beliefs and embraces heteronormativity.

Growing up in a place like this and never having stepped out of the state for 17 years, I was your typical conservative Christian. I went to church regularly; I read the Bible before bed every night; I never smoked or drank. I even went so far as to scold my friends for drinking. Accepting homosexuality felt out of the question. But 10 years has made a lot of difference for me.

It was my best friend’s coming out that triggered the change. For the first few months I was still confused about how to feel. I knew I loved him, but I was conflicted. All those years I had been conditioned to believe that homosexuality was a sin, that it was not “normal.” But the more I thought about it, the more I found it difficult to understand why that would be the case.

And the more I understood my best friend, the clearer I realized that I had been taught wrong. He was as “normal” as “normal” can be. He wasn’t hurting anyone with his sexuality. And it was heartwarming to see his eyes light up whenever he talked about his crushes or his dates. Eventually I grew to fully accept him and completely discarded the idea that homosexuality was a sin. It did not matter anymore. And just like that, I was no longer homophobic.

Although I accepted my best friend’s sexuality, my journey to becoming an LGBTQ+ ally wasn’t complete. By chance, I happened to make a few new friends in the gay community. They were (and still are) all amazing people with their unique quirks and personalities.

But when I look back at those years now, I realize that I had never been a true ally. Instead, it was as though I considered my friends a novelty. Somehow, I felt that talking about my “gay best friend” and my “gay friends” made me seem cooler, more liberal, and more fashionable.

“Gay” was the only way I defined them. And when I tried to describe them, I merely threw them into the box of flamboyance and sensitivity that the gay community has always been stereotyped into. By now I realize how wrong that was, and how it was no better than being a homophobe. I still did not see my friends as individuals—only as gay.

I’ve learned that you can’t become an LGBTQ+ ally overnight. It takes years to unlearn heteronormativity and throw away preconceived notions we’ve had about the community. It may take even longer for those who grew up in a conservative community like I did. I too am still learning and changing to become a better ally. But you’re on the right track if you keep asking yourself, “What can I do better?”

By Jacqueline Zote

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