I have mentioned before that I led a very sheltered life when I was growing up. I went to both a Catholic grammar school and high school and lived in the bubble of that world for 18 years. My first sex education class was in Sophomore year Biology class. Sister Herman had the class read out loud paragraph by paragraph Chapter 6, the chapter on human reproduction. When we finished she quickly said, “Since there are no questions we will move on to chapter 7. When I was a Senior I was taught in religion class that there should always be six people present when I went out on a date – me, my date, one of my parents and God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I was eighteen at the time and ready to go to college. My preparation for entering that world was far less than adequate up to that point.
I also felt at the time that I was a pretty normal girl. I went from the stage of hating boys to being curious about boys to liking boys. And that was normal, at least that was how I felt at the time. Then I went to college. For the first time in my life I attended a public institution, Northern Illinois University, and for the first time in my life I was away from home. At Northern, I got a very different perspective of the world and I got it quickly.
My major was in Theatre and like every good theatre student I got involved in plays early on. I don’t even remember the name of the first show I was in, but I do remember the director was a former Broadway actor who was now teaching at the University and so I felt really pleased that he cast me in the play. One night as we were rehearsing I was sitting in the audience watching a scene that I was not in. One of the other actors, a guy, was sitting next to me and watching as well. The scene we were watching was between a guy and a girl, and the guy on stage was absolutely gorgeous – I thought he was amazing. As I watched the scene I turned to the guy next to me and said something like, “I think he is so good looking” to which he replied, “so do I – we’re lovers.”
I almost fell off my chair. What did he say – they were lovers? How could that be? I didn’t know what to think. I was confused but didn’t say anything. After rehearsal I went back to my dorm room and called my mother. When I told her about it she said matter-of-factly, “Oh, he’s a homosexual.” A what? And she proceeded to explain that a homosexual had sexual desires for their own sex rather than the opposite sex. I was in shock. After all, that’s not normal. I was confused on a variety of levels. Up to that point the thought had never crossed my mind that a man could be sexually interested in a man or a woman sexually interested in another woman. And I felt like an idiot finding out about something like this in the way that I did. I wasn’t sure whether to be hurt, angry, disgusted or repulsed. It was a lot to take in all at once.
But after a while I began to think about what I experienced from a different perspective. I have always fiercely supported a woman’s right to have the ultimate control over her own body – a woman’s right to choose. If a woman makes a decision to terminate a pregnancy, I believe (and still do) that she has the right to do so. That decision should never be taken lightly or without conversations with the father, but ultimately I believe that woman has the right to the final say-so. It is her body. So it stands to reason that I should support that same right to choose for both men and women when it comes to their bodies.
I also began to think about heterosexuality from a prejudicial standpoint. What would happen if all of sudden I was discriminated against because I was a heterosexual? What would happen if I was denied certain rights because of my sexuality. I couldn’t imagine it. And if that is the case, then who am I to judge someone else’s sexuality? I also thought about those two guys – I really liked them both before I knew they were gay. Am I supposed to feel differently about them now because of their sexuality? How would I feel if all of sudden someone chose not to like me because I was straight. I just couldn’t fathom it – so why should it be different for them.
And that began my lifetime of supporting anyone’s right to love who they want to love and be who they want to be. Being in a theatrical community I have met and become friends with many gay men and lesbian women. A person is so much more than who they are in the bedroom – and all of my friends who find their joy differently than I do are the salt of the earth. You get to a point where it isn’t even a consideration or topic of conversation anymore. It is such a small part of what makes up a person.
So I for one am overjoyed about the recent happenings in New York. It is long overdue and I hope the rest of the country picks up on New York’s lead and then lets be done with it and move on. Human rights are human rights – they aren’t just for the strong, the rich or the straight. They are for everyone.