How a homophobe repented and became an imperfect LGBTQ+ couple

How a homophobe repented and became an imperfect LGBTQ+ couple

I remember it well: his toothy smile. Shaving your throat. tall bones and her loud laughter.

I also remember what I said to the teenager. Strange. Legend. Even worse names.

We attended Anaheim High in the mid-1990s. I was a senior, he was a freshman. He was one of the most Latino students on campus. He endured taunts, epithets and insults, as he attacked his opponents with increasingly withering insults.

It didn’t bother me or the others.

I learned my homophobia from my male cousins ​​and from a father who was so anti-gay that when my classmates came to my sister’s party, my father forbade us from going to the pool so as not to get infected. In my opinion, homosexuality was not just an abomination. “They” threatened the people I loved (Americans, Mexicans, Catholics and good people) by their mere existence.

When my best friend, Art, told me to examine my biases, I recited a series of Bible verses: Leviticus, Genesis, and Paul. Nothing could convince me that I should stop hating, much less taking gays and lesbians for granted.

The HBO movie changed everything. In Mr. Elder’s biology class, we watched “And the Band Played,” based on Randy Shilts’ best-selling book about the early days of AIDS. I turned away in disgust from any hint of same-sex love. But the story — of how the Reagan administration and society at large allowed a terrible disease to spread since it first appeared in the gay community — disturbed me.

You may have thought homosexuality was horrible, but a careless government that killed people for who they were was much worse. After a few months, I went to my classmates and apologized to them. I was honest, but I will never forget the understandable doubt on his face.

Since then I have been trying to atone for my sins.

I told my brother when he entered fourth grade, when he and his friends used to play “Smear Queer” in the schoolyard. One person accidentally got the tag and everyone threw a soccer ball at him. He knew it wasn’t a problem Yeah but my brother would join when – because they taught me that game too.

One day, he came home excited and announced that he and his friends had finally played Queer Smear. I explained to him what the word meant and what the game represented and made him swear that he would never join again.

Professionally, I have criticized politicians and groups who attempt to deny the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ people. Today I have close LGBTQ+ friends and still have heated arguments with loved ones about their latent and overt homophobia.

However, I am an imperfect couple. I can’t undo the pain I’ve caused before, so I remember those dark days to remind myself that I can always do better.

That’s why a recent poll for The Times conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and paid for by the California Foundation gave me some hope about this country’s long, painful journey toward acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, and also a sobering examination of what it means to work. there was. still needs to be done.

Christians demonstrate as they gather to pray and protest the Dodgers’ inclusion in the Pride Indulgence Night program at Dodger Stadium in 2023.

(Brian van der Bruegh/Los Angeles Times)

The survey was a follow-up to a pioneering 1985 project that asked people how they felt about homosexuality. The difference between then and now is very big. At the time, 73% felt that relationships between gays and lesbians were wrong, an accompanying Times article noted, almost unchanged from a similar Gallup poll in 1973. This latest poll? Only 28% felt the same.

In 1985, 51% of respondents thought gays and lesbians should be protected in the workplace. Today this figure is 77%. An old survey found that 35% felt “uncomfortable with homosexuals.” This time the question wasn’t even asked.

The Times study was published in 1985 without photographs or comments. This time we published our findings with interesting essays from current and former LGBTQ+ colleagues. The survey and essays were part of the “Our Strange Age” project, which is available on our website and will be published in print. special section on June 23.

These surveys show that beliefs change over time and influence. But while there is more acceptance of gays and lesbians today, a new intolerance has emerged. The 1985 survey did not ask about transgender people. The Times/NORC poll demonstrated this, and the results are disappointing.

More than a third said they would be very or somewhat upset if their child came out as gay or lesbian (up from 89% in 1985). But if the child declared themselves trans or non-binary, the percentage increased to 48%. When it comes to letting people[live] “Make your lives the way you want,” only 19% “strongly or somewhat disagreed” if a person was gay or lesbian. Trans or non-binary? 31%.

Even more questioned whether the increased focus on trans and non-binary people in media and politics was good or bad. Only 16% thought it was good, while 40% thought it was bad (42% said no).

The survey surprisingly shows that politics and religion align with people’s views on LGBTQ+ issues. But I also think unfamiliarity plays a big role. While 72% of American adults in the Times/NORC poll said they know someone who identifies as gay or lesbian, only 27% said the same about transgender or nonbinary people. When you come to Jesus with the person you were taught to be, you quickly realize what a fool you are.

Case in point: me, again.

Ten years after my infamous behavior with my Anaheim classmate, I read a powerful column by Times sportswriter Mike Penner revealing that I was returning from vacation as Christine Daniels.

“I am a transgender sportswriter,” Penner wrote. “It took me more than 40 years, a million tears, and hundreds of hours of mental therapy to find the courage to write these words.”

I was so impressed that I sent a thank you note through a mutual friend. To my surprise and delight, Daniels wanted to meet with me to talk about how to deal with sudden fame. At the time I was at OC Weekly and The Times and had a column called “Ask Mexico!” had published, prompting an avalanche of attention.

I was nervous, and not just about meeting a writer whose work I’ve been interested in for a long time. I didn’t know anyone who identified as transgender, and I was worried about offending Daniels by asking an inappropriate question or using the wrong name or pronoun.

A uniformed man raises a pride flag outside a building as another uniformed man looks on.

Allied Universal security guards Gregory Winfrey, left, and Benedicto Barnachea raise the 2023 Pride flag over the Kenneth Hahn Administration Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

At a panini joint in Old Town Orange, Daniels quickly dissuaded me from my low-key transphobia. I focused on the person in front of me: friendly. Fun. Excellent. Happy. At the Weekly I continued to growl with pride until the sad day in 2009 when Mike Penner, who used the phrase again in The Times, mocked Daniels.

Today, as city councils reject calls to display rainbow flags during Pride Month and school boards ban books and lesson plans that address any LGBTQ+ topics, adults are protesting story time in the name of protecting children. children and against the drag nuns who mock during the growing developments. From “Lotinx,” I remember my journey from disgust to humility.

I asked Bambi Salcedo, president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, what is the best way to change closed minds and hearts.

He said it is not “about doing a study or checking a DEI box,” in reference to diversity, equity and inclusion; it’s about having difficult conversations from a place of love, “because hate doesn’t win.”
A sincere return to anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes, Salcedo said, can “sow that seed of change. And if it is planted, the harvest comes out [the harvest comes]”.

I remind myself that people can change and that those of us who have experienced the path thus far to Damascus should encourage others to follow our path.

Avoidable sins are ignorance from which all sinners must repent. It’s one.

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