Confessions of a Recreational Homophobe

STEVE MARMEL

April 30, 1993|By STEVE MARMEL

Los Angeles. -- Thousands of homosexuals marched on Washington last weekend to make a point -- that they're just like everybody else, except in the bedroom. They were on one side of the street -- laughing with friends, holding hands with lovers, and with the exception of a tiny squad of leather-clad, body-piercing, sex-changing Geraldo fodder, all they wanted to do was prove that the difference between heterosexual and homosexual is merely a prefix.

On the other side of that street was a small group of protesters who believed otherwise. They also laughed with friends and held hands with lovers. And with the exception of the tiny squad of Bible-thumping, slack-jawed, David Duke wanna-bes, all they wanted was to make their case that they believe homosexuality is wrong.

And between those curbs, remain millions of people like myself. We laugh with friends and hold hands with lovers and are nice, normal, albeit slightly judgmental Americans who don't hate homosexuals . . . we just don't understand them.

I don't remember the first time it was explained to me what it meant to be a homosexual. Chances are it was at the University of Wisconsin where political groups were so specific they had names like ''Meat Free Monday,'' (students who went vegetarian on the day the dorm served liver). They also had groups like the ''Ten Percent Society,'' named after the study stating one out of every ten Americans was gay. They would hold meetings and much less than 10 percent of Madison's students would attend.

They didn't understand that people like myself bear no grudge against gays. We wish them no ill will. We don't believe AIDS is God's punishment any more than we believe that stupid theory about somebody having sex with a monkey. We're saddened by gay-bashing and by people who hold signs saying ''God Hates (( Fags.'' That may hold true for David Koresh's God, but my God is much more centered. My God's cool.

On the other hand, when we see 15 shirtless guys with handle-bar mustaches and leather vests lining up to enter a bar called ''Cuffs,'' we laugh. ''Queens'' are a huge source of amusement to us. But it's not a malicious laugh, it's the laugh I'd expect if I slammed my face in a revolving door or inadvertently walked into ''Cuffs.''

Laughing is what we do when we're uncomfortable, and you can't mandate comfort any more than you can sexuality. In America, you're allowed to be uncomfortable about anything you want. If any homophobia exists in us, it's not vicious . . . it's recreational.

I can hear the cries now . . . that this attitude leads to violence. Not true. I don't choose co-workers, friends or enemies by their sexuality any more than I do the amount of hair on their heads. Then again, maybe that's where the difference is. The bald guy isn't hurt by comments, as he knows someday I'll be bald. Since the homosexual knows I won't be facing male pattern gayness, there's no proof I'm not being hateful.

So let me state it clearly -- I'm not the enemy here. I'm not banning anybody from the military or segregating people off boats. I'm simply an annoyance. And while I may be able to go with the idea that homosexuali ty is genetic, I'm so perplexed by the idea of a man wanting to make love to another man it might as well be explained to me in Latin.

People like me don't want to take the time to try to understand homosexuality because, frankly, we find it a little weird. Conversely, we're not going to take the time to make a homosexual's life hell because enough people are doing that out of spite. We're human beings first . . . baffled second.

We can accept something we don't necessarily understand because we are reasoned and impassioned in our indifference.

We're not standing on either side of that Washington street. We're in the middle of the road, which really isn't so bad. It's the only place you can see both sides.

Steve Marmel is a free-lance writer.

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