CALIFORNIA —

Bonnie Kellman

Yesterday, gay couples in Massachusetts
were allowed to marry for the first time in the nation’s
history. Even as many celebrate this breakthrough in gay rights,
however, others are fighting to outlaw gay marriage in other parts
of the country. They have already succeeded in California,
Nebraska, Ohio and Georgia, and are currently attempting to do the
same in Michigan. In April, Citizens for the Protection of Marriage
launched a ballot initiative to legally ban same-sex marriages in
Michigan. If they collect 317,757 signatures by July 6, an
amendment prohibiting gay marriage will be placed on the Nov. 2
ballot that, if passed, would be added to the state
Constitution.

As a native of the San Francisco Bay area, I should be an
authority on homosexuality — or so many Michiganders believe.
For many, San Francisco is as much a symbol of homosexuality as a
rainbow. This view is a little extreme, but they are right about
San Francisco having a large and vocal gay community. And although
my high school was not very accepting toward homosexuality, I did
attend Stanford University last summer, where I met many openly gay
people.

Despite recent progress in gay rights, society still has certain
expectations about how gay people are supposed to treat their
homosexuality. They are expected to be ashamed of their sexual
orientation, or at least pretend they are, as they creep from
closet to closet, only daring to venture out to a few close friends
in the form of melodramatic confessionals filled with tears and
halting pauses.

One of my Stanford friends, however, did not do any of this. He
informed our clique of his sexual orientation as happily and easily
as he mentioned it would be 90 degrees over the weekend. He simply
said, loudly and clearly, that a certain male living in our dorm
was hot. Then, he smiled, laughed and gazed around the dinner
table, observing our reactions.

Our friends were silent as the truth slowly dawned on them. You
could see the war going on behind their eyes as their initial
unease fought with their affection for their friend. The signs were
small — a rapid blink, a small twitch, a laugh of disbelief.
But their affection would always win in the end. Eventually, they
would nod and force themselves to smile. “Oh, you’re
gay,” they said. And that was that.

The point is that my friend did not tiptoe around his
homosexuality or hide it in any way. He was proud of it. So proud
that he threw it in the face of the people around him and dared
them to accept it.

And so they did.

Although most people would think that being openly gay would
make others uncomfortable, it actually has the opposite effect. The
more open my friend was, the more comfortable I became. Walking
down the street, we would point out cute guys and predict which
ones were gay, as if we were on a treasure hunt. My friend made
homosexuality normal, everyday and, well, fun.

Luckily, Ann Arbor is accepting toward homosexuality. However,
there’s still a lot of hatred in the world. In some parts of
the country, my friend would have been beaten or even killed for
his behavior. Many people are not okay with homosexuality. They are
disgusted and revolted and would like to ban same-sex marriages as
a way to push homosexuality underground, where they’ll be
able to forget about it as they go on with their lives. By banning
even the possibility of same-sex marriage, they are sending the
message that homosexuality is wrong and unacceptable, that it
should be treated as a shameful secret.

Same-sex marriages, however, should be legalized precisely
because so many people hate homosexuality. Hatred is caused by
fear, and fear is caused by the unknown. Without people like my
friend, homosexuality would remain so obscure, hidden in closets
around the world, that it could only be feared and hated by an
ignorant population.

Bringing homosexuality out into the light, on the other hand,
will eventually breed understanding. Legalizing same-sex marriages
sends the message that it’s okay to be gay, which would
encourage more and more people to come out. Then, once the public
begins to meet and interact with openly gay people on a daily
basis, homosexuality will become more common and acceptable.
Eventually, people like my friend will show the rest of the world
that homosexuality is not something to hate or fear at all.
It’s simply a part of life.

Kellman can be reached at
“mailto:bonkell@umich.edu”>bonkell@umich.edu.

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