My da was a good man, but like any other living creature he was characterized by complexities and contradictions.He was fiercely homophobic. I never heard him use the F-word in reference to gay man, but he made his disdain for gays quite known. To him they were a disgrace and weak. He'd make that limp-wristed hand gesture whenever he'd pass by gays. I will never forget the time when my da went to the men's section of a popular salon to have a haircut, a shave, and a head massage. When he saw that the man who was going to be cutting his hair had highlighted hair and earrings, my da was livid: "I want a man to cut my hair, not you." The look on this human being's face...I still remember it to this day. But since in service industries "the customer is always right," this dignified man swallowed his pride and kindly said, "Yes, sir. Give me a minute." That was one of the days I began to understand how unfriendly and unforgiving the world can be those who are deemed "different" or "the other."
My grandmother, momma's mom, didn't discriminate against the LGBT community per se, but she did (and still does, I believe) subscribe to stereotypes that can be equally hurtful and harmful. For instance, when one of her neighbours, an ad executive, mentioned he was thinking of retiring early to open his own business, my grandmother helpfully suggested that he open a beauty salon. "You gays are very good at styling hair and doing make-up." I wasn't there when the conversation happened, but when my grandmother recounted the conversation to us, she was genuinely surprised and offended when her neighbour shot down her suggestion. "I'm not interested in opening a beauty salon," he said. Another instance that comes to mind was when she confided in us that she was worried my cousin was gay. "He ate his french fries with a fork and held the fork in an effeminate manner," was what she said.
My mom's eldest sister thinks HIV/AIDS is a gay problem and is quite proud and vocal with her belief that "a gay man probably had sex with a monkey, and that's how HIV/AIDS began." Her assumption that all gay men are libidinous people with zero self-control who unleashed a deadly disease unto the world is both absurd and wrong, but unfortunately there are a lot of people in the world who share her views.
There were times when I wonder if, had I been born gay, lesbian, or transgender (Two Spirit, according to AmerIndian beliefs), my da or grandmother would've loved me. Or rather, loved me less. Am I loved because of who I am, as Leilani who happens to have all these different characteristics and quirks? If I had been gay, lesbian, or transgender, would that have diminished my worth as a human being? Did (and do) they believe that we, as people, are the sum of our gender identification and attributes?
It's been years of brutal and honest reflection, but I realize that yes, they would've still loved me...but not in the same way. They were able to offer me "unconditional" love because that love hasn't been challenged by homosexuality and homophobia on personal levels. They would love me and guide me, and slowly steer me towards the "righteous" path as well. They would love me, and then want to change me. They would love me as a human being, yet not love my humanity. They'd love me, but not love my perceived "sins" or "abnormality."
I will never be them. I choose to not be them, even if the same blood courses through our veins. I look at people and see humanity, not gender barriers or religious doctrine. I see worth, not otherness. I see pride, not shame.
Born that way or self-chosen, a woman is a woman and a man is a man. There's more to womanhood and manhood than estrogen and testosterone, a vagina and a penis,
Body parts are just that--parts. Although they are like chapters in a book, the complete story of a human body can never be summed up in a chapter or a body part. We are the sum of all our parts, experiences, life--plus more.
We are worthy. May we never let anyone take that away from us.