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C. Brian Smith Headshot

If I Weren't Gay, I'd Probably Be an Asshole

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I was born white and male and spent most of my childhood eating cheeseburgers at an exclusive country club in Connecticut. My nickname was "Mr. Pleasure." I attended a private elementary school, a private boarding school, and an Ivy League university, thanks to exceptional parents who spent half of a million dollars on my education. I had a housekeeper named Alice who loved and spoiled me. I knew my way around Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard and Deer Valley and The White House. There were no wars into which I was drafted and no hurricanes from which I fled. I was never seriously ill. I won $2,860 in the New York Lottery. The day after graduating college I was offered a job analyzing companies at a premiere investment bank despite having studied neither economics nor math. (That bank no longer exists, strangely.) As a ten-year old, I insisted on warming my towel in the dryer while taking forty-five minute showers.

I should definitely be an asshole by now.

To be clear, I am not claiming that white children of means should, inherently, grow up to be assholes. I am claiming, however, that white children of means have the luxury, if they so choose, of not concerning themselves with misfortune or hardship or injustice. That's the pleasant part of being handed a pleasant life. It's particularly easy to hide your head in the sand when the sand is on a beach in the Virgin Islands. I was an ignorant, unimpressive dolt with a shitload of sand in my hair.

Everything changed the first time I was called a faggot. Suddenly I was a member of the world's most maligned minority. (The week I came out, Israel and Palestine joined together to ban the gay pride parade in Jerusalem.) When someone calls you a "faggot" - and really, really means it - you can't help but instantly appreciate the wickedness of its etymological cousins, like "spic" and "retard" and "nigger" and all the rest. In that sense, being a "faggot" made me a much, much better man.

I am so impressed and humbled by the millions of straight Americans who have adopted the gay cause as their own, mostly because they didn't have to. I'm not sure I would have.

I am equally unimpressed -- baffled, really -- by the inaction of President Obama, whose career has benefited so greatly from the empathy of those who simply didn't have to care about his struggle to be the first black president, and whose parents benefited so greatly from the empathy of those who simply didn't have to care if interracial marriage was legalized.

Empathy aside, it just seems so silly to oppose gay marriage when such a stance is so clearly going to fail. My former boss, Seth MacFarlane, laid it out perfectly: "Anyone who tries to fight the advancement of any particular minority group is going to lose. Whether it's now or whether it's twenty years from now, they are wasting their time."

So, as my friends and I once again prepare to pound the streets of Los Angeles in protest - as we will continue to do, for as long as it takes - I urge President Obama, and all those who subscribe to marriage inequality, to stop wasting your time. Stop being wrong. Stop being an asshole.