Several weeks ago I was talking to a man I'd been casually dating. He called to ask for a restaurant suggestion, "Where could he and a friend have a really good steak?" I recommended Boa in Santa Monica, and was shocked when he replied, "The last time I was there I only saw men gazing into one another's eyes over their candlelit dinner." I was silent for a moment before I responded, "Well that's the best place for steak in Los Angeles. Too bad men having candlelit dinners will be the only ones enjoying themselves." We hung up the phone and I knew I could not continue dating him. That was it.
Several years ago, after Proposition 8 was passed in California, I asked myself, "What can I do as a citizen to further the rights of gay people in our nation?" This question caused me to examine my own beliefs about gays, the prejudices I held, and where they were rooted. My line of questioning led me to my childhood and the time I spent in the black church. I saw that there were residual beliefs about gays being "wrong" that lived in me. It was then that I began to take a stand within myself and in my relationships with everyone I knew that I had no tolerance for bigoted speech. No longer would I stand silent if someone in my company said something hateful about anyone, including gay people. I would not only challenge their thinking, but would also risk not being liked. I made it my mission to find and date black men who were open and accepting of gay people -- and I found them. I know this might sound odd and even ridiculous, but my experience of dating black men had always meant tolerating and even overlooking homophobia. That is until I committed myself to raising my standards and to stop dating bigots.
Since that time several years ago, my life has been filled with people who are aware of their words and actions toward others. I have a group of friends who understand the impact they have on those in their environment, and they don't take that power lightly. In recent years I've sat down with many of my gay and lesbian friends to have open conversations about how they were raised, what coming out was like, and how they feel about our shifting culture. The stories my male gay friends have shared about being bullied, isolated, and abused by their family members and schoolmates have left me even more resolved to stand for inclusion. The woman who cares for my six-year-old son is a lesbian, as was the woman who helped me when my toddler son and I were being evicted. My neighbor who takes my son to the park to play is gay. Who I sleep with and who they sleep with has never impacted our ability to share ideas, experiences, resources, a meal or love for that matter.
I had only been seeing this new gentleman for a few weeks, and up until that time, he was doing great as a new friend. Upon hanging up the phone, I considered whether I would later engage him in a conversation about what he'd said. Should I let him know my stand on gay issues and my own personal evolution? Should I, like many times in the past, start a conversation in which the other person is as determined to defend his own views as I am to defend mine? This time I decided to simply tell him simply, "I have a no tolerance for bigotry."
I do not date people or spend time with people who are bigots, when I can help it, and this time I can and will help it. I am happy to say that I am a black woman who does not date bigots. In light of the Supreme Court's forthcoming decision on the Constitutionality of Proposition 8, I am renewing and deepening my commitment to eradicate homophobic speak and bigotry from my life. Maybe we might all take up this policy and see what type of change our new way of being can bring about.