I’ve had a lot of difficulty writing of late. I have a number of stories I want to share, but delve pretty deep in to who I am, what I am, and what happened in my life. Some of it is extremely painful. Disturbing and off-putting. Some of it would bore you to tears, and some of it would make you cringe.
Lest I come off as a self-martyr bemoaning his existence like an emo muppet, I’m sure we all have the same. But one of the things that bothers me the most about myself is my history of ideology. Most of it is not who, now, I would ever want to be. I’m going to skip the old chestnut of “everyone changes over time” and ask that you do the same. I am not looking to exculpate myself nor am I looking to claim that I have moved beyond it. I just want to tell my story about this one aspect of my life.
I am a bigot. was a bigot? Am on a bigot spectrum in decline? I don’t know how to express it, in that I don’t think someone as myself can ever be completely free of prejudices. Nor can I, as a cisgender mostly heterosexual man begin to claim to understand what other people go through.
Enough of the navel gazing to try to determine the RIGHT way to identify my bigotry level at present. Let me delve in.
I grew up as a white boy in a white family in a white town. I grew up Christian. I grew up privileged. I went to sunday school and sang Jesus loves me and thought nothing more of it because Mom and Dad told me this is the way things are. (this is not really going to be a deconversion story.) I was a complete WASP.
And I never knew I was a bigot. Now I was never taught to hate people with different skin, but it was just assumed that white people were the norm. There weren’t any black people in our church, that’s for sure. And there was one Black kid in my primary school (and probably 3 in my High School.) Casual racism was just normal. Nobody was running around throwing out the N-word, but we didn’t think much of other slurs, nor sayings that meant the same thing. And we felt like very good people, of course. Add on top of this that yes, my church was one of those homosexuals are terrible sinners churches. It basically was a Noah’s Ark believing turn or burn church.
So I was taught that gay people were not right. And that’s just the way it was. God said so, so it is. I didn’t even know about Transgender people or gender fluidity of course. The only thing as a teenager that we ever saw was “drag queens” and they were something to be sneered at as obscene.
Then came my assaults. I will not discuss them at length here, as it’s perhaps a story for another time. Suffice it to say that in my mid teens I was twice sexually assaulted by male friends. This of course could not be told to anyone. The shame of it alone would be unbearable, and I had obviously sinned, so I had to take some of the blame. But it made me grow even more bitter and hateful.
By 17 I was working full-time, not going anywhere, and pretty disillusioned with everyone and everything. Then I met my first wife. Now when people say their ex is awful, it’s standard procedure to nod and know that being an ex makes the other person horrible. But my first wife really was horrible. This is not about her. It’s about the child we had together. That is the only thing of note or value that came of that marriage, and the rest I choose to ignore as an irrelevant grain of sand.
I Married at 19, as we ended up with a baby on the way. We married not long after she was born. And I went about my life. Worked. Paid bills. Watched sports. Got divorced. Paid more bills. All along never thinking for a second that there was anything the matter with me.
But the truth is, I hated gay men. Some may point to my assaults and say “well, yeah, sure.” but I don’t even know if they were gay or just curious or just being an asshole. I had been steeped in hate for homosexuals from the beginning of my life. I don’t want to say I was overtly racist, but I certainly didn’t think much about the social injustices to minorities nor the reasons why things were the way they were. And yes, I shied away from groups of black men. I bought in to the stereotyping. Just never as a proud white supremacist. Just regular whiteness.
It wasn’t until my 30’s that I began to change, really. It coincided, not surprisingly, with the beginning of the faltering of my religious beliefs. I had married again, this time to a Chinese Canadian (no, that didn’t clear me of racism.) But I had begun to realize that there were things in the world that just weren’t right. That people were still being treated badly because they were black, or brown, or any shade other than washed pig.
I began to realize, of my own accord, that I wasn’t right about my attitude. That I was casually racist. That I bought in to stereotypes. Thus began a learning process that continues today.
But the homosexual angle was still a problem. I still didn’t like gay men. They annoyed me. Just keep it to yourself. Go be disgusting somewhere else. Why do you need a fucking parade.
Yeah. That was me. Less than a decade ago. I had become atheist in the meantime, but still clung to that hatred. Then my daughter came out to me. Now here is the thing about gay women when it comes to fundamentalist churches. They don’t get mentioned. They are like unicorns, don’t really exist. All talk about gay was about gay MEN. So although I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it, I didn’t connect the dots. And I accepted and loved my daughter for what she was. I found out that someone so good and wonderful couldn’t have something terribly wrong with them, realized that I had held on to beliefs that were shoved in to my head, and it suddenly became crystal clear that there was absolutely nothing wrong with people being gay.
I wish I could say it was something more noble. Something more tangible than “well, my daughter is gay, so that changes things.” But it mostly wasn’t. It was the catalyst for change.
I will say after that point I actively sought to learn and understand more. I learned to let go of old assumptions. Tear down my walls I had put up. I kept doing that after I lost my daughter 5 years ago. And now, When bigots interact with me on Twitter they see me as a left-wing loon.
I listened. Read. Learned. Still am. And now I’d LIKE to say that I’m an advocate and an ally to both People of colour and LGBTQIA. I don’t say it though, because that’s for them to decide.
These stories are supposed to have a watershed moment, aren’t they? a death-blow that leaves the old self bleeding out. But other than my daughter, it really was just a matter of raising my head out of the slop that I had been fed all my life and breathing clear air.
I don’t begin to pretend to understand everything. I can’t. I don’t have enough lifetime left to even come close. All I know is that I continue to try.
I am ashamed of what I was, and have learned enough not to be proud of what I am now. Just like the way people are supposed to be, not being an asshole to them. I know that I can never atone for any harm I did in my life for what I believed. I can’t even say that I know when I did.
All I know is that I am proud to know people across all spectrums of gender, sexuality, skin colour, and not one seems wrong any more. I managed to pull the demon out of my head.
Forgive whatever traces he left behind.