SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2012       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Andrew Franz

Getting Off the Straight and Narrow: Changing Friendships

When I was younger, my friend Chris and I were conjoined at the hip. We did everything together. You name it! We had sleepovers, we would walk home together after school, have pillow fights, play sports, share secrets and so much more. We were life long friends, growing up together in the same town, moving from school to school together, and eventually entering high school together. When this stage of our lives finally approached, we all changed, and for one reason only. Hormones. Everyone was bouncing off the walls left and right, crying, laughing, flirting, talking and texting. Of course grades were important, but at this stage in our lives, new experiences began to emerge. Girls were amazing. They were all I ever thought about! Sadly, I could sense that my good friend Chris didn’t feel the same. He had no urge to spend time with girls, or even talk about them. It always felt strange, but I never forced the issue. I just figured he was more relaxed when it came to girls. One afternoon, a frightful event occurred that answered why Chris had such a questionable character.

As a child, I was ignorant, but blissful. I had many friends, from many different racial backgrounds, and was never raised to discriminate against anyone. Even girls. I have always been comfortable around them, because I was never even aware of the fictitious “cooties” stage, or that I should be nervous around females because I would eventually “like them” as I got older. Maybe I was just a social butterfly, but my experiences as a child were always positive. However, when I entered High School, the social atmosphere drastically changed, and I realized I had a friend that I would either have to choose to defend, or blend in with the crowd to avoid hate crime and being an outcast.

I went over to Chris’s house one day, because I had left there a pair of shorts that I needed to pick up. They were very comfortable, and I missed them. I parked my car in front of Chris’s house, exited, and made my way to his bedroom door, on the side of the house. I knocked, and Chris promptly answered. We exchanged our secret hand shake, and without asking I cruised inside and took a rest on his bed. I asked him what he was up to, and he kept his answer short. Nothing. Suddenly, his phone buzzed, and curious as any teenager would be, I jokingly asked who he was texting. Chris quickly became defensive. I joked and tickled him to distract him. I quickly escaped his clutches to the corner of the room, to read his text. It was from someone named Justin, and the text simply said, “I miss you too babe!!”

Chris’s heart sunk at the sight of me reading his text message. Shocked, I quickly threw the phone back to him, and asked what it was all about. He didn’t know what to say. He quickly became embarrassed, and I felt I had only one question to ask him, that would solve my curiosities. I walked closer to him, and quietly asked, “Chris... are you gay?”

He didn’t know what to say. He just closed his eyes, and then slowly nodded his head. I was so shocked and confused and uncomfortable and upset that I just quickly left his house, as Chris sat down, and began to cry. Chris was so overwhelmed with emotion. This just was not the right time. Chris was not ready to come out, and tell his best friend the he was gay. It was something Chris was not even sure about, and he had only discovered it recently.
How could he do this to me? I felt betrayed and lied to. I didn’t understand. Did he not trust me? Should I trust him? How long had he been gay? During all the sleep overs and the secrets and pool parties? I became angry. Chris was worried I would not understand. Maybe I would tell everyone at school, and disown him as a friend. It was appalling for the both us.

I arrived home and told my mother what happened. She sat me down, and asked me a few questions. “Why is this such a big deal? He’s a good friend isn’t he? Your father and I have friends that are gay. It doesn’t define who they are, it just defines who they wish to be with when they are older.” It took me a day or two to process this, but in the end, I realized my mom was right. Chris was still my best friend, and he had been with me through all these years, and I needed to be with him now, more than ever. I asked if he was open to meet late one night, and he accepted.
We met at McDonald’s and sat at our usual booth. I apologized, but Chris let me know that an apology wasn’t necessary. I loved him, and he loved me too. We then began a new chapter in our lives, and I was excited, for the future.

I realize that my incident and the timeline created for gay rights only contain events that have happened recently. This issue is very new, and really only begins in the late 20th century. It’s odd to realize this. This isn’t a problem our society really has much experience in. We have definitely come a long way, but at the time my event took place, around 2004, it was not a time where my friend was comfortable to come out. In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. The law defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman and declares that no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from out of state. This made it difficult for people that aren’t activists, like my friend, to feel comfortable about coming out. However, some hope did shine through when in 2003, sodomy laws were ruled by the Supreme Court unconstitutional, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory. This proves that social values and rules can change, and the future may be bright for gay rights.

In 1942, The Society for Human Rights in Chicago becomes the country's earliest known gay rights organization. This was a huge leap for the gay and lesbian movement. It is also mind blowing that this happened so recently. Shortly after though, the fight continued, and in 1952, The American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance in its first publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Immediately following the manual's release, many professionals in medicine, mental health and social sciences criticize the categorization due to lack of empirical and scientific data. Luckily, a few years later, Harvey Milk, who changed everything for the gay community, and began the uprise and acceptance of homosexuality all across the United States. These events began in 1976, when in San Francisco, Mayor George Moscone appointed Harvey Milk to the Board of Permit Appeals, making Milk the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States.

These events really help put into a larger perspective why my incident happened, making the time it happened completely understandable. While gay rights have come a long way, their completely equal rights, and freedom from discrimination, has still yet to be achieved. It makes sense why my friend Chris was so hesitant to tell me he was gay. In the end though, I am still glad he did. It feels so much better to accept him, and fully understand him. I would say we are even better friends because of it, and I hope his future is full of happiness, and his sexuality is soon completely accepted everywhere.

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