This evening, after a fabulous dinner with my family, we went over to Indigo. I had a $50.00 gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket and I plan to hibernate over the holidays so I figured getting a few new books would be a good thing. I wanted to get a few Richard Wagamese books. I have read Indian Horse (and saw the movie) and read Embers, a collection of his meditations and thought getting a couple others would be a good decision. His books were in the “Culture and Community” section of the bookstore.
As I scanned the shelves for his books a young man came up to me and said, “I think I might be gay.” I looked at him with what I hoped were kind eyes and said, “That’s okay.” He looked back at meand I smiled gently at him. I told him my best friend, Frankie, was gay and that I was godmother to his son. He then told me that he was kidding and walked away. (You can read more about Frankie and me here.)
Within two minutes he was back and told me he was not kidding. He said he was looking for a book to explain it to him because he didn’t know what to do. As I had searched the Indigenous literature section, I had noticed that the section adjacent to it had a lot of rainbows but because I was narrowly focused on what I was looking for, it didn’t really register until he said that. I started to look for Armistead Maupin, Tales of the City series which were the first books I read that had a gay focus. I had read them in a course I took insecond year university that was called, AIDS and the Arts. Keep in mind that this was 1989 and at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the Gay community. The course examined how the arts and literature were before, during and after the AIDS epidemic. It was an incredible series that I had encouraged Frankie to read when he came out to me the year after. I didn’t see the books right away and the young man spoke again and asked me,
“Are you gay?”
“No, I am not but half my friends are and do you want to know why?” I realized that looking for books from almost 30 years ago was likely not what he needed in that moment so I looked right into his big eyes and I told him why I love the gays.
I love the gays because they are the most welcoming, inclusive community that I know. They are accepting of all differences because they have had to fight to be true to who they are. They do not suffer fools and they are amazing, creative and kind people. You are who you are when you are in the gay community and they see you, as you are.
He then told me that he does improv at Second City and that there are a lot of gays there too and he finds that they are exactly as I have described. I told him that I was almost fifty years old and had been involved in the gay community for most of my life and it has proven true time and again. I then told him this:
Gays don’t always have acceptance from their families but they create their families. They choose who will be their back up, their strength, their cheerleaders and those who love them unconditionally.
As I spoke his eyes got red and teary and then he thanked me for speaking to him. I told him that it was my honour to do so and to take care of himself.
Then he left and walked away.
As I went up to the cash to pay for my books I saw him come around a book case and look at me again and I smiled at him.
I wonder if he just needed to say the words out loud. I am grateful that he said them to me.
This blog is also posted on Medium.