My idea of being a man was shaped by men who would have sneered at my tears. They taught me that my worth is determined by the thickness of my skin, so I was rewarded for being tough but taunted for being sensitive. On the other hand, the girls around me were not just tolerated when they were being sensitive. They were encouraged.
Showing emotion was something the society around me only seemed to expect from one type of man; the ones I would come to learn were called 'gays'. Watching them on TV or hearing about them from older folk, my early exposure to gays painted a picture of weak, effeminate men who rarely had the respect of society. Through no fault of their own, gay people were presented to me as everything a man should never be.
It's a good thing I grew up, because soon I would start meeting gay people who were nothing like what society had shown me. I met gay people who helped me be a better leader, a better filmmaker, and a better listener. They taught me a new meaning of strength. They made me start challenging the beliefs of my younger self.
The first belief that needed challenging was the idea that all gay men are trying to hit on me. Not only was this overselling how good looking I was (no one is that good looking), it was obviously rooted in the false assumption that homosexuals only have sex, while heterosexuals only fall in love. This was a lie I must have created to feel better about myself. I have seen the broken heart of a gay man, and it is just as sad. Just as real. Everyone wants to be loved, not just 'straight' people.
I also challenged the belief that being gay was a choice. It isn't, but being homophobic definitely is. The idea that I can tell another human being what they are supposed to feel or who they are supposed to love is an unhealthy need for control. I do not have a moral obligation to make choices for other human beings. I don't even have the right.
I also found it incredibly self-serving to assume the position that speaking up for gay people is some sort of taboo. That it's complicated and I shouldn't get involved. It isn't complicated really; either you are aroused by the opposite sex or you are not. Neither side has a right to dictate the other's life. Speaking up for people who have been systematically oppressed is not a sin, it is the right thing to do.
I also pictured a world where all men were judged only by my standards of manhood. A world where my way was the only way. I can tell you that the men in this world would struggle with anxiety, insecurity and a bad case of imposter syndrome. I am glad to live in a world where all men don't have the same strengths, weaknesses, and preferences as me. Believe me, we are better off that way.
When I imagine another world in which the roles for straight and gay men are reversed, my heart shatters at the thought of being thrown in jail for loving my wife. When did courtrooms start deciding whom we should love? How are we okay with this? Wasn't love supposed to be the answer and not the problem? When did that change?
I believe that someday, the gays, and the LGBQ community at large, will live in a world that doesn't feel the need to control them. I may never be alive to see it, but I believe this because there are more men like me now than there were a year ago. Men who have chosen love over hate. I believe this because more children are being raised to love and respect people who are different from them. I believe this because more and more gay people are helping to push humanity forward. We can't ignore their contributions much longer.
I believe this because hate is poisonous. Not just for the people who receive it, but also for those who give it. Eventually, love outlasts hate.
Can you imagine being arrested for who you love?