Validated by a Simple Gesture
Recently my partner and I flew to Toronto for a family function, half of whom flew on the flight with us. My cousin's family occupied the two rows in front of us and when the flight attendant passed out the customs forms, she assumed they were a family and asked if they all lived in the same home; they would only need to fill out one form. As she approached us next, I just figured she would hand each of us our own form, as we were two men and anywhere we've ever flown out of the country, including Mexico and the UK, we each filled out our own customs forms.
But as she reached our row, she looked at me, smiled and asked, "same household?" I smiled—no beamed—back and declared that yes, yes we do live in the same home. Did she just acknowledge that we were a gay couple? This Caribbean-born, American Airlines employee just reminded me I was entering Canada, a country that actually recognizes and respects its gay citizens. Not just a few cities or provinces here and there, but the entire country. I looked at my partner, who was plugged into his iPhone listening to music, and stared at him with a smile on my face. I then told him—and my cousins and eventually my whole family when we got to Toronto—how cool it was to be accepted like that.
In my personal life, I am wholly embraced by everyone, be it friends, co-workers or whoever. I live openly as a gay man and don't hide that part of me. But that's on a personal level where people actually know me. Now here I was going to a country whose leaders don't know me, but their acknowledgment of my relationship really made a difference, not only on my weekend there, but also on how I view our neighbors to the north.
There have been other times in my life where I've been pleasantly surprised by people's reaction or acceptance of who I am as a person, where me being gay is just a part of my whole, not what defines me. When I lived in San Francisco in 2000, I had an intern where I worked. He was a Stanford student who grew up in the D.C. area, went to a buttoned-up New England boarding school and was now in a fraternity. This guy, who I still keep in touch with, is straight and hadn't had much interaction with gay people. He, of course, had preconceptions. One night, I got home to find an email from him explaining that he'd been listening to a story on NPR about gay rights. He sat in his driveway to listen to the whole story. He was intrigued and interested and wanted to now know more about gay people just because he knew me. Without doing anything but being myself everyday, I showed him that gay people are just like straight people and we come in different forms, shapes, sizes and personalities. He said he wanted to help change people's minds and help them realize what he had. It was a simple moment, but that he wanted to share it with me was the part that really mattered.
You never know when you're going to impact someone's life—or when your life will be changed by someone's actions or words.
[Editor's note: If you'd like to share your "moment of gay validation" with others, either post it in the comments section below, or send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to put "Validation" in the subject line.]
(Image courtesy of Getty)