Friday, June 5, 2015

How Tolerant Were You 10-20 Years Ago? (WARNING: MILD LANGUAGE)

I have a concrete memory of fourteen-year-old me as a freshman in high school, listening to someone tell a story about witnessing two guys kissing in public, and how he wanted to punch them both right in the face.

It was 1994, neither the best nor worst year for gay rights, so I was the only kid nearby with the audacity to ask, "Why are you bothered by two guys kissing in public?"

"Because it's nasty," the person said. "Are you a f****t, too?"

The oddest thing about that memory is the person who said those awful things is a supporter of gay rights today. How would they react if confronted with their former pigheadedness? Would they even remember? Would they remember, but deny it? What will they tell their grandchildren when the fight for marriage equality is reduced to a cautionary tale about unjust oppression in future history books?

I ask this because heterosexuals aren't very good at facing their past political naivete. Ten years ago, the polls on gay rights told a very different story. That means a lot of us heterosexuals had some serious growing up to do in the past decade.

I don't mean to sound superior. I said and did plenty of awful things in high school I wish I could erase -- a big chunk of self-improvement is recognizing your mistakes and moving forward. It's great that people can grow, change their minds, and see different viewpoints with properly informed intellects.

But now, all of a sudden, a lot of those same informed intellects are talking about Caitlin Jenner (yep, I'm going there -- feel free to change the channel if you wish).

I've been looking through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, siphoning out the grossed out comments and snapshots of bloody soldiers, and wondering what these people will say ten or twenty years from now. Because like it or not, Caitlin Jenner is a moment. A BIG FREAKING MOMENT. It may or may not mean much to you, but it means something to a much larger group of people than you probably realize. Because right now, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that even the most tolerant of Americans will shame and disown you if you come out of the transgender closet.
That's kind of sad.

I knew when I was fourteen -- when that future gay advocate communicated in such choice words -0- that gay marriage would one day be legal all across America. It's happening a lot faster than I predicted, but it is happening little by little as we speak. I wanted to be on the right side of history, so I made a conscious decision not to repeat the nasty things other heterosexuals were saying.

Transgender rights and acceptance will follow. It will take a while, but it's equally inevitable. So I ask you this simple question: "When that happens, will you be proud of your words about Caitlin Jenner?"

There was no such thing as a digital footprint when I was fourteen. There is no record of that one kid's pigheadedness, so I can never prove what came out of his mouth. He didn't have a Facebook or Twitter account to post his awful comment on. He just had me, and my overly large ears.

What would people from my generation, had we our own social media platform, have posted about Pedro from The Real World?

Nowadays, you can no longer pretend to have been tolerant all along. Just something to think about before you cast judgment, because the rest of the world will be casting judgment back as long as the servers keep running.