When I moved from Provo, Utah to Seattle, Washington, a lot changed. I’ve written before about the mini-identity crisis I had when I first got here, unsure of who I was or what my identity was supposed to be. In Utah I was gay, and I was reconciling that with the history I had of being Mormon. These two identities ruled my world, and they clashed in some chaotic ways. In Seattle, however, neither of these was socially significant. All the effort I’d had to put forth to maintain them, and to reconcile the differences between them, was suddenly unnecessary.
I fumbled around for some time, months even, to try to figure out who I was. Today, I still don’t know how to define myself in compact little boxes, but I’m much more content with that. I am comfortable just being me, whatever that is at the time.
I was told last night at dinner and drinks with my classmates that I was incredibly laid-back and super friendly. This caught me by surprise. Growing up I was always the “smart” kid that no one could completely relate to. I was the model Mormon boy, and so people had to be on their best behavior around me. Apparently I still maintain some of that self-image, because to hear that my classmates saw me as the easy-going guy that is friendly to everyone took me by complete surprise. The more I think about it, though, the process of learning to let go and be okay just “being” would definitely make me that kind of person.
There is another identity, however, that has shifted even more. Not from one end of the spectrum to the other, but from extreme, to simply neutral. That identity is being gay. When I was in Utah, I was involved in everything LGBT. I helped organize the BYU group each week. I went to every social. I dated, I went dancing at the club every weekend, and being gay was always at the forefront of my mind.
Here, however, there are many days I almost forget about it. I’m a little less flamboyant, though to be completely straight-acting would betray my nature. Besides the fact that I come home to a boyfriend every night, I don’t really think about being different. I’m in a relationship, just like millions of others in this country. I have friends, I go to school, I go out on the weekends from time to time. Being gay simply isn’t at center stage anymore.
Obviously, the move to somewhere that collectively doesn’t care whether I’m gay, straight, trans, or whatever is a huge factor. The fact that I don’t have to defend my sexuality or my relationship is huge. The support and complete normalization of my relationship by our roommates, classmates, and professors also really contributes. But I’ve also dealt with all my demons, and am laying everything to rest. Not only does that make life much easier, but it makes it much more fulfilling.
I watch the fight for equality in the rest of the nation, and sometimes think “Why is this such a big deal? Why can’t they just treat others like normal people? It’s not a huge issue. LGBT people and relationships have been socially normalized in almost every major city in the nation, and things are just fine. Why can’t we all just go about our lives?”
I know that it’s more complicated than that. I know that because of some people’s world-view LGBT people are a huge threat. But to be quite frank, that world-view comes from ignorance, fear, and sometimes even hate. It’s a world-view that this country and this world would be better off without.
Capitol Hill is the gay district of Seattle. It is a beautiful district, where rainbow flags hang over every place of business and couples of all sorts hold hands as they walk down the street. Apparently a gay man was attacked last night in Capitol Hill. A group of men from out of state were standing on the corner, calling people fags as they walked by. Finally, one man stood up to them, a gay African-American man who wouldn’t stand for being verbally abused on his own territory. The group of men retaliated with fists instead of words. They are in custody, but it was something that I didn’t think I’d hear about in Seattle. It’s because of abuses like this that I don’t get the luxury of truly forgetting this identity. There is still work to be done.
I hope that in time all couples will get the luxury I have. I hope that couples will be greeted on the street and in stores without uncomfortable glances at their interlocked hands. I hope that straight couples and gay couples will sit together, completely aware of how incredibly alike their relationships are. I hope that in time it will become like eye color or hair color. It simply is, and it isn’t anything to get riled up over. Even race isn’t to this point yet, so I understand that realistically sexuality will take time to become just another “thing”. I do think, however, that this is what “healthy” looks like. We will have arrived when both those who are a certain way and those who aren’t, are just enough.