I grew up in New jersey, your average kid in the resort area I lived in. My father was a plumber, my mom worked in a bank. they tried to raise us right, but like all parents, they made mistakes occasionally. My parents claimed to be racism free, but always said they wouldn't want me to marry a black girl, because "Eventually, it'll be socially acceptable, but I don't want YOU to go through that stigma, nor your kids." I did date a black girl a couple of times, but SHE listened to her brothers, and stopped seeing me. I learnes that "towelheads" are violent psychos, "spics" are generally shiftless, but will work really hard for short times for little pay, and that young blacks will steal anything that isn't nailed down. I learned these things at school, mostly. My father and I stood on the front porch of the first black man to move into the neighborhood, and helped drive off sheetheads bent on burning a cross. So we weren't bad, just not as good as we thought. But gays weren't to be tolerated.
You KNEW they were all child molestors, preying on the innocent, trying to convert us to their un-Godly ways. They were usually talented, it was funny to watch them, but you NEVER wanted to be near them. Then, we got a pair of openly gay customers. OF course, they didn't call up and say "Hi, we're gay and need a plumber!". But we knew the horrible truth 5 minutes after we met the second man in the couple. Frank and George were two of the finest men I ever had the pleasure to meet. Wicked sense of humor, gentle and kind to bigots, and hard-working. They KNEW we disapproved of them and their lifestyle, and didn't let it bother them. We needed the money their business represented, so we worked for them. By the end of the first day of a 3 day job, we were friends, who knew some of their story.
A few years later, we got a true, died in the wool homophobe as a summer-time helper, and as luck would have it, we had a big re-model to do at "The Boys" house. (Note- that is how THET referred to themselves when we called, but more on that later.) We decide to have fun, and didn't tell him who or what they were. Now, Frank would never hurt a fly, but George LOVED to twit people who hated gays, and he had a wicked sense of humor, and homophobe radar. He knew Harry for what he was the moment he stepped through the door.
Now, George was over 6 ft, hefty but not fat, and not a man whose general demeanor fit the general stereotype of gay men. No mincing or lisping. He wasn't effiminate. Harry wasn't in the door 2 minutes before a mincing, lisping fairy appeared where seconds ago was your average Joe. Take your average movie gay hairdresser, and square it. (George actually WAS a retired hairdresser, but it took years to find that out,) He started digging at Harry. Harry, a 5'5" Irish redhead, was in Hell. You can't tell the customer to stop being himself, and he thought that that was what George was doing. Harry had dark red hair, and a reddish-brown beard. So George started in on hair-color. "You know," he lisped, "haircolor varies on different parts of the body. I'm blonde, but my pits and other hair are light brown." I jumped in with "My hair is brown, the beard is reddish tinted, but my pubes are nearly black." (I KNEW where George was going and why, so I had to help. I AM an evil man at times!) Harry kept quiet, so George went the next step. He put one hand on his hip, pouted his lip, and looked at Harry and said "YOUR pubes would be brown!" Harry turned purple, and the rest of us (George, Pop, Frank, and I) laughed our asses of after Harry headed to the truck "for wrench". I'll give Harry a little credit, though. He never got over his homophobia, but he DID become friends with Frank and George.
After getting to know them, I eventually got up the nerve to pry. I asked them how they'd met, how long they'd been together, and other things. In the early 80s, with AIDS the buzzword problem "those people" had, I foolishly asked a question. "How do you two avoid AIDS?" Frank looked at me quizzically and asked "Have you asked your parents how THEY avoid it? We've been married for 50 years. AIDS doesn't magically appear because you're gay, you have to be promiscuous. Now, we know people who have it, and we've lost a few friends to it, but unless one of us were to cheat on the other, it will never be a problem under this roof." Didn't I feel like an idiot. So I decided to play it safe, and I asked where they had met.
They had met on Iwo Jima fighting during WWII, and they fell in love. They had been married (despite laws to the contrary) for 50+ years when I met them. They were both good to their parents, loved their dogs, were business men who'd together amassed a small fortune by working hard and saving. They owned a nice house, on several acres (in an area where land went for 100K and up per acre) and they dealt with prejudice and hatred daily. Their neighbor of 15 years had been gay-bashing them since he moved in, yet they just laughed at him, and made it a point to snuggle on the porch swing in his sight every once in a while, just to tick him off. George laughed it off, saying "He's just afraid it's catching, and doesn't want to get the disease."
They made us their friends and family. They turned my Mom from thinking gay was a disease to gay is just a state of being, and no big deal. They attended my wedding, my wife and I attended plays Frank directed, and we loved them as uncles.
When Frank died after a long and valiant battle with cancer, George was at his side in the hospital (good lawyers and careful planning). Frank was buried, their affairs handled within a month, and then George quietly died to be with his husband of over 65 years. Again, thanks to excellent lawyers and careful planning, they were buried side by side, with headstones that reflected their life together and their un-contestable love for each other. It is a crime to deny these wonderful men the right to just BE. While I don't approve of the entire concept of legal marriage, it is only due to my belief that the government has NO right SELLING us permission to say "I love YOU" to the person or persons of our choice (providing they consent and are of an age to do so). Here's to a swift and final nail in the coffin of anti-gay laws everywhere. Civil rights can wait for NO one's political convenience.
I am proud to say I was anti-gay. I am proud to say I gew up. I am proud to claim these two men as friends, adopted uncles, and family. And I will fight to get them the restoration of their rights, even if it is too late for them. It's the least I can do.