About five years ago, when I was a little, chubby, recent-high school grad, I somehow started talking to a guy online. A fellow gay man. Now, at 18 I was even more naive than I am now, and had hoped this acquaintanceship would turn into a steamy, zany courtship.
Shortly after we began conversing, however, he told me something that scared me: he told me he that he wasn’t any friends with straight men. I found this odd but ventured onward and asked him why that was, and he very simply told me, “I don’t want to risk getting feelings for someone who would never reciprocate them. “And that was basically the end of my very, very short lived non-romance.
His stance on this topic might not seem too bad — just a tad eccentric, like wearing socks with sandals (my feet get cold, damn it!) — but, when you think about it, it’s actually pretty awful. Why, you ask? Well, think about one of the most stereotypical contemporary relationships that exists in today’s society: the gay man and the straight woman. By my cyber, short-term, non-committed, future boyfriend’s own laws, straight women shouldn’t be friends with gay men, because the women would potentially find themselves getting all hotsky for their homo-companions, and such shows as Will and Grace would’ve become taboo.
I know of at least two people that would’ve been sad if Will and Grace had never existed.
(I myself probably would have actually found it more entertaining if this social norm that straight women couldn’t be friends with gay men existed and Will and Grace was a drama about people battling against an unethical dominate paradigm, but I have all sorts of issues.)
I don’t know exactly why I started thinking of this little anecdote of mine, but this insistence that a certain group, even if for a somewhat logical reason, is immediately rejected from your list of potential friends has led me to think about some of the current issues in my life. Specifically, my work at the moment.
I intern at a political campaign. And when you work in politics, whether it be as a lowly intern (I like to refer to myself as the data entry serf) or the campaign manager, you become vested in this idea of us versus them, whether “us” refers to a party, an opponent, an event, etc. Hell, you probably think this way if you’re involved in politics in any sort of meaningful way. It’s hard not to be.
In a sense, it starts to feel akin to when you root for a sports team, only instead of going, “Woop woop, go Chargers! Score!” — the first sports team that came to mind was the Chargers, nothing more, don’t stone me non-Chargers fans — you go, “Woop woop, go Nancy Pelosi! You win that House Seat, dawg!” And when the rival team does well, you can’t help but wince. And this isn’t necessarily bad, of course. We join political parties or political campaigns or root for sports teams for very real reasons; if you didn’t think your group was superior in some way, why would you join it?
Yet it’s only a good thing insofar as you don’t let your affiliation with one group get to such a point where you write off people in an opposing group; you should always judge people based on the whole of their personality and not focus on a few characteristics, whether it be that you’re a Christian meeting an atheist and you think atheism leads to immorality, or a white person who lives in Montana and thinks black people all act like Kanye West because, well, in Montana the black population basically doesn’t exist. It’s simple enough advice that most people agree with, but is much harder to put into practice than we generally admit.
I think it’s pretty apparent I’m sort of the best person in the world when it comes to following this advice, as evidenced by the fact two of my good friends absolutely love Ayn Rand. I mean, I think they’re mildly insane, but I still love them!
I’d like to end by saying that if Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg can be chums, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to treat anyone else with a bit of dignity. Unless they like to kick puppies.