I’m more and more disturbed by the bias I see against people who depart from the dominant sexual norms—gays, transsexuals, and transgenders. My sense is that the sexual role one wishes to play is one’s personal business and not mine. My job is to treat all people with respect.
Part of the reason that I’m so accepting is that at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, when I read news reports about men dying on the street because no one would touch them or help—due to fear of being infected—I volunteered to take care of dying AIDS patients. Over a period of five years, I cared for seven gay men dying of AIDS. Only when science found a way to avoid AIDS fatalities did I move on to other volunteer work.
I learned that my unconscious anti-gay bias had no foundation. The men I helped were as noble and respectable as straight men I worked with every day. All of them were intensely grateful for my help.
To do that kind of work, I volunteered with the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C. The clinic’s mission was to assist gay men were ill. It was, indeed, a gay organization. At the weekly meetings I attended, I was the only straight man there. But I was accepted by one and all. The clinic is still operating today in D.C.
The lesson I draw from my experience is that sexual preference is unrelated to human failings, achievements, or morality. My guess is that a good many of the saints we revere were in fact born gay. We’ll never know.
So my job as a man is to honor all men and women, regardless of the instincts they were born with. And in return, they honor me.