I just went to the Starbucks on my college campus.
The barista, an old, country, black man, commented on the engorged price of the cup of fruit that I was buying. $3.99 for four strawberries and eight blackberries with a kiwi thrown on top. Looked pretty worth it to me. Compared to the sad looking yet equally expensive cup of melon, I thought my choice was as exotic as a trip to St. Lucia.
“You don’t look nothin’ like you need to be countin’ calories, girl! Why don’t you get a muffin. They’re cheaper and taste a hell of a lot better than fruit!” the man said.
I looked at him incredulously and replied, “Since I’d pay 10 bucks not to eat that muffin, I think I’ll stick with the fruit for 4. See? I make the right choices and that’s why I look like I don’t need to count calories.”
He smiled. “It’s all about the choices you make, ain’t it?” A semi-enlightened glow had formed around the man’s face, letting me know that he was quite pleased with the level of emotional maturity he had attained.
At this point, admittedly, he had me impressed. I explained to him that I had just realized the same thing a little bit ago while driving: it really is all about the choices you make. There’s no way around it. The big ones, the small ones, they all add up.
Trust had mounted between the two of us as our conversation progressed, inspiring the man to lean over the counter toward me, confession-style.
“Man, you know? I got this girl. She got these gay friends, right? She be wantin’ me to hang out with them, and I’m just [covers his face], I’m just not goin’ to! Now don’t get me wrong, I ain’t got nothin’ against ‘em*, it’s their choice, though, you know? They choose to be that way and I choose to stay the hell away from ‘em!”
My jaw was nowhere to be found on my face. I looked down and saw that it had made its way to the floor. Unfazed by my new disfigurement, the man continued: “My girl try to tell me it’s- what’s it called- hereditary? Naw, gen-e-gen-e-genetic! Yeah, genetic. But I don’t believe any ‘a dat bull crap. Are you a Bible person?”
“To each their own, to each their own. I just don’t see how what they do ain’t a choice! I coulda chose to be that way, but I di’nt! And I grew up with eight sisters, a mom, and no dad. Believe me, I coulda gone that way. But I did not want to choose it, simple as dat.”
I could feel the switch occur in my eyes, the one that transforms them from human to animal, betraying my emotions but strengthening my argument. The fire engulfing my face felt like it had reached my scalp, filling my nose with the scent of burnt hair. And my hands? My hands were shaking so conspicuously that, at that moment, I could have easily qualified for handicapped parking.
Finally, I managed to cultivate enough saliva to swallow the shock that had lodged itself within my mouth, debilitating the orifice’s purpose as could only a wad of cotton balls. After returning my runaway jaw to its resting place, I responded, ”Being gay is genetic and if you don’t understand that, you have some serious research to do.”
The man looked at me, taken aback. With views as dated as his (see the Jurassic Era), I’m sure that my little display of confidence had caused for him quite the alarm. Note: I am a woman.
Simultaneously encouraged and outraged by the refusal of the man’s face to register even a shred of understanding, I continued: “Do you really think they choose that life? All of the insane crap they have to deal with? The ridicule? The hate crimes? The risk of losing their families, or getting kicked out of their homes? Do you really think they choose to be regarded as lesser people? To be denied opportunities, like jobs, or marriage, just because of who they are?”
“I really don’t think anyone would agree to any of that treatment just to stick something up a butt.”
“You really think gay is genetic?”
“I don’t think it, I know it. I’m sorry. I’m a human rights minor and LGBTQ is my biggest cause.”
And on that note, I left, toting my hate-filled latte, while tears filled my eyes, taking me by surprise. I had no idea I cared that much.
Homosexuality is not something that anyone “chooses,” but participating in the fight for the equal distribution of human rights is.
Choose to fight for human rights. For yourself, for your friends, for everyone.
*”I don’t have anything against them” is a phrase most commonly used to prefix an admission of prejudice. It is your first hint that the speaker does, in fact, have something against “them.”