I think every gay person has a story of a time when a straight person just…got it. Mine has its roots in tragedy. When I was 23, a friend from high school killed himself. He was the popular kid, a fantastic athlete, and I had nursed a not-so-secret crush on him since we were 16. Most people didn't know that, of course, since I wasn't out in high school, but it later years it had come up with the few friends I kept.
The day he died, I saw the news on Facebook, and didn't believe it. Before it could sink in, I got a message from a mutual friend, asking me if I'd heard, saying she wanted to be the one to tell me. When the funeral was scheduled, she said we'd go together, and then she said something else, that has stuck with me ever since and will be with me forever. "I know you felt the same way about him that I did, once upon a time."
Did I mention that she had also had a crush on this kid? Probably for longer than I had, and with better reason; she was much closer to him than I was, while I longed from afar. That was the first time I had experienced unthinking acceptance like that. In that instant, united in our grief over a person we had both loved, there was no separation.
That funeral has been the most wrenching experience of my life. A life cut short is always a tragedy, and this person had touched many in his. The church was standing room only. The pain was enormous. And I carried my own private burden, having no excuse to be as distraught as I was. Men in this culture are not "supposed" to grieve like that, especially for other men, especially for other men to whom they aren't related. But when my knees hit the floor and I couldn’t speak, she was right beside me.
In this season of tragedy, of distrust and of hatred, it is moments like these that I keep close to my heart, to remind me that the most important thing in life is human connection. When we see other people as truly people, equivalent to you or I in their fears and loves, when we understand that they are human, just as we are, there can be no barrier. Practicing this is hard, and we have to be aware of reality; the world is not a friendly place for LGBT people, and endangering ourselves is no solution. But resisting the temptation to harden our hearts, the temptation to look at heterosexuals or Christians or Muslims or Republicans as the enemy, the temptation to pull up the bridge behind us and leave the world to itself...that resistance has to be part of our daily work. If we give in to fear, it will control us, and let those who work divisiveness for political gains dictate the future.