My best friend when I was a kid was named Randy.
Randy and I were practically inseparable until high school. That is when, even though he lived one block over, he went to one high school and I went to another. The district boundaries were tightly enforced.
When we were kids, we would swim, run around chasing “ghosts” with little machines we made (seriously) and other games of the imagination. When we were in junior high, we got heavily into music and started forming bands before we could even play instruments. Eventually, we played music together for real. I played guitar and Randy keyboards. He was an incredible musician.
We had a great friendship, and it is something I treasured.
I left home for the Air Force in 1981, but I did see Randy after I left. Once when I was home on leave visiting my parents, I stopped by his apartment for a visit. We talked like we had seen each other the day before.
Finally, he said he had something to tell me.
“Brad, you know I am gay, right?” Randy said.
I looked at him and though for a minute.
“Yeah, I guess I do.”
That was all we ever said on the topic. That was all that needed to be said. Yes, I suppose I had known Randy was gay for as long as I knew what that was. He also knew that I was not. It wasn’t something we ever talked about because we didn’t need to. We were friends.
I was thinking about Randy as this is Pride Month. Didn’t know that? I suppose some do not. Pride Month is celebrated each June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan.
Randy is only one friend I had growing up who was gay. Another, Don, was able to marry a man he had been with for 30 years once gay marriage was legalized. Another posts the most hilarious things on Facebook of his adventures. Another is always fondly remembered for his infectious personality. He died of Aids in the late 1980s.
I knew most of these guys through being involved in music and theater in high school. Sexuality is something we never talked about – it really wasn’t a topic of discussion back then. And frankly, I didn’t care. My parents raised me to accept and love people, so that’s what I did. I raised my children to do the same.
Remember when it was said that legalizing gay marriage would kill “traditional” marriage? Well, it hasn’t. It has just allowed more Americans to enjoy the benefits of a legal marriage.
Look, I am not saying that people need to accept things they don’t want to accept. I know many people have a difficult time with homosexuality for a variety of reasons. The same way people don’t like people for the color of their skin or their religion. Different often means “don’t like.”
But time moves on, and things change. I am thankful that my gay friends can enjoy being themselves with more freedom these days. That does not mean they are not attacked or put down or ostracized. That is still a sad fact of life.
But they are freer to be themselves now, and for that I am glad. Honestly, I really don’t think it should matter who people love. Love is a great thing, and I see many gay friends in loving relationships that have lasted much longer that those of some straight friends – including myself.
Randy is out in California working in the advertising business. He had recently had a tough break up the last time we spoke, but he is still that great guy I met in the late 1960s when we were little kids. I don’t care who he loves – he is my friend.