I have this friend, George, whom I’ve known for about 25 years. He is simply one of the kindest and most gracious men you would ever be privileged to meet. We first became acquainted through my old work; I was a PR guy for publicly traded companies, and George wrote about investing in biotech and life sciences.
Over the years, he has been a friend, a mentor, and sometimes even a confidante. He has always encouraged me in my writing and, even more importantly, in my parenting.
George and his lovely wife Brenda call South Carolina home, but as luck would have it, they happened to be in San Francisco when Gus’s adoption was finalized and made time to join us at the celebration. From the very beginning, he’s shown me and my family nothing but unwavering support and unconditional love.
I’ve written before in this column how I’m a firm believer that being out and proud has an affirmative impact on advancing LGBTQ+ rights. Knowing someone who is openly gay can influence others’ opinions on the topic in a positive way. I think that’s especially true when the gay person is related to you.
Remember Sen. Barry Goldwater? For those of you who aren’t political nerds, Goldwater served for 30 years in the U.S. Senate, representing Arizona. He was also the Republican presidential nominee in 1964 – losing in a landslide to President Lyndon Johnson. He was so far to the right that his original philosophy is widely considered to be the basis of the Tea Party. However, in his later life, after he’d left the Senate, he became a very vocal supporter of queer rights. He was in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military, advocated for same-gender couples’ adoption rights, and favored employment protection based on sexual orientation. Quite the change for a guy that earned the nickname “Mr. Conservative”!
So, what could cause such a shift? Well, I won’t pretend to know anything about Sen. Goldwater’s inner thoughts or motivations, but I do know that he has a grandson named Ty. And I know that Ty is openly gay. I believe it would be hard to look your grandson in the eye, a young man whom you love, and then turn around and advocate for discrimination against him.
But I also think that beliefs toward LGBTQ+ people can be changed simply by loving someone who is accepting of us. A recent email exchange with my friend George brought that to my attention and illustrated how influential a straight guy can be in changing the opinions of the staunchest opponent of gay rights.
George is a regular reader of this column and frequently sends me his very kind thoughts about what I’ve written. After last month’s column, which focused on the nonchalance toward the LGBTQ+ community by young people, he told me that with so much hatred, ignorance, and hypocrisy in the world, what I had written had given him a glimmer of hope. Then he revealed to me something I considered incredibly impactful, something he’s allowed me to share: his older brother, Joe, has completely changed his view about gay people.
Like George, Joe is deeply religious. And like Sen. Goldwater, Joe is conservative. He also has a gay grandson. I have no doubt that his love for his grandson helped influence his evolution. But I told George not to sell himself short. I truly, deeply believe that his steadfast support and unconditional love for me and all gay people made Joe look inward and say to himself, “I need to be more like my little brother.”
That is the power of love.