My Friends are Human–Really

Graffiti Monster Eating Human
Graffiti Monster Eating Human

My challenges with being a painfully shy and socially inept kid were magnified by socio-economic circumstances. From my early years of being poor and often struggling with lice, boils, pink eye and just stinking to those living in a children’s home, I often felt inferior and out of place.

Until today, I did not realize how lucky I was.

Throughout life, my attempts to go beyond my social bubble have led me to people who made me feel unwelcome. How they did that varied, of course. My favorite is the subtle but unmistakable way people can just look at you and a second later you know you have just been judged and deemed unworthy. That one still pops up here and there, but now it just amuses me.

Then there is being verbally belittled followed by my least favorite–physical bullying. I had my share of that, too.

But still, I was lucky. I am lucky. Why?

No one has ever created a law telling me I do not belong.

Because I am a heterosexual male, I have never worried about being able to live a “normal” life with regards to gender and sexuality. I can have sex with women and (if the stars align) marry a woman and people of every gender and sexual orientation are going to do nothing to stop me.

I have lived 46 years with constant social and legal validation of my gender identity and sexual orientation. It is one of the rare aspects of my life where I have always felt blissfully normal.

I am a simple monkey with simple beliefs. One is this:  Good people deserve equal rights. That is regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual identity or orientation, or pretty much anything where being a particular thing does not prevent someone else from being a different type of the same thing.

I also have a compass-like sense of fairness. It turns out that it aligns nicely with that simple belief I mentioned a moment ago.

For example, I am heterosexual. If gay men are allowed to exercise the same rights that I have, I can still do everything I have a right to do. That is fair.

But equal rights is not the biggest issue. It is not even close.

Some of my dearest friends identify as being represented by one of the letters in the “LGBTQ+” acronym. I think some may fall under whatever the “plus sign” stands for. If I sound like I don’t know much about the community, it’s because I have a lousy memory and, unless someone is a romantic prospect, the specifics of people’s sexual identity are just not important to me.

What matters is that those people are good people. Those people have been exemplary friends to me. Those people volunteer and donate money to help others. Those people are benevolent.

Does it bother me that some of my friends do not have the same rights as I? Of course. But the lack of rights is a symptom of what ticks me off.

And that is realizing that my friends are not even recognized as being human.

The rights I enjoy as a heterosexual are human rights. A human right is a right that all humans are entitled to. By definition, when someone denies them the same rights an otherwise law-abiding heterosexual has, then they have been classified as sub-human.

Do you know who else we call sub-human? Child molesters. Savage murderers. Pretty much anything that involves preying on the weakest members of society. Do you know what else we call those people?

Monsters.

Monsters have no place in our society. They are abominations. They should not exist. The message is clear.

Non-heterosexuals are monsters.

This is not not my attempt at clever wordplay. Members of the LQBTQ+ community are fighting to change exactly that perception. It is one that goes back thousands of years and is still being perpetuated. People condone violence and even celebrate murder because those people are deemed monsters.

That is what monsters do.

My friends are not monsters. They are good humans and entitled to all of the human rights that I enjoy. They have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They have the right to find a loving partner and marry them.

They have a right to exist in public spaces.

Gender and sexual identity is only a political issue because it is a human rights issue. As a country, we do not legally acknowledge their rights because we do not want to admit that they are human. Each time we refuse to acknowledge their rights, we tell them you are monsters. You are not welcome here.

I have never felt that inferior and out of place.

My friends are good people. They have stood by and supported me through some challenging times. I am a bit slow, but I now realize that some of my friends are being denied rights that even violent criminals retain.

That is wrong. You are not monsters. You are human.

You are welcome here.

–Howard Slacum


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