i grew up in a small mountain town in colorado. typical of many small mountain towns of that time there wasn’t much diversity. there was a certain percentage of latino or hispanic population, but they were several generations from the time their familiars had emigrated, and quite honestly were just the “chavez’s down the street”…or more specifically, the very popular gym teacher and beloved football coach (to this day) who also had sons. and when a black student moved to town, they weren’t seen as inferior, but different and kinda cool! we weren’t taught prejudice, and so didn’t “practice” it. but i can specifically remember in college, as i initially went to college basically in my own “backyard”- at the local college in town, and not having a problem with gay males, but typically finding lesbians as gross…bleck! who could go there! not me! (hey it was the 80s…and a small mountain town)
and then i moved to washington dc! to be a nanny for what they called at the time a “whitehouse family”. i went to my first gay club, and despite being somewhat “shocked” at what i saw there, i also was pretty intoxicated along with my friends. it was a popular night club for the lbtgq community at the time, and it was in a dangerous part of town. the friend who really wanted to go, was my gal pal and fellow nanny from ireland. ireland of all places! and in all honesty, pretty much all of dc was dangerous. it was at that time the “murder capital of the usa,” (the 80s still) with something like 220 murders just in the first two months of the new year. but the thing was, it was the start of those walls of ignorance and naivete of mine beginning to tumble down. based on what all was portrayed on tv, it was the black men that i should of been afraid of and the white boys that would treat me right. however, what i found, was the the poorest military black servicemen were actually the most respectful of me, and the rich college whiteboys who snuck into the women’s bathrooms to sneak a peek when me and my bestie from ireland had to use the “loo”!
i would later move back to my mountain town home, only to see things changed. by 28, one of my closest guy friends was 6.4, solid muscle, very intimidating looking and also black. he was great at pool and was as cool as a cucumber. he never let the ignorance of others get under his skin, and even “chilled me out” when i really wanted to verbally let a bunch of “mouthy english chaps” have it! during a game of pool, when one of them called me a “cheeky c**t”. he explained to me that they weren’t worth my time, and that the USA had always won when it mattered. if he could walk away from the insults they threw his way…then so must i!
by the time my 30s rolled around, i was a homeowner, working and living in another small mountain town just down the road from where i grew up. a few years into home ownership, my next door neighbors were a gay male couple who i loved and adored! one offered to help mow my lawn, and the other would invite me over for dinner parties and feed me wonderful home cooked meals! they eventually moved away faced with discrimination, and yet were guilty of it themselves “complaining” about the latinos who were moving in across the way “yada yada yada”. ironically, the neighborhood i lived in was very HOA focused-don’t ever live in one it’s a nightmare- just my “sage” advice- and the so called “latino” had the nicest yard in the subdivision and was one of the biggest complainers of others whose yards and houses didn’t “conform”.
it was also about this time, that i “accidently” fell into rescue, by taking in some kittens a co worker from work had land on her doorstep and who was also conveniently moving out of town. thus began my education not only in rescue, but become an advocate for animals in general. it was also around this time, that a long time friend came out of the closet. i hadn’t seen her in years, and coincidentally ran into her when another friend and me had gone into town for breakfast. i could feel the “vibe” she was giving off, and my friend who has great “gaydar”, really picked up on it. it was during the conversation that my longtime friend came out and well….what does one do when a longtime close friend that you love and adore comes out of the closet? i wasn’t going to reject her. afterall she seemed very happy, and she was still the same great person i loved and knew, and who was i to tell her who she should and should not love? afterall, my own love life was definitely not any kind of wonderful success story, or traditional in any sense…and quite honestly i didn’t want it to be.
again more walls came tumbling down, and not only enjoyed hanging out with my old friend again, but joined her in going out to some of her favorite haunts and really getting an education, so to speak, in diversity. once again, the folks at the gay club we attended were very polite and not anything as “portrayed”. they had a code of “friend or family”, and used this to identify just that. other friends of mine went with, and if anything, was sort of disappointed that no one hit on me even if i was straight. hey! rejection hurts regardless! (lol)
i also was completely shocked at the number of so called “straight people” that i knew who were there! and if anything, kinda lost respect for those that i felt, were misleading others, not to mention some who i felt were just basically hypocrites! (because of other behaviors i had seen them portray that were discriminatory) i saw all humans as sexual creatures, and if anything, felt that that the gay community embraced and accepted that. meanwhile the so called “straight folk” were really hypocritical with all those skeletons they had in their closets!
time passed, and my involvement with rescue grew. ..into a passion at the time. i had boyfriends here and there, but nothing real or substantial, and issues with family grew bigger. it seemed during really hard times, all i had were my pets, and the animals who came thru my door that needed me.
meanwhile outside my door, the prejudice people of all kinds, were tearing each other apart. and inside what i observed of my furry family, fosters and rescues, i saw the ability to be kind despite being treated otherwise. both to other animals and to humans despite what horrors they might have experienced at the hands other “humantype”-i do not use kind because those humans were anything but! i had come thru my doors, furry critters who despite being altered, had their own sex drives and were different from the other “pets”. regardless, the animals, didn’t care and you would still find them all cuddled up together on my bed, or in a chair.
whether dog or cat, that didn’t matter either….or breed…having had one of the most “notorious allegedly violent” breeds of dog cuddle up with kittens and treat them with a gentleness of a mother with a newborn! not to mention tolerate ALOT when it came to little claws!
long fur, short fur, breed….even species type. it didn’t really matter. there seemed to be an unequivocal understanding that we were family and all in this (world) together.
ok granted, there was alot..ALOT of educating of me by the world prior to me arriving at this conclusion about animals… and people… and what i feel i have is a love for diversity. but if anything, the pets in my life continue to remind me of what acceptance means, and what our current world could be, if we all just bothered to reach out and learn a little about each other. unfortunately we don’t, and in the end, it literally could mean the end for ALL of us on this planet, not just the human factor.
and so i sit here dreaming of one day, when we as humans can see the world just a little bit thru animals’ eyes. that there are cats and dogs (and humans) of different colors, shapes and sizes, and that those differences really don’t mean anything. that what does really matter is what’s in that person’s heart; that maybe we really aren’t all that different, regardless of what we look like, and do like, and don’t like. and that maybe what IS most important, is who is the best cuddler! and i mean that as an analogy for something……hope? well..we can pray.