Wow. On Facebook yesterday, I asked for suggestions for the name of an organization that would support gay and lesbian youth and that would form a good acronym. (The organization is created by a character in my work-in-progress.) I received tons of great responses. . . and a few not-so-nice retorts as well. I don’t mind the “I won’t read your book if you have gay people in it” comments; there are books I won’t read because the subject matter distresses me, so I can appreciate that. But I do mind comments that are ugly in their intolerance. In response to those comments, one of my readers asked “If you discovered the doctor about to perform life-saving surgery on you was gay, would you refuse the surgery?” Her question hit close to home for me.
My parents, whom I adored, were—let’s see, how to say this nicely?—bigots. To their credit, they raised my siblings and me not to be. They masked their true feelings so well that when I was asked to the senior prom by an African American boy, and a friend asked me if my parents would let me go with him, I responded “Of course! They don’t have a prejudiced bone in their bodies!” Well, ha. I discovered I was wrong about that, and thus I learned of their hypocrisy. After that experience, they didn’t hide their feelings as well, and I became aware of their bigotry in many ways, large and small. They were good, caring people, mind you, and I know some of their life experiences made them the way they were, but there’s no denying their animosity toward people who were different from them.
Then came my mother’s heart attack and the need for a quadruple bypass. We took her to a specialty hospital where she awaited the life-saving surgery. And then we met the surgeon. You guessed it. I’m sure if the situation had not been so critical, my parents would have asked for another surgeon. But time was of the essence and the surgery proceeded at the hands of the black man who promised to save my mother’s life.
We waited for hours upon hours in a tiny room, some of us praying or trying to read and drinking buckets of coffee. Finally the surgeon came out and told us the surgery had gone very well. He shook my father’s hand, then left us. With a smile on his face and tears in his eyes, my father said over and over again, “Did you see his hands? Did you see how amazing and beautiful they were?” He was awestruck, and I believe, a little enlightened.
Did the experience change my parents? Yes, I think it did, at least to a degree. How could it not? But it shouldn’t take life-saving surgery by a black/white/Hispanic/Muslim/gay/lesbian/disabled doctor for us to see the value in every human being.