As such, we never hid secrets from each other and were open about everything that we felt and did in life. Little did I know that one of my best friends had a secret that she had been hiding for a number of years already. A secret that she felt she had to hide because of the uncertainty of how her parents and friends would accept her. Then one day last year, she finally worked up the courage to come to me and tell me her big secret. I will never forget the day that she came out to me. It was a dark, cloudy, somewhat rainy day in April when I met her at a local cafe after she had called me on the phone said that she had something to tell me.
The weather seemed to mimic the way she was feeling that day, unsure of herself and how to put across what she wanted to tell me. Admittedly, I was freaked out when I had finally gotten over the shock of her pronouncement. The first thing that entered my mind was that she had to be sick just like our parents taught us to believe about people like them. I also remembered our parents telling us that it was a contagious disease and that we should stay away from people like that. Which is why I hurriedly collected myself and left the cafe without saying another word to her.
But true friendships are hard to forget and will survive any test thrown its way. It took me almost two months to come to terms to what she had told me. I refrained from communicating with her during all those weeks not because I was afraid I would catch what she had, but because I was unsure of how to treat her. Having a gay friend was something new to me and I wanted to pretend it never happened and that she never existed in my life. Eventually, I contacted her again and told her that I wanted to understand what had happened to her and that we needed to talk.
We met that night for dinner at our favorite pizza place and, over a dinner of Cheesy Pops Pepperoni pizza, I opened up to her. I made her understand that I could not understand why she had become gay. I tried to tell her that she was choosing a sinful lifestyle and she was condemning herself to hell. I will admit it, I sounded like a judgmental evangelist who was crucifying the girl who had been my best friend for practically all my life. I could not and refused to see her life from a gay persons perspective. It was at this point that she told me that no amount of explaining to me would change my mind about who she really was.
But, I was her best friend and she needed me to understand her. That she was still the same person I grew up with and the only thing that had changed was her sexual preference. Deep inside, she was still the same person I called my sister. We had returned to my flat after dinner in order to continue our discussion. She also wanted me to get used to the idea of who she was which is why she thought it would be easier for me to understand in my familiar surroundings. Over a cup of piping hot Cappuccino, she invited me to join her at the Annual Gay Pride Parade in New York City.
She assured me that if I would just give it a chance, the parade would explain everything and demythologize everything I thought I knew and was taught about gay people. So, on the perfectly sunny day of June 24, 2007, I joined my friend along with a hundred other gays at their Gay Pride event and realized that these people were just that, people. After meeting a few of them and speaking to them as the hours dragged on, I came to realize that they were not animals. They were not sick either. These were people who were professionals in their daily lives.
Doctors, nurses, teachers, pillars of society, nothing was wrong with them except that society has always been afraid of what it never understood and never took the time to understand. My friend introduced me to various kinds of people who attended the parade. These meetings helped me broaden my mind and open up to accepting them. They are the new persecuted class of society. People who just want to live a normal life but were prevented from doing so by gay bashers and a society that consistently discriminated against them just because they are what most people would consider to be freaks of nature.
I mingled as best as I could on that day. I truly wanted to understand who these people were and decide for myself regarding all the religious and society teachings that I had grown up believing in. I had come to realize that there was absolutely no way that a person would choose to be gay. Nobody would choose an option that opened him or her up to social ridicule and discrimination. During the actual parade, what I saw were a group of happy and well adjusted men and women who took to the streets to celebrate that which they are regardless of how society views and treats them.
I consider that Gay Pride parade to be a life changing experience on my part. I now view them not as outcasts of society but rather, people who are just like us in every way. Except for sexual orientation. Then again, there are some decisions that are personal and nobody has the right to judge. I can truly say that I will continue to attend the Gay Pride parades every year with my friend. Not because I am gay, but because this is the best chance to get to know, understand and accept that portion that society wishes it could bury in deep in the background.