I got a Facebook friend request today that surprised me. It was one of my cousins that I haven't been in touch with for ages. Let's call him K.
He was younger than me - my sister's age - and lived about 3 hours away from us. For my parents, 3 hours might have been an ocean away, and given that we lived on a farm with cows that needed to be milked every 12 hours, we didn't travel much. Once I moved away from home, I had few occasions to run into him.
Someone once told me that just based on statistics, every family has someone who is gay. I grew up in the north midwest on a farm, with a very conservative extended family. I didn't know anyone who was gay, growing up. Well, maybe that calculus teacher in high school that mysteriously didn't come back the next year. I wondered about my cousin L, but that was just because she had a moustache. Then I learned that many German women, including a few of my aunts, have mustaches.
I accepted his friend request right away and checked out his profile.
I'd found my statistic. Which was neither here nor there, for the moment. After all, I'm a woman of the world. I live in California. 35 miles from San Francisco. The only thing more common around here than a gay man is a house I can't afford and a state budget that isn't balanced.
I was more interested in the evidence of his life lived. Pictures with friends, men and women, who seemed to genuinely love being around him. A handsome man I quickly associated with his relationship. Scenes from cities and the mountains, from the Sydney Opera House to the Argentinian Glacier. He is currently living in South America.
I sent him a quick note to say I was sorry I hadn't known to look him up when I was down there two months ago. He quickly popped on to Facebook chat and we chatted briefly, catching up on the why's and how's of his world travels.
He's living a simple life now with his friend. Apparently neither our immigration policies nor our gay policies have made it easy for them to make a life here in the US, so South America is home for now. I told him to come visit in CA - told him it was probably tougher to be an immigrant here than to be gay, which made him laugh.
I was taught, from a young age, that homosexuality was wrong, was a sin, was a sickness. As an adult, I feel a sense of pride (or maybe relief) that I could have come from that conservative of a background and still hold my "live and let live" attitude that I have about the subject. But today it struck a more personal note. Thinking of how hard things might have been for him, growing up where we did. In the family we did. In the time we did. Thinking about how nonsensical it is that if it were a nice South American woman he was in a relationship with, he could marry her and jump through immigration hoops easier than he can because there are two penises in the relationship.
I'm not trying to make a religious or political comment, though I am sure this may rile one or two of you up one way or the other. You're not going to find me draped in rainbow flags in the middle of a rally in Sacramento; but neither are you going to find me with the marriage bumper sticker with the man and woman stick figure. Just puzzling over how inconsistent life can be depending on your choices.
Right now, he's happy. And he's living life experiences he can't get in Wisconsin. And maybe, at the end of the day, that will be good enough.