Last night I was working at our local co-op market. The crowd there is pretty diverse — Hasidic Jews, Caribbean immigrants, Park Slope people with $50 t-shirts (ironic, baby, ironic!)…and anyone else in search of good, cheap food. Once a month, I wait in front of the store in a loud orange vest and carry people’s groceries. Sometimes you get some good conversations. Other times, you can’t believe the people you’re talking to.
It was almost the end of my shift. An woman in her late 60s showed up (danger, my mind flashed, slow walker) asking for an escort to the subway station (another danger sign: it’s 15 minutes away). I smiled and said sure. She was an old black woman with one of those hairdos that is frozen into place and pastel pink church clothes. It turned out that she lived a block or two away from me.
We made conversation for a few minutes, and I could tell she was gunning up to ask me something. (When you’ve got a beard and sidelocks and a t-shirt, it’s only a matter of time until people ask, in one phrasing or another, what’s up with you.) She prefaced it: “Now, don’t feel you have to answer this…”
Oh, boy. This was going to be a good one.
She told me how she was a God-fearing, church-going woman, and she believed in every word of the Bible (“Old and New,” she said). And she didn’t think homosexuality was right. But what, she asked me, do I think about that man in the homosexual club?
“The gay club murders, you mean?” I said. “In Tel Aviv?”
She nodded. “I mean, I know those people have it comin’,” she said. “But that thing that happened, it just seems…wrong.”
This next part, I don’t understand at all. I could have told her how some of the holiest people I know are gay; how the most devout Christian I’ve ever met was a gay man who believes that Jesus made him gay as one more way of accentuating how we’ll never truly understand the mysteries of Creation, and how one of the most Godly books that’s been written this generation, Wrestling with God and Men, is about the incomparable onus of being queer and religious, and was written by Rabbi Steve Greenberg, an Orthodox rabbi and a gay man. Or I could just tell her how I helped start the straight-gay alliance in my high school and how a group of tranny boys showed me that being a man was okay (or just showed her the book I wrote about it).