HOW TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR STRAIGHT BEST FRIEND (IF YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST)

Anybody who's ever wondered just how long gay kids have been falling for straight kids need only take a closer
squint at Mercutio, who somehow managed to glide through all fifteen years of his life without ever ungluing

himself from Romeo's side. Furthermore, he had impeccable taste in clothes, a dancer's body, and a passion for
Queen Mab—who, to this day, bears a suspicious resemblance to Bette Midler.  It's not like you needed a road
map to figure out what was going on.

Mercutio, of course, wound up on the wrong end of a rapier before he had a chance to pitch the advantages of
same-sex domestic partner benefits to Romeo—and the rest of us have been striking out just as prosaically ever
since.  So how come we still insist on romancing our straight best friends at least once between Winnie the Pooh
and college?  Because we thrive on irony?  (Yes.)  Because it's good practice for the real deal?  (Yes.)  Because a
broken heart is so irresistibly theatrical?  (Absolutely. "Oh, my man, I love him so. He'll never know....")

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"TRUST THE FORCE, LUKE."

About five years ago, I was having dinner with a group of friends at a cheese-and-pasta joint in L.A., when
Kerry—one of my closest straight buds—leaned in over a glass of red wine and told a story that began, “So this
queer walks into a doctor’s office.....”  At first I thought he was putting me on—we’d been tight for most of our
adult lives and he’d known I was gay right from the start.  For that matter, so had everybody else at the table.  
BUT THEY WERE ALL LAUGHING!!!!!!

* * * * *

Derek Henkle was a high school student in Reno, Nevada.  His curriculum included math, English, literature and
science, along with daily attacks by groups of boys who (a) systematically beat the crap out of him; (b) tossed him
into a locker and bolted the door shut; (c) spit lunch all over him just for the hell of it; and (d) strung a lasso
around his neck so they could "drag a queer" behind a pickup truck.  The compassionate principal, of course,
was quick to address the problem.  "I won't have you acting like a fag," he told Derek, ending the discussion
before it had begun.

* * * * *

Anthony Colin and Heather Zetin, students at El Modena High School in Southern California, were denied
permission to form a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus because it wasn't an acceptable extra-curricular activity.  
So Tony and Heather invented an extra-curricular activity of their own:  They booted the school district's ass into
court, won a preliminary injunction, and had their GSA waiting for them on the first day of the new semester.  But
something else was waiting for them that day as well:  An angry group of allegedly nurturing parents, held back by
police barricades and shouting things at the kids like, "No faggots at El Modena" and "Keep the dykes out of our
schools."

* * * * *

Okay, pop quiz:

Q. What do these three events have in common?

A.  Hate begins with words.

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A few months ago, Dear Betty received a letter from a 16-year-old lesbian in Atlanta.  Signing herself “Anxious in
Georgia”, the kid was worried about coming out to her mother and father—your garden variety religious
fundamentalists—whom she was pretty sure weren’t going to respond with, “Hot damn!  Just what we always
dreamed about.”  Betty replied, “Parents such as yours have been known to throw their gay children out of the
house.  Better to keep quiet until you’ve graduated high school and you’re financially independent.”  Hello?  Either
Dear Betty’s been smoking the drapes again or else her column’s been taken over by Bill O'Reilly in drag.

Let's face it: On a degree-of-difficulty scale, coming out to your parents rates an easy 10—just ahead of pulling off
perfect SAT scores, graduating first in your class at Harvard, and dragging the Titanic to the surface by a chain
clenched between your teeth.  But it doesn't really need to be as theatrical as the second half of
All About Eve ("I'll
admit I may have seen better days, but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail—like a salted peanut.").  
And unless your mother and father are residing in the Cretaceous Era or Mississippi, they figured out you were gay
long before you did—so you won't be telling them anything they don't already know.

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