Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
As a kid growing up in Los Angeles in the ’80s, I was rather free with the word “faggot.” It was used in a pejorative manner, though if you had asked me, I would have mouthed the basic tolerant platitudes. Once, in a “moral intervention” rather unusual for my Lefty but less-than-preachy parents, I was sat down and it was brought to my attention that the fag talk had gotten egregious. I remember suddenly feeling extremely uncomfortable, a flush spreading about my neck and face. It's just a word, I protested, no big deal. Then why use it, the parental figures retorted. The conversation went back and forth. But my father had reserved his secret weapon until the end. As he walked away from me, he said casually over his shoulder, “You know, your uncle Vince is gay.”
It blew my mind for a minute. I didn't know that Uncle Vince was gay. Sure, yeah, I said, but the revelation cut down to the core of me. It is a simple, human emotion. It is called shame. Taken too far it can lead to resentment, anger, self-hatred. But as the ancient Greeks liked to observe with some frequency, it is a hell of a gut check. How you respond to shame is, in a real sense, how you stack up as a human being. For Euripides and Sophocles, whoever cannot negotiate the territory of shame is usually guaranteed an ugly end, generally murder or suicide, sometimes worse. In this sense, we could all stand to be a little more Greek (no pun intended), more willing to listen to our internal conscience, that internal self-checking mechanism that makes us nervous and self-aware. That's when we have a chance of getting it right.
I'm a petty and self-absorbed little man, but I knew then, as I know now, that my Uncle Vince deserves every damn right afforded to every other human being. The fact that the “gay uncle” meme is something of a cliché only furthers the argument. There are too many gay uncles out there to pretend this is not a big deal. Point being, it has gotten to where gay rights, and its current manifestation as the “gay marriage” issue, has become a test of one's essential humanity. And that's not the kind of test you want to fail.