The Law is for Him
Today is National Coming Out day. For those of you who aren't working on a student property where the world is more cushioned in liberal arts tolerance teachings, this is a day where people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual,and transgender are encouraged to "Come Out" of the closet and live their lives as the people they really are.
Today is a very awesome day. It's also a pretty scary day for many people.
I grew up in the Midwest and was proud to go to college at Kansas State University (GO WILDCATS!!!). We had a fairly vocal and active GLBT alliance, and they were even responsible for helping the local high school students start their own chapter. These people were beyond amazing, and I remember always being in awe of how comfortable these people were in their own skin, where as me, the white strait chick - I could hardly be myself when it was just ME in the room. I'm not saying I blended in to the woodwork, but I wasn't as much my own person as many of my gay friends were at that age.
I was 19 and it was early August. At the time, it didn't mean as much to me as it does now, but I had a really good friend who was looking for apartments. He asked me to go with him - remember, this was BEFORE I ever worked in the industry - and help him pick out a place. I knew he'd been looking for a while, and when I asked him why he hadn't found a place yet, he just sort of muttered, "Just haven't found the right one."
So we set out on the search. My friend had always been more open on the physical affection side with me, but when we stood in front of landlord after landlord I noticed that he was ALWAYS touching me, hugging me, hand holding, or other innocuous physical contact was taking place. I also noticed that he wasn't his usual confident self. He'd look away from the landlord and not make eye contact. He was deferring questions about kitchen space, decorating potential, etc to me, asking ME to ask the landlord for him. Anytime he did talk, his voice was slow and measured. He didn't crack a joke all day, and I didn't laugh all day. It was miserable.
After the 4th place, when he'd written a deposit check for a beautiful 1 bedroom apartment that had kitchen space to DIE for, I finally called him on his behavior all day. I was young, and I was a bit naive, but even I knew something was up. He apologized to me and confessed that he had needed a beard. He explained to me, a little ashamedly, that the reason he hadn't been able to find a place when he was searching before was because he was too openly gay, and the private landlords wouldn't rent to him when he was himself, so he needed a fake girlfriend for the day. Unlike a lot of the other college students, myself included, this guy had amazing credit, didn't throw parties, and was just an all around good person. And he wasn't good enough for them.
I was blown away. I knew that people were racist and that Kansas was no stranger to bigots, but I had never thought about something as base important as HOUSING being denied to my friends who were gay. It never crossed my mind until that moment, and I remember that I cried.
There are a lot of times when I read Fair Housing law and it makes me sad that we have to have legislation to make people play nicely with others. I think about how when I worked on site I just made it an internal policy to treat everyone the same, and I can't understand the need for those laws.
Then I remember that I'm not the one that law is written for. It's for him. Because not everyone thinks he has a right to housing, but he does. And that law is there to make sure he never has to take a beard with him again when he's looking for a place to call home.