bill watanabeBy BILL WATANABE

It is dark when I begin my morning walk around Silverlake. Everything is quiet and still — the air is clear and cool, stars are shining, and the world seems at peace with itself. I contemplate things as I chug along the path that circles the lake — which is nestled in the midst of hills and homes.

One day on my walk, I heard a man’s voice shouting out from the dark, “Well — next stop is Denver!” Ahead in the distance to my left, I noticed, under the light of a street lamp, a man getting into a convertible car that was loaded up with furniture and boxes. It was instantly clear to me that this man was getting into his car and moving to Denver, Colorado.

As I kept walking in the pre-dawn, I spied another man standing on the sidewalk and he began sobbing with heaving shoulders. The man in the car got out, and went over to the man on the curb and they hugged in a close embrace. I began to understand the situation — one man was moving to Denver and leaving the other man behind in tears.

They embraced for a long time as I walked past them — and soon they disappeared in the darkness. I continued along the path, but I knew I had witnessed a beautiful thing — an expression and connection of human love between two people — one of whom needed comfort and one who gave it.

It is possible these two men were merely good friends. Or perhaps they were close brothers — but in Silverlake, it is also very likely they were a gay couple. I live in a townhouse complex composed of eight units. There was a time when my wife and I were the only “straight” couple there. Recently more hetero couples have moved in, so now it is half and half, but needless to say, we have been living in the midst of gay people for many years.

This is not such a bad thing because many gay folks really do tend to be neat and strive to keep their units looking nice. I have noticed too that the common stereotypes of homosexual people were not evident with most of the gays that lived in our complex. I thought that most gay people give themselves away by how they dress or how they talk or even by how they walk. While this may be true for some, it was not true for most of my neighbors — one could not tell if they were homosexual by any of those external behaviors.

They pretty much looked, acted, walked and talked like anyone else — except for one of my neighbors who was truly flamboyantly gay and then eventually transgendered from male to female. She was a colorful character who kept evolving until she moved out a few years ago and then I lost track of her.

I care for my neighbors very much — both those who are gay and those who are straight. We occasionally share snacks together or a glass of wine and talk. One gay couple has been together for over 20 years, and two other couples recently got legally married. One of our hetero couples just had a second baby and everyone in the complex is enjoying the pitter-patter of more little feet.

I doubt that these children, as they grow up, will notice any difference between their gay and straight neighbors as they are equally fawned over by everyone in our complex.

My daughter became an adult while living at our condo complex; she moved out during her college days and eventually began sharing an apartment with a man. At first, when my daughter told me she was sharing an apartment with a guy, I was very concerned about it, but when she told me he was gay, I had second thoughts. It was sort of comforting to me that she was living with a guy who could at least appear to be more of a “protector” for her, plus the extra advantage that he would not be sexually attracted to my daughter!

They got along well and after a few years he moved out, but her sense and perceptions of gay people is certainly very different than what mine was at her age. I did not grow up knowing any openly gay people. In my circle of friends as a youth it was not uncommon to talk derisively about homosexuals, not knowing that some in that circle may have been secretly having feelings and desires that even they may not have fully understood or dared to make public.

The Supreme Court will be making a major ruling soon about whether gay people in America can marry and have full civil rights. But regardless of their decision, the notion that any two adults can fall in love and commit their lives to each other is steadily moving forward — and as I witnessed one early morning dawn — it can be a beautiful thing regardless of the gender.

Bill Watanabe writes from Silverlake near downtown Los Angeles and can be contacted at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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