Right after college, my husband and I moved into our cute little starter home in an old first-ring suburb.
A month later, two women moved into the brick house on the corner, on the other end of the block.
For the longest time, I didn’t know my neighbors were gay. I knew the two women lived together, but they might have been sisters, friends, roommates, whatever. I just knew they were good neighbors. They took way better care of their yard than I did, kept their house in great shape, and always waved a friendly wave when we drove by.
I found out they were gay almost a decade later, when those ladies went to court to get a restraining order against the neighbor across the street, who was terrorizing them because she didn’t like their lifestyle.
We got to know our local police pretty well in the months that followed. It was clear that the restraining order was being violated, but to bring an action, the police had to catch her in the act. This was tough. She was unpredictable: there was no telling what time of day she’d get drunk and start yelling–or worse–at the neighbors she so hated.
One night we took the trash out at 10pm and found a cop car keeping watch in our front yard–literally parked in our grass, hidden from sight by our giant trees–just waiting for this woman to throw open her kitchen window and start hollering slurs (or throwing beer bottles) at the house across the street. Another time, I piled the kids in the car on a sunny Saturday morning, and had to nicely ask the 3 police cars staked out in our driveway to move so we could leave the house.
The police eventually busted the lady for violating the restraining order, and my street has been drama-free of late. But I still remember the ongoing, continuous persecution my neighbors endured because they were gay.
The irony is rich: my gay neighbors are wonderful neighbors. But my kids aren’t allowed to play in our front yard unless I’m right there to supervise, because my restrained-neighbor has been known to careen tipsily down the road at all hours, and I don’t want my kids to be hit by a drunk driver in their own front yard.
I’ve always tried to be a good neighbor–to be welcoming and friendly and kind–but I still feel like a party to something shameful, when on my nice suburban street people are being treated so cruelly.
I want them to know that I think they’re wonderful neighbors, and kind people, and I’m glad we live on the same block.
They know where my husband works–for the big church that paid a lot of money to take out billboards opposing same-sex marriage when the issue came up for debate in our own state. I wonder if they hold that against me, but I don’t know how to ask. I want them to know that I love them, because they’re my neighbors. Because I think Jesus would love them. I can see him on my street, chatting up my gay neighbors while they walk their dogs. He wouldn’t say anything awkward. I’m so terrified of being awkward.
My gay neighbors and I chat about pretty basic neighborly stuff: sports and the weather, their dogs and my kids. We don’t talk about them being gay or me being a Christian. I don’t know what I believe about the gay marriage thing, but there they are at the end of the street, together, just like my husband and I down here on our end. We moved in just one month apart. I wonder how long they were together before that.
I don’t know, we don’t go there. I’m so afraid I’ll say something all wrong. I want them to like me. I want them to like Jesus. I feel like I’ll shove my foot in my mouth and ruin things forever, amen.