Dateline: New York—Morris Jenkins suffers from a debilitating fear of homosexuals, commonly called homophobia. When in the presence of gay people, he ceases to function.
“I remember the first time the terror struck me,” he said. “I was at work on my computer, sitting in my cubicle, and a co-worker told me he’s gay. My lower lip quivered, I screamed like I was looking into the face of Death, and I fell back away from him, landing on the floor and kicking my chair into the computer, shattering the screen.
“I turned over on my stomach and began clawing my way out of the cubicle, cutting my hands on the pieces of glass, gasping for breath and crying for help. My heart was hammering in my chest. The terrifying coworker tried to help me up and I shrieked and twisted my arm as I violently spun to avoid contact. I crab-walked out of the cubicle and ran to the opposite end of the office, clutching the wall behind me, sweating buckets and trying to catch my breath.
“By then, everyone in the office was standing and wondering what was going on. ‘Is it a terrorist attack?’ I heard someone ask.
“Despite my panic attack, I managed to get out, between deep breaths, ‘I think I’m homophobic.’
“‘No kidding!’ I heard the ghastly, gay coworker mutter.
“I’ve been that way ever since. No matter what I’m doing, if a Dreaded One shows up I’m gripped by fear and I just need to get as far away as possible. Once, I was driving and I saw two women with short hair walking by and holding hands. I slammed on the brakes, got rear ended, and then I reversed direction, floored it, nearly ran over an old man, and plowed into a McDonald’s. I kicked open the car door, wildly pulling hair out of my head with my bare hands and warning everyone that lesbians were probably nearby.
“They looked at me like I was insane. Absolutely insane. Of course! I thought. What do they know of my condition? They’re not homophobic.”
Morris spent several months in jail for reckless driving, because homophobia isn’t recognized as a clinical disorder.
“The very worst time,” he continued, “was when I once took a wrong turn downtown. I saw a commotion down the street and when I arrived I realized too late my tragic mistake. I’d stepped right into a Gay Pride parade. I collapsed and writhed on the ground, balling up into a fetal position and crying for my mother. Someone called for an ambulance and when the first responders arrived, with tears running down my cheeks and my voice hoarse from screaming, I whispered that I’m homophobic.
“I remember the medics looked puzzled, like they had no knowledge of such a paralyzing fear of homosexuals. That was when I began to notice something that’s confused me to this day. I went to an anti-homosexuality rally to talk to fellow homophobes, but the people there seemed much more angry than petrified.
“Of course, hundreds of gay men and women showed up as well and started a counter-rally. And naturally, as soon as I caught sight of them I launched myself up a telephone pole, crying to the Lord for mercy, wailing and sobbing until my throat was raw, like a forlorn prophet aghast at a vision of demons.
“I chanced to look below and was surprised to find that instead of running for the hills, the anti-gay people stood their ground and even spat insults into the others’ horrific faces. And yet the Dreaded Ones called them homophobes.
“Meanwhile, I gripped that telephone pole, my knuckles white, and I prayed for the strength to hang on—to avoid the hideous prospect of landing in a crowd of the horrors, of course, but also because I felt I didn’t belong in the camp of those so-called homophobes. Why aren’t the eyes bulging from the anti-gay people’s skulls? I thought. Why aren’t they begging to be left alone? What tremendous courage they must have had to have stood so close to the monsters without defecating in their pants.