Years ago, after I’d moved from Utah to Seattle I interviewed for a job that consisted of managing a 20 unit apartment complex. Before the interview a friend warned me that the complex was located in the gay district of the city, two blocks below Broadway on Capitol Hill. At the time I lived in a tiny apartment near the University of Washington.
The initial interview went well. A few days passed and I decided to follow up with the woman who interviewed me. I had no apartment management experience, but I explained to her that I needed the job and would work my butt off. I don’t know if she had planned to give me the job, but I was persistent. She told me to drive by the apartment complex to get a feel for the area and then, if I was still interested, to call her again.
I knew exactly what she meant when she told me to get a feel for the area. Capitol Hill is an eclectic and densely populated area just a short walk from city center. Like any neighborhood that borders a major city, it’s full of diversity, especially to a kid who was born and raised in Utah.
When I called back and told the woman I was still interested in the job, she was genuinely surprised. The apartment was the perfect size for me, my cat and my computer. I had little else to my name having just come off a divorce. But I didn’t need much.
I eventually got moved in and settled. I loved that I could walk to my full-time job located in the city. On Saturdays, I walked to the bagel shop on Broadway to people watch. There was also a great newspaper shop that carried all sorts of rare computer magazines. I spent so many hours in that store they should have hired me. And I don’t want to think about all of the money I dropped at the used CD shops. You know, the ones that only play Velvet Underground over crappy JBLs.
Occasionally I was reminded by friends that I lived in the gay district. I suspect they were looking for a reaction from me. If they were, I’m sure they came away disappointed as I didn’t have a single salacious story to share with them. Since I walked most places, I got to know my neighbors well. In a short period of time I came to love Capitol Hill and couldn’t imagine moving away. Kim loved it too, so when we were married, we decided to stay in the same building for another four years.
I made a number of good friends as well. One of the tenants told me about a job his employer had recently posted. I applied and landed the position. We’d worked together for a year when he told me I was the only straight person in the apartment complex. When I see him today, we still laugh about that.
Maybe I was naïve. I’m sure I was. Yet I don’t recall anyone judging me for who I was while I lived on Capitol Hill. One meets a number of good and not so good people trying to rent apartments close to a large city. But, for the most part, people were incredibly kind to me at a time in my life when I had no family and few friends to fall back on.
I’m thankful for that experience living on Capitol Hill because my uncle recently announced that he is gay. Like me, he was raised in a Mormon family and served a mission. Unfortunately he lives in a part of the country which is known for being hostile towards people like my uncle.
I’ve wondered how my family would take the news, but that’s not something I can control. My uncle didn’t have to come out to me. But I appreciate the time he took explaining how he’s continuing to figure out what this means for him while respecting the beliefs of his friends and family.
What I can control is how I treat others, and that’s the lesson I want my children to learn. When I was a young boy, it was OK to play games during recess called “Smear the Queer” and call people “faggots” or refer to someone “being gay”. I hope such games and language are no longer tolerated.
When the president of a popular fast food establishment comes out in support of traditional marriage he has every right to make his beliefs known. But when profits from that business are funneled to groups that continue to promote inequality and hatred, those same owners are responsible for how their words and actions damage their reputation and make expansion into some cities more difficult. I will vote with my wallet to make sure none of my money goes to support these groups.
I postponed writing this post for a few days while I gathered my thoughts. Last night I’d decided to keep my thoughts to myself. But today I decided to write. My aim is not change minds as I know that’s impossible. No, I decided write because I’d like my children to know where I stand on the issue and learn from the mistakes I made when I was their age.
I look forward to the day when I tell people I lived on Capitol Hill they ask me about the bagels.