Fifteen years ago when I first moved to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, a friend of mine’s mother said, “You should go down to the Chamber of Commerce and get your welcome basket.”
She nodded. “Of course. People who move here are given a nice welcome basket. It has soaps and coupons and maps and lots of goodies. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about town.”
“Okay, I’ll do that,” I said.
Two days later I marched down to the Chamber of Commerce, went inside, walked up to a woman who worked there and said, “Hi! I just moved here and I wanted to drop by and pick up my welcome basket.”
She looked at me strangely. “Welcome basket?”
“Uh huh. You know, coupons, soaps, maps and all kinds of goodies?”
She shook her head. “We don’t have welcome baskets.”
“Do you have a church family yet?” she asked.
“Church family? What’s that?”
“I go to the Unitarian Church,” she said. “I’d love to have you come as my guest.”
Now, I have to tell you, that I was never too fond of churches or religions. Mainly because of the shaming and shunning of gay people by religious zealots. So I asked her, “Does your church care if I’m a lesbian? Because I am. And so is my wife. And we have a daughter. And I don’t want to be kicked out of church because of that.”
She laughed. “No, we don’t care at all. In fact, I’m a lesbian. And so is my wife. And we have a son.”
As they say in the movies—that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Not only did I go to her church, but her wife got me involved with the library – where I became a board member – and I met other gay people in town.
A couple of weeks later I ran into my friend’s mother again. I told her, “By the way, the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have welcome baskets.”
“I know that,” she said with a laugh.
“I don’t understand,” I said. “You told me there was a welcome basket, but you knew all along there wasn’t a welcome basket, and then I went down there asking for a welcome basket?”
She smiled. “Would you have gone down there if I’d said there’s a lesbian at the Chamber and you should go introduce yourself?”
She had a point.
And that’s how I didn’t get a welcome basket but felt welcomed anyway.
The Lesbian Zombies are Here!
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