After dinner last week, I sat down to watch Wheel of Fortune with my dad. I try to catch the show when I can—it makes me feel smarter whenever I can figure out the puzzles while the contestants are just standing there looking dumb. Not that this was happening that night though. One of the contestants was dominating. He was amazing, figuring out almost every puzzle during the show. I don’t think he hit the bankrupt space once during the whole game. He was trendily dressed (think Kris Allen), ridiculously intelligent, and had just the slightest, most adorable lisp. I was captivated.
As the man kept racking up the money, my father had this knowing smirk on his face. When he (of course!) was the one to make it to the final round, Pat Sajak asked him to introduce the man standing on the observation deck, the spot usually reserved for family. This guy was equally trendily dressed, and a bit bulkier than the contestant. He was introduced as the “best friend.” At this point, my father burst out laughing, saying, “I knew it! The guy’s a queer!” I kind of chuckled to avoid suspicion, but didn’t say anything else. I was too busy watching.
Even though his chosen letters didn’t help him a whole lot, he aced the final puzzle. Even Vanna White took a few seconds off from modeling her wardrobe to look quizzically at his brilliance. I wanted to cheer for him, but my father was right there. He won $30,000, and his friend ran on stage and hugged him like a lover, lifting him right off the floor. He was my hero.
I know that they exist out there, the successful and happy gay and lesbian people; sometimes, like Dustin Lance Black or Rachel Maddow, they even grace my television screen with their presence. But watching this man on Wheel of Fortune brought home to me what a dear friend told me when I came out to her: “You’re not alone. This is only cliché because it’s hard to grasp.” It truly is hard to grasp, or at least it was for me. His run on WoF told me the truth though: we can be happy, we can be confident, we can dominate, and win, and love, and everything else that straight people do! I can do all those things; after all, he did it. One day I will do all those things. Maybe one day that will be me, kicking ass on a game show, hugging my partner in joy and love in front of millions of people, maybe even in front of another scared, curious kid in homophobic rural Oklahoma, when I win the final round.