When I was getting my BS I was working in a lab around heavy machinery. My lab partner knew I was gay but didn't seem to have a problem with it.
One day I was tightening a nut and slipped and cut my knuckle. This lab partner was viably upset, but to me it seemed not so much by the fact that I was hurt but that I was bleeding. She was stand-offish the rest of the day. I specifically remember, even after I cleaned and bandaged myself up, she wouldn't even take my pen when I asked her to write down a measurement while I couldn't.
Let me add, of course, with anyone, you should not be touching their blood with bare hands, but that was not the case here. It was just my knuckle, I washed up with soap and water, it never touched my pen, and I was bandaged up completely. It was not like I was handing her a bio-hazard, but she acted like I was.
I didn't ask why; I assumed I knew. I assumed she thought I had some horrible infection because I was gay, and I just took it as a lesson on how I, for being gay, can put fear in even the hearts of people who are ostensibly without prejudice. Maybe I was being prejudiced but it seemed she was okay with gay people, just not when she, in her mind, had to risk something for her tolerance.
Also while getting my BS I first learned that homosexuality was associated in some people's minds with harming children. I related that story here, but the point is the same lesson held true there.
No matter who you are, how strongly you adhere to your ethics, how chaste you are, or your utter disgust with some actions, being gay alone will cause unreasonable fear in some minds. When the stakes are high, even allies may take precautions against fears they know to be irrational; they may just think it worth while to walk 10 yards to get their own pen... you know, just in case.
I don't think this is uncommon and it really doesn't bother me much. When the stakes are high all people will fall back on reflex and prejudice. It's hard to blame them; it's something I dare saw we all do. The purpose of prejudice is, in fact, to make a snap judgment when you don't have all the information. It can be wholly unfair and immoral when applied to people, such as the prejudice that was fought by King (happy MLK Day!). Or it can be quite useful when applied to various objects and situations.
As long as a person wants my family to have equal rights to theirs, I can more than forgive some exorcise of irrational fear. It'll diminish in time, with experience. But the odd thing, the thing that caused me to post this is that I find that I'm still quite sensitive to those fears. They affect how I behave today.
E.g. yesterday, sledding, it was so warm I took off my gloves and coat. While racing down the hill, about to beat a 5 year-old :-), I fell and skidded along the icy snow. I was careful to wear my gloves the rest of the day to cover my ice-rashed knuckles, even while plenty warm and fumbling with my hot chocolate. It got me thinking back to that incident in that lab years and years ago, and made me realize, even among gay people, I still reflexively worry they would worry and I try to make sure they don't.
These are little things and they don't much matter to me in the big picture. But I'd like to know. If you are gay, do you find yourself particularly sensitive to such fears in others? Is this a generational thing? A scot-irrational thing?
If you are straight with gay friends, or even gay with gay friends, do you hold such fears? Would you consider taking a pen from a straight friend with a band aid on his hand differently than a gay friend? Please, have no worry of saying so; comment anonymously if you like. I just want to know how much of this is in my head. As long as the actions and the rational part of a person's mind is with us, I don't care about the reflexive fears we cannot control. I just want to know if they really are there, or if it's just my prejudice coming through.