Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, during his political career, has been a strong supporter and advocate of gay rights, but that was not always the case. Booker wrote about how he once hated gays and it was not until meeting a classmate at Stanford University that his views were drastically altered.

Booker discussed these feelings while a student at Stanford University in an April 8, 1992, in an op-ed piece in The Stanford Daily. Each week the college newspaper reprints articles from its archive. Booker attended Stanford, getting his master’s degree in 1992. 

In the op-ed piece, Booker said he once hated gays but masked these feelings by publicly displaying a persona of tolerance. At first he was vocal about his feelings, using derogatory terms for homosexuals and telling crude jokes. According to Booker, “I stopped telling my gay jokes. Fags, flamers and dykes became homosexuals and people of differing sexual orientation and, of course, I had my gay friend. Yet, while I was highly adroit at maintaining an air of acceptance, I couldn’t betray my feelings. I was disgusted by gays. The thought of two men kissing each other was about as appealing as a frontal lobotomy.”

Booker does not mask his feelings, saying explicitly, “I hated gays.” Booker’s feelings affected every interaction he had with homosexuals from the way he shook their hands to the inner thoughts he had about people, saying, “My brow would often unconsciously furrow when I was with gays as thoughts would flash in my mind, 'What sinners I am amongst' or 'How unnatural these people are.'”

These feelings continued until Booker attended Stanford. There a fellow student transformed his opinions. That individual was Daniel Bao who, according to Booker, “Was our gay counselor at The Bridge when I was a freshman. A beautiful man whose eloquent and poignant truths began to move me past tolerance.”

Bao’s own experience closely mirrored that of Booker’s and once Booker could relate to homosexuality in a more personal context, his feelings of hate disappeared, replaced by compassion. Booker describes his conversation with Bao who described the ordeals he had to deal with as a homosexual.

Booker’s discussion with Bao soon led to painful revelations of “violence from strangers and family, horrible images of beatings, destruction of property and the daily verbal condemnations.” For Booker, Bao’s experiences related with his own upbringing. Booker recounts the stories his grandparents shared about being black and the intolerance they had to deal with on a daily basis.

From that point on, Booker accepted his hate was misguided and soon embraced homosexuals. Booker closes the op-ed for The Stanford Daily with a sentiment that foreshadows his continued gay rights advocacy, “Occasionally I still find myself acting defensive if someone thinks I am gay or sometimes I remain silent when others slam and slander. These realizations hurt me deeply. I must continue to struggle for personal justice. This is my most important endeavor.”