Tuesday, January 29, 2013
What reoccurring thought uses up a lot of your mental energy?
This theme ties very nicely into an ongoing discussion I’ve been having on Facebook about being gay bashed. THAT is a thought which consumes a lot of my mental energy. Not in an obsessive think about it with anxiety every day kind of way. In a small, back of your head, whispery sort of way.
A former supervisor told me to “tone down the gay” at work because I was making other people uncomfortable (he meant Christians) by being gay. I was such a flaming queer what with all my stories about my partner and cats and the Pride Festival marching through my office. And, oh, yeah I did join the diversity committee and ask them to add domestic partner benefits to the company. Oh and my clothes – Doc Martens, turtleneck shirts and … cardigans! YES. I was a screaming middle aged lesbian talking about my partner’s interaction with the meter reader and asking for more people to have health insurance – WHAT WAS I THINKING?
Seriously, in this same place of employment – my desk was ransacked, personal items stolen, and I had to deal with a senior manager sending me lesbian porn via company email. He sent it to lots of people, none of whom took any action even though they knew two lesbians (at least) were on the email list and possibly one gay man. But MY GAY TONE was the problem.
And the worst thing is that it worked – I watched my tone. I bit my tongue. I didn’t want to lose my job. At another job, I was told that the word “lesbian” might offend donors. This stuff happens. A lot.
But you know what is especially energy sucking? When people don’t believe me.
“Oh, Sue, he didn’t mean THAT when he said XYZ, he’s not homophobic.”
My other favorite
“Sue, he’s gay/has a gay brother/roommate. Of course, he’s not homophobic.”
I really don’t like when other straight people tell me that something is or is not homophobic based on their vast experience of (not) being LGBTQ. I also don’t like when they act like being homophobic is a valid lifestyle choice. It is not. It is legal. And it happens. But if you love LGBTQ people, you really need to rethink the validity concept.
Life is not perfect or fair or reasonable. But not believing people makes it a lot worse. I believe when people tell me that they’ve been raped or abused or smacked or whatever. While I will allow for the possibility of misunderstanding and miscommunication, I’m NOT going to say that the abuser/rapist/assailant has a valid point of view because of their religious beliefs, etc.
And it wears you down, these little things. It takes mental energy to do the “gay assessment” when you enter a situation, no matter how subtle. You assess the vibe, the tone, the other people, the people you are with, etc. And you make decisions. Like that. When we are out and about, we literally mention if a place is “safe” or not. Oakland? Safe. Waterfront? Safish. Robinson Town Center? Unknown so caution. Safe means how likely is someone to use a gay slur if a situation arises that involves us. For example, one night at the Waterfront some teen boys chased us. So the Waterfront is just safish. Being chased by teen boys is scary. I don’t want to be arrested and have my clearances revoked because someone’s kid is a homophobic jerk. But I’m sure not going to stand by and let anyone hurt Laura.
Don’t let people who say “I don’t care who knows I’m gay” fool you. I don’t care either, but I’m not going to put Ledcat in harms way to prove a point. I’m not going to lose my job. I’m not going to make a scene at my cousin’s wedding. Am I going to call someone out at the Olive Garden? We’d like to think I would, right?
I do “tone down the gay” every single day. And when I tell you that I believe someone discriminated against me, it would help if you simply believed me. Because the problem isn’t how low/high my gay tone is – it is the bullying, ignorance and fear that make it an issue.
So let’s agree to believe people. It sucks to be on the beat down side of discrimination, intentional or not.
PS: this is why we need ENDA/HB 300 – to protect us at work. Marriage won’t help with that at all. Just sayin …