By Roy Steele
The television was on, and I heard a Catholic priest waxing on about gay people and our sinful ways. The priest was well versed in his catechism, and said it was “ok to be gay,” but sinful to engage in “homosexual behavior.”
“Blah blah blah,” I thought to myself, “it must be awful to be you.” Those sibilant sounds, every time you say “homosexual,” must have gone over well with your school chums, I thought to myself.
People talk a lot of “shit.” And not just gay people. One’s sexuality has no bearing on whether you do or whether you don’t. People just do and unfortunately LGBT people are often targets of derision.
In adolescence, when you feel different from the “crowd,” you’re always on your guard. You’re afraid to tell someone to fuck off. You try to sense hostility to avoid it. You remember where the bully lives and take an alternate route. You feel alone and unprotected, and do your best to avert conflict.
I read this in the Huffington Post yesterday, written by Olivia Wilson. As I read the article, I remembered feeling different. I could sense the looks and stares. It must be a tribal thing that many LGBT people share.
The lady blocks my way as I try to walk into the bathroom, I go to walk around her, she’s looking me right in the face and when I try to dodge her she sidesteps into my path again, we do a little dance, her challenging me, me trying to walk in the door, coincidentally I need to pee.When I hear a story like that, it breaks my heart. I didn’t have to finish reading (though I did), because I knew there was conflict. Olivia wrote “she thought I was a man. This isn’t unusual for me, it happens all the time.” I wanted to give Olivia a hug, and tell her she’s loved.
No matter how comfortable I become with myself, it’s nearly impossible to filter out the discomfort of the wider world and it’s the placing of otherness on oneself that stays with you.
So when I read articles about the wonderful gender non-conformists who refuse to identify as either male or female, I feel happy. I love how they refuse to select the binary asked of them because I know absolutely the space that they occupy.Olivia’s article “The Gender Police” represents a discussion that our society never has. It got me thinking about gender, and I challenged myself to be more sensitive and aware.
I was thinking about colors and shapes, and their correlation to masculine and feminine. Pink is allegedly feminine, and blue allegedly masculine. I wish that I was the art director that day!
When you look at the signs on restroom doors, we see shapes meant to reflect male or female. The woman is wearing a dress, and the man is not. I know men who wear dresses, and women who don’t own a dress, and that’s my normal.
Which brings me back to Olivia and the gender cop. There are lots of ignorant and scared people out there, just like the woman who tried to block the restroom door. No empathy, no courage, and downright rude. The gender cop woman lost her humanity and gave in to her fear, and that’s how bullies roll.
When you’re different and don’t conform with the majority, you’re red meat to the bullies. Bullies only engage when they are prohibitive favorites to win. They always pick on someone smaller.They threaten to fight with an opponent who never fights back. They prey on a sexual minority or gay kid, because glitter bombs don’t scare them.
This emotional response to our presence is triggered by fear. Whether it’s the woman in the bathroom, or the bully down the hall, they’re both responding to the same feeling. That feeling is fear.
How do we combat other people’s ignorance and fear? We fight it by living out and openly in the most authentic way we can. That’s all we can do. With no apologies or excuses to anyone for who are we, and who we love.
Olivia closed her article with insight and wisdom.
The tribalism of organizing the world into categories comes from a very basic place to identify those around us. There are those that are men, those that are women and there are those that are not. Having the wisdom to know when it matters is what will make the world a better place.Knowing when it matters is what will make our world a better place. Amen to that!