Hello dear reader(s)!
Since the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, my Facebook has been pretty much a non-stop series of status updates by yours truly about my thoughts, fears, shock, sadness, and anger about every aspect of this hateful attack. I’m sure some of my friends are shocked by how affected by it I am. Most have been very respectful.
However, some well-meaning people are posting some things that leave me cold. Specifically, they are posting that talking about the gun control side of the debate invalidates the hate towards LGBTQ people in this society. I don’t think discussing immediate concerns about how to possibly mitigate the attacks that do happen by limiting the deadliness available to those who will attack takes away from the fact that we all need to be working toward a society where people are not attacked for not fitting what someone else thinks is right. This to me would be the equivalent of saying it is not okay to talk about seat belts as long as people are still getting in car accidents.
You may disagree with that, and you have that right, but you do not have the right to attempt to prevent me from speaking on it.
But there is something even worse to me that I have encountered. I know it is from people who mean well, but the effects it has on me are anything but good. Some people have adopted the positions of some of the self-appointed LGBTQ “community” spokespeople that at its base point essentially asks who the hell I think I am as a straight person who considers myself an ally to speak about it at all, instead of just listening to those in the “community”. This assumes two very incorrect things. The first, is that there exists one homogeneous group of people in a community that includes everyone that is not all the way to the spectrum of the most masculine male and the most feminine female as defined by society. The second issue is that these people assume that because I am straight I do not identify with and have no knowledge of the struggle of anyone in this “community”.
When I was growing up, it was in a pretty redneck town. Ask me why I hate Reno. Ask me why I hated it so much I had a blog called “Reno Failure” before this one until I got tired of bitching about that place all the time. Ask me why I kept that as my user name for quite a while. There was no gay community. Not for a long time. The one or two kids in high school (who were my friends) that were brave enough to be out were hunted. Hunted. That meant there were plenty of closeted gays. And to the hyper-masculine, redneck dipshits, anyone who was different or not as masculine as them was gay. If you think I don’t know what it is like to be the victim of male hate violence, you don’t know my story. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t gay, to them I was. I didn’t always talk about it, and still don’t, but I know what it is like to be at the bottom of a pile-on of hateful bullies calling you a “fag” as they’re throwing punches. I know what it is like to worry about hanging out with just one of my other guy friends too much to avoid the attacks or names from their assumptions that was quite frankly none of their fucking business anyway. I know what it is like to be harassed over and over again just for going to my drama class.
I know what it is like to have to develop a false persona to avoid the violence. To take an interest in football so you can be as manly as your brother and cousin who were adored for their athletic ability. I eventually learned to like football, but did not when I was a kid. Playing was an act of attempting to be loved. You could say the same things about working with my hands or trying to build up muscle. All things I enjoy a little now, but at the time I did not have those interests it was a matter of trying to be loved and also a matter of self-preservation.
I deliberately suppressed emotion and my interest in art and literature. I wouldn’t play D&D or with computers because those kids got beat up. I had to pretend I was less interested in learning than I was.
There was no internet. No Tumblr. The people around me believed gays went to San Francisco when they grew up to live in a modern day Gomorrah. Bisexual people didn’t exist and were just obviously confused or gay who hadn’t fully accepted it yet. Transexual people were mentally ill and to be made fun of. They were trannies. Forget terms like pansexual and gender-fluid. There may have been many of those people around me, but if the terms existed, those terms sure as hell didn’t exist around me.
I went to Pride for the first time with my first wife in 2005 after we moved to Seattle. It was the last year the parade was exclusively on Capitol Hill. I didn’t just go as an ally, I went for me. I felt at home there. People who were unashamed to be themselves, and love however they chose. I envied their bravery. We spent a long time there, and had fun. We would have gone to one of the gay bars after, but my wife was tired. So when a gay bar gets shot up during that city’s Pride week, please don’t presume to tell me how this isn’t personal to me. And it gets even more personal to me than even being the kid who was picked on by those who thought I was gay, and that I could have just as easily been there as anyone speaking from the internet on behalf of some imagined “community”. It gets more personal because even though I have always been straight in practice, I suspect that is more due to my fear of male sexuality for reasons I will not even get into than for strict preference alone. I feel attraction to people, not parts. I have always felt safer with women and so the attraction has been deeper and is therefore the only attractions I have felt strong enough to act on, but I’d probably be pansexual if someone was ever able to make me feel safe enough to deepen that attraction who wasn’t a woman. Sorry everyone I know, it is what it is.
So as you’re railing about how awful it is to be targeted because you do not fit a certain notion society has of who you are, please make sure you are not excluding those affected using the same prejudicial notions.
Featured Image By Ludovic Bertron from New York City, Usa [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons