Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself. ~Harvey Fierstein
It’s incredible to me how individuals I meet for the first time, have a tendency to assume “who I am.” I can’t express how frustrating this is for me because there is no way in hell any of these people know what I represent, stand for, lived through and call myself unless they are one of those very real psychics. The most angering, and recent situations I ran into happened a couple days ago while I was representing the GLBTQA community and the ‘feminist’ community. There was a rainbow flag prominently displayed in front of me with several GLBTA event flyers in the background. I stood there for 2 hours with a friendly smile on my face and “Good morning” greetings and friendly topics on my mind.
It was nearly immediately that I saw parents literally ushering their child away from me. If they even looked at the table, they would purposely be pulled in the opposite direction. There were also young people that avoided eye contact, looked through me and walked away from me faster. I was completely ignored and if I was acknowledged, it wasn’t for my “Good morning! How are you?” – it was the ugliest sneers I could imagine: lips curled up like they just ate a lime covered in some slimy substance and eyebrows furrowed so dangerously close I wanted to tell them their faces might stay that way. So while I was greeted by dozens and dozens of people as if I was going to infect them with my Feminist Pro-Love smile, I continued to greet them and watch them all walk away from me.
Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? ~Ernest Gaines
I finally got so pissed off that I turned to a fellow associate and said, “I’m starting to get incredibly offended. I can’t believe how many of these people are giving me the evil eye!” To which it was replied, “Well try not to take it personally; GLBTA no longer has their own table because of all the harassment they got last year.”
Looking at my associate, in my half-asleep, angry, upset and offended personal bubble, I said, “How would I not take it personally?” Because, how exactly can I? It’s a personal issue; they are looking at me, assuming I’m a person they don’t want to associate with because I am representing a Women’s Center and GLBTA Office and they look at me as though they hate me before 9 o’clock in the morning and they have no room for changing their assumptions. Again, I would like to say – How do I NOT take this personally? I also listened to University attendees describing our organizations as services for THAT population… As if THAT population is not going to be mentioned because it may just offend you or catch you off guard before your 9 am cup o’ coffee.
I cannot comprehend this event and I really don’t want to. I went from cheerful to pissed off like an ogre in a matter of 5 minutes because not only was my identity defined for me under 30 seconds, but people who attend the University and promote change are labeling me as the ‘other’ as well. Whether or not it was their intention, I can’t begin to explain how incredibly, incredibly, personally I took it. Of course, there are so many underlying issues in this one event – I can’t cover it all and maybe it’s best left unsaid. Maybe my rant and rave is considered inaccurate for how personally I took the issue, but I’m not the only person that takes this kind of treatment personally either!
The day was an overall brain hemorrhage that continued when I got on the bus; Quick story. I have an amazing umbrella that I named Excalibur. Not only is it named that because of its gigantic umbrella size OR the push button that causes it to open up with enough force to break your face – but it’s also a RAINBOW. Yes, you read that right. A rainbow, ooooh how very social activist it is of me to own an umbrella that represents GLBT communities! Except…I bought it for the rainbow, mainly because it was the coolest umbrella in the store and it had ‘Push Button’ that allows it to open with enough force to give a crowd some serious head injuries (Not that I’m a fan of giving ANYONE serious head injuries…I just like the fact that my umbrella could be considered a remarkable superhero.) So yes, anyways. I bought this super awesome kick-ass umbrella that happened to be rainbow, while it happened to be an incredibly efficient, stylish and SURPRISE! – an effective weapon against rain.
I digress…. I got on the bus and sat next to this women who had the very same umbrella. I said, “You have the best umbrella ever; I have the same one!” Which somehow led her to tell me her story of getting that exact umbrella. It went something like this:
I wanted a black umbrella; Instead, all they had were those futsy, flimsy, floral umbrellas. And I was like…I don’t want one of those. I want a black umbrella, blend in with the rest of the umbrellas. But they didn’t have any…they had a green one, but I’m not a “green” kind of person. I saw this umbrella and I thought ‘Well no one is going to have this umbrella….but then I don’t have to decide on a color. No one is going to buy it though, unless they want people to think they’re gay. And I didn’t want that, I mean, who wants a ‘gay’ umbrella? But I got it anyways, so I didn’t have to decide on a color.
…First, I addressed her inflection of the word ‘gay’ that she had insinuated was somehow ‘wrong’ – especially to advertise to the public with such an effective rainbow-colored tool. I also said that I worked closely with the GLBTA Offices and my choice of umbrella had, in actuality, nothing to do with being ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ but because I love rainbows. I also made it very clear that if she were to continue to go on about the GLBTA community like it was some sort of disease, I would not be engaging in such a pleasant conversational tone. (This was all done in a very polite manner, but also very clear I was not up for her comments on the Pro-Love community that seemed to be so ‘uncomfortable’ to her).
…Evidently, my polite rant made an impact. After I told her my views and counterpoints, she continued to tell me that she, herself was gay. And that her friends were so happy that she had “finally gotten a rainbow umbrella.” This was a different turn of events, but I continued with the conversation while she started excitedly telling me about Pride Week. She said how she was so excited, but she might not actually go. And then, out of the blue, she trusted me enough to tell me that she had been assaulted by a crowd because of her association within the GLBT community. The way she said it was so heartbreaking, I didn’t really know what to say at first; I could tell by her hollowed out face as she rushed to mention she had been attacked by a group of strangers because of her sexuality, she was afraid to admit it to anyone else on the bus. After she had excitedly told me of her past attendances in Pride, she sadly told me she probably would not go to the Parade because her PTSD was still affecting her and being in a crowd would be too painful for her, even if her friends were there.
This was an 8 minute bus ride. I had to get off the bus shortly after she shared this with me – but I wished her luck with everything and that hopefully she would be able to make it to the Pride Parade again. I still really haven’t been able to digest that day. All I can really say is, I’m still pissed off. And I’m so, so sad that our society has still not accepted the beauty that is Love. So much so, that a member of the GLBTQ community felt the need to put herself down to feel safe talking with me…and later admitting that she is, in actuality, a part of the community she puts down.
The white light streams down to be broken up by those human prisms into all the colors of the rainbow. Take your own color in the pattern and be just that. ~Charles R. Brown