Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Assumptions We Make

One of the things that I think I have had to fight against the most is the tendency for people to want to label me and put me in a box that makes sense to them.   When I was in prep school, I caused a bit of a meltdown for some people when I quit the soccer team and instead went in the direction of theater.  A jock could not be an artist and vice-versa.   When I still played basketball and became a co-captain of the varsity team, I had teachers asking me when the tickets for the winter musical would go on sale.  "I believe that will happen in another two weeks," I would helpfully respond.  "Oh, and by the way, I am not involved in the musical.  I'm playing basketball."  They'd fall all over themselves to apologize, which seemed strange to me as well, but I knew what the issue was.  I wasn't fitting into a pre-determined box.   Who knew a New England prep school could be so tied in to a predestination-like mindset, eh?

For two nights now, I have been the presenter at Tallahassee Little Theatre in some pre-show talks before their performance of the play, "Next Fall."   The story line involves a gay couple, one who is Christian and the other is agnostic to atheist.   They live in New York City in a cramped apartment with Mapplethorpe knock-offs on the bedroom walls.  The Christian isn't out to his parents (who happen to live in Tallahassee), and is terrified to tell them he's gay.  Meanwhile, he is driving his lover nuts because he does things like prays after sex.  The play drove ME nuts, too.  Mostly because I found the Christian character's behaviors so unbelievable and totally not in keeping with a gay liberation theology.  Instead, the Christian became a characterization of what it is to be a gay follower of Christ and I believe feeds into the stereotype that we are all self-hating queers.  As such, I specifically geared my remarks, which were to promote our local PFLAG chapter, toward a simple theme:  Love is unconditional, and do not make assumptions about people based upon labels.  Just because someone is Republican or wears a crucifix does not automatically make them an enemy of the LGBT community. 

I used my own parents as the example.   I told the audiences of roughly a dozen people each night that if they were to look at my parents histories and biographies on paper, they would never peg them for parents that would love and accept their gay child.  Both of them were hard-core Republicans, met on the Dwight Eisenhower campaign, my mom gave birth to me while working on George Romney's campaign for President in 1968, my dad was telling us to say, "I hate rats; I love cats; I hate dirty Democrats."   My family was all for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 (I was not).  And there was never a kind word offered about LGB people in the whole time that I was growing up.  Not at home.  Not at the church.  Not on television.  So coming out to my parents was a terrifying experience because I had no expectation that I was going to be loved. 

And I was wrong.

Not only did my parents love me.  My coming out introduced my mother to PFLAG which became a new home for her, and it propelled her to do things like confront the issue of gay rights in her Episcopal Church, and to stand in front of larger-than-life politicians like Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and say, "Bob, I want to know what you're going to do about gay rights and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act." (Dole stammered out an answer,sotte voce, that he didn't discriminate blah blah blah).

I also shared my coming out to my dad story, in which my father, upon hearing me say I was a lesbian, paused, thought and then said, "Well....who's to say Jesus Christ wasn't gay."  (Take that everyone who wants Jesus to have a wife!) 

My point in sharing these stories with my theater-going audiences was to remind them that there is the potential for anyone to be an ally for LGBT rights.  And the biggest mistake that we in the gay community sometimes make is to make assumptions such as, "This person is a Christian; they are against me."  If the person really is a Christian, she should be our greatest ally and advocate.  All of Christ's teachings are about love, and putting love into action.  He was about being with the marginalized of his society, touching the lepers who were seen as the unclean, and talking with women which was simply not done.  And it was because Jesus understood the burdens of oppression and what it meant to be denied love that his life, witness, death and resurrection stir the hearts of many who have experienced that same sting of rejection by the majority.  Those who really "get it" are the ones who stand with the LGBT community today and join in our fight for justice.

There is that old saying, "When you assume, you make an "ass" out of "u" and "me."  Something to remember as we look for new allies in the fight for equal rights for all.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW! And I might say Whopee as well.! Boy they must have loved you and I hope it gets you more people at the PFLAG meeting.