Events occurred 12 April 2013. Thank you to all of my readers. I enjoy reading the comments, so please: if you have a minute free and an opinion on what I’ve written, I’d like to hear it.
Something like this shouldn’t have such an influence on me; shouldn’t make me want to cry… but it does. These were the words that a client, a Navy veteran nonetheless, said this morning:
They say “It’s OK to be gay,” but it’s not.
A sentence of just over 10 words shattered my day. On the way home from work, I pulled off the road at the park near my neighborhood. I stopped the engine, pulled my iPad out of my bag and, not bothering to unlatch my seatbelt or crack open the window, started writing this. Honestly, I’m putting off having to go home and explain to my mom and dad the reason their son is broken.
Until this client expressed that sentence, I had a little bit of respect for him. That began dropping the second he said I should play an outdoor sport instead of spending time on the computer.
Not a big deal, I thought.
He’ll be out of here in a minute, then I can unpause the BBC World Service and keep working.
A minute somehow became the victim of an exponent, as he dropped lines like (repetition removed for brevity),
Men’s movies are action and end last-man-standing, whereas women’s movies are cry-cry-cry, the women don’t actually fix anything, and then they hug and cry some more.
At this point, I was mentally empathizing with his wife of over 30+ years, who obviously stays in the house and bakes while not wearing pants and popping out another baby because contraception is morally equivalent to infanticide. And now, I have to ask: Who brought this topic up, again? Because I can’t remember.
I could only imagine how red-faced my mother (forgive me, but that’s the only comic I could find on such short notice that fit) would’ve been had she been there. This old crony wouldn’t have a leg for his concept of women to stand on, because my mother’s one of toughest, most persistent, and most productive people I know (she runs circles around David Allen, natch). This increasingly offensive tirade concluded with his belief that
[Hollywood is] trying to de-nut [men], implying that it actually matters what meiosis-inducing, gamete-producing organs one has.
OK, I thought to myself.
He’s a sexist bigot, but he’s probably not going to bring up homosexuality—neither of us mentioned it and I’m not engaging in this conversation he’s having with himself. I’m trying to do my job while giving a few nods and indeterminate grunts (a mix between uh-uh or uh-huh), and at this point I thought he was finally winded and ready to leave me to my work.
⋮⋮ ↓ ⋮⋮
I felt like he’d just shot me in the stomach. My pupils turned into pinholes, my shoulders pulled back and became rigid, my nostrils flared, and my smile flattened out into a thin crease.
I was knocked back. For a few seconds, everything froze while I fell. I could slide my fingers into the wound—numb from shock—and feel the warm red life-sustenance of my blood heating my icy hands and trickling down my abdomen onto the faded bluish-grey of the shop’s flat-pile carpeting.
But something was different. I hadn’t felt like this in a long while, and certainly not the last time something like this happened. I was angry. But I couldn’t say anything.
You don’t want to lose your job and an amazing reference for your CV, do you? Came the cry from my inner voice, in a rare stroke of unwanted logic.
I stayed silent as he regurgitated everything I never needed nor wanted to know about his own intolerance: His brother is gay. One of his relatives’ brother-in-law is gay (but
He decided he wasn’t gay after all). I’d even consider wagering that he, himself, is gay, especially considering the massive amount of internalized homophobia that exists in this world. Right then, though, it didn’t matter. His mouth from which his bigotry spewed forth plentifully was my target, and my plan was to stop it at any cost, or run far away.
My hands squeezed into his neck. I pursed my lips ever tighter as adrenaline burned through my entire being from behind the floodgates of self control. There wouldn’t be much left of me when this ended…but there wouldn’t be anything left of him. He would hurt as I did: my stare shattered his defenses and I shot straight back at him the very hatred he and his kind have always expressed to the ones who are different.
Such fantasy—though not representative of anything I’d do—was the only thing keeping me from shouting and kicking him out, until finally the fury crawled back into the hole it came from. I stayed silent. I held my rage and my sadness down so far it cut up my insides. I stayed silent. I didn’t even grunt incoherent responses this time. I just stayed silent.
In fact, I managed to drown him out by typing. The keys weren’t really that loud—I was hiding inside myself like a veritable turtle from one of its more, shall we say, unsophisticated predators. At least turtles don’t judge one another like humans do, or encourage hatred and bigotry on any fraction of the human scale.
The last thing I remember (assuming I’m recalling correctly that it was his brother and not the in-law) of what he said on the subject is profound. By saying it, he seems to think that what he sees is the whole story (paraphrased—not for brevity, but because I don’t remember the exact wording):
My brother isn’t and won’t be happy because he’s a homosexual.
He wouldn’t let his own brother (yes, I’m sure that’s who it is this time) come to Thanksgiving dinner with his partner, because although he said he applied the same rule to heterosexual couples, he
[didn’t] want [his prepubescent] children to see it.
If by chance his brother ever reads this, I want him to know something:
You have a family here that loves you. And this family, like all real families, have no conditions to be met, rules to follow, nor terms to fulfill for you to be loved, included, and respected. You simply are.
Those who spread darkness are either afraid of their own light or everyone else’s. I do realize and appreciate how lucky I am to have supportive parents that are respectful of my decisions, and trust that I know about myself. I have difficulties too—this entire experience made my day a very sad one—and sometimes days like this seem hard to overcome, if at all.
But obstacles are never permanent unless you make them permanent. Don’t hold onto any ideas in your mind or soul or body that say you can’t, because those limiting beliefs are just that: beliefs. They are no more a rule than a politician is honest.
No matter where you are on your journey, you’re never alone, and you’re always loved. Keep climbing, stay hungry, stay foolish. Be you.