Friday, January 29, 2010

Axis and Allies

I've often mentioned on this blog and to many of my friends the important role that Youtube has had in normalizing my homosexuality as an aspect of my social person. If I haven't done that sufficiently, then kick me in the face when you see me next.

I recently discovered this video on Youtube.

This past week has been a bit rough for me. I came out to a friend of mine in a moment of extreme frustration and weakness, and with only partial intentions of doing it. His reaction has been understanding, but also reluctant. He very strongly believes that homosexuality is a sin. He has directed me to ex-gay ministries. And he does this all in love, not realizing the torment that it has caused me.

My heart has crumbled this week.

I sent him an e-mail yesterday explaining the challenges associated with being gay - how painful it is to grow up alone, isolated, and afraid that something you do is going to out you and put you in danger. I mentioned that we, as homosexuals and other sexual minorities, are the invisible minority; we have some control over when the world more completely discovers our identity.

But let me tell you a bit of a story from yesterday. While I was at work, I noticed that one of my friends was very hurt. She and I are usually rather playful - she is adorable, and fun, and when the world watches her smile it notices what happiness looks like. That being said, when she was hurt, angry and frustrated last night, you can see the air blacken around her. Something was troubling her.

I asked her if she would be willing to cover my lunch break, because she is one of only a few people who has been trained in my position who also works during the evenings and weekends with me. In this regard, she is almost always reliable - she doesn't enjoy what I do, but she is willing to go in there on my behalf. Last night, noticing she was frustrated, I was not particularly surprised when she said no.

But eventually she came up to cover my break, with one of my supervisors (who would have been required to cover my break if she didn't). And she seemed even more frustrated. I asked my supervisor if she could cover for 15 minutes while I went up to the staff lounge with my friend and we discussed what was affecting her so much. She was willing to do that.

My friend and I went to the secondary staff lounge which never has anybody in it, and we sat down, and she told me a story. She says that she consistently felt as though some of the members of the staff were harassing her for not doing her job even when she was fulfilling her duties better than other members of the staff. While other cashiers were welcome to wait for customers at the till, she was always told to redline (meaning, wait for customers) by our supervisor. She was feeling as though she was being watched by the supervisor for when she made a mistake, or when she called in because of illness (which is very, very rare). She felt as though her relationship with her boyfriend was constantly under the scrutiny of the other staff members - as though they wanted to be involved in discussing something she feels is better kept private.

I forgot to mention that this friend of mine is a Pakistani immigrant. And, I 've forgotten to mention that she feels her skin colour is the reason that she is being targetted instead of the other, white members of the staff. That her perception of racism against her was causing her emotional heartbreak and stress, and making her want to move to a new job.

I sat there with her, as her eyes dug into my soul with such extreme sadness, and we both shed a couple tears. I have never felt emotion as powerful as hers.

And it made me much more aware of just how much pain is caused by hatred, misunderstanding, and the perception of both by those who have no option to escape it. Whose skin colour, gender, or appearance, rather than sexuality, sets them apart from normalcy. Who feel helpless, alone, trapped, and powerless as a result of things they cannot help - experiences that I am familiar with.

My heart has crumbled this week.

And then I found this video, and realized that my responsibility as somebody familiar with some of these emotions is not merely to support her by pronouncing to her my acceptance and love for who she is, but also to be her ally. To pronounce my love and acceptance of everything that she is with the rest of the world - so that the world is aware of how unacceptable it is for me, for my co-worker, and for everybody.

If you've the time, I'd recommend this article. It singularly made me much more aware of my whiteness years ago... It is called "White Privelege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh. It gets my most high recommendation.