Thursday, August 4, 2016

On Doing Better.

I don’t talk politics or religion, really. When I do, it’s typically with a million disclaimers. I recognize that my opinions are not everyone’s. I recognize and respect a person’s right to believe what they choose. I don’t judge the intelligence of others based on whether they agree with me or not. I don’t make assumptions about education.

Do, don’t. Recognize, respect.

Every so often, I get tired. Tired of extending courtesies that I do not receive. I wonder when it will be my turn to speak without having to listen or regard, to shout over whoever would oppose, to hit back – hurt back.

The answer, of course, is never. That’s the shitty part about trying to be even a reasonably okay person – it’s not a trade system. You don’t give some good with the guarantee of getting it back.

My exhaustion is a gentler kind than most, the kind felt by a visibly gay person who is also reasonably well off. And white. And in San Francisco. When I think about the fear that tempered my joy when I cut my hair short and pulled the last dress I owned off the hanger and put it in the donation bin, I have to think about every person who was – and is – born afraid, already wearing an identity that much of the world will hate them for.

The day of the shooting in Orlando, I wanted to be gay somewhere. I wanted to button my shirt and slick back my hair and kiss a woman and do it all in open space surrounded by people because that was enough to have cost almost fifty people their lives hours before, and that was wrong.

Almost fifty people. Who already automatically had the odds stacked against them because they were people of color. Queer people of color trying to claim a small piece of space to exist who were told, in the most violent and final of ways, “No.”

I got to do all of those things that I wanted, full of sadness and fury and the terrifying joy of still breathing, while their stories were already being stolen and rewritten.

These are the events that are supposed to give us pause – historical fulcrums that force us to take notice, rethink, change direction.

Instead, we root ourselves deeper.

We hate and we diminish and we refuse to believe it. Proof plays out before our eyes and ears – black people, Latinxs, trans people, etc. – beaten, belittled, restricted, restrained, killed. Murdered. We see it and we say it is not real.

I don’t want to hear about the Party of Lincoln. You do not get to coast on the name and the accomplishments of a man who died two centuries ago.

I do not want to hear about defending the traditions and explicit intent of the nation’s founders when those were set three centuries ago, back when heterosexual white men were tradition and intent.

If you do not want me to exist, have the decency to say so. Don’t pretend that delivering a pizza is the same as officiating and blessing a wedding in the name of God, don’t say it’s for the children, don’t say you’re “cool with it, but just don’t want it in your face.” Tell me you think I am less than you because I am different from you. Admit it to yourself. I already know.

Admit that you are afraid of having to live in a world that is different, a world where you do not always win, where you have to share – and yes, sometimes even cede – space to people you do not agree with. Then take a breath, put your grown-up pants on, and deal with that fear instead of clinging to it.

That’s all I’ve got. It’s not my funniest post. Not my most articulate, pointed, gracious, or inspiring (I don’t know that any of them are that, though some are clearly trying). It doesn’t solve any problems or answer any questions about how to be a better ally to those who need your alliance and dismantle the system. I don’t have those answers.

I just try to do better. All the time. Not in the interest of getting, but in giving. That’s not to elevate me, or paint me as Johnny Bestattheworld. I fail at doing  better. All the time. All. The. Time. But I try. I have no problem asserting that I honestly, truly try.

It’s the trying that makes it easy to look around and identify the people who are not. Why don’t they think it’s their turn?

It’s our collective turn.