Do I have the right to demand your attention, once I’m fighting for gay rights ?
I was out here living a privileged young male life when, 10+years ago, I inadvertently found out one of my friends is gay.
At the time, it was a first; he also happened to be my closest friend at a time when I needed close friends.
Needless to say, the ‘news’ came as a shock to me. My mouth hung all the way open for about ten minutes…then I thought about it and realised that the news really didn’t move me one way or another. It didn’t change the way I felt about him as a person. And it didn’t make me not want to be friends.
His truth was outside of the reality I knew as normal, but turns out I didn’t feel as strongly about his truth or the norm as I would have thought, based on my life experience to that point.
Fast forward a few years
…and my sense of what ‘normal ’ is had totally shifted.
There was a New Normal.
Life had been a steady deconstruction of the hetero-normative views I once took for granted, with several men who happened to be gay ending up being among my closest friends. Instead of that thing that always existed in an unopened closet, ‘Gay’ came to be just another lifestyle to learn about. I found myself actively blogging about tolerance toward homosexuality, and spoiled more than one friendship with hetero friends who didn’t agree with my perspective.
But then came another shift. The more I blogged, the more I came to realise it was necessary to shift from my New Normal sense to a New New sense of Normal.
What am I on about ?
I came to a point in my journey when I realised that no matter how strongly I feel about a thing, or believe that thing to be righteous, sensible and fair, I simply can’t force people to accept the thing no matter how compellingly I push it in their faces.
Worse yet; by pushing it in the faces of people who’ve already decided they feel opposed to that thing, I’m more likely to achieve the opposite effect of the one I intended to.
Many people haven’t been on my New Normal journey. They haven’t even had a reason to think deeply about what their Sense of Normal is, never mind having been forced to develop a New sense of Normal.
Comin’ From Where I’m From
Here’s some background: In the Eastern Caribbean where I live, LGBT folk aren’t even recognised by law.
This is a reality which conveniently legitimises the most popular, passively anti-gay stance of people who don’t have immediate cause to give a fuck about LGBT people or their rights, and that is to claim
“I have no issue with gay people, but I’m not interested in LGBT issues or gay rights. It feels like their LGBT views and way of life are being forced on me.”
Yet it’s immediately obvious from that statement that it’s more than “a lack of interest” for these people. Gay rights debates are viewed as a complete turn off.
Let’s be honest: The sharp emotional reactions we see to calls for gay rights are a direct reflection of just how imbalanced the world is in the first place. How dare these gays interrupt the flow of my day, calling for rights…that I, my family and friends have been enjoying all our lives, without questioning them!
People who complain about having LGBT interests foisted on them are completely oblivious to a simple truth: that our heterosexual way of life has also been foisted on people wishing to pursue alternative lifestyles for centuries. It’s not fair or even realistic…but it all has to do with our sense of Normal, and it’s each person’s sense of normal that determines whether and to what extent he or she will be willing to entertain new ideas.
So, I see you…heterosexual person complaining about that intense gay sex scene interspliced in the middle of last night’s episode of that new TV show you like. YOUR sense of Normal is having heterosexual sex scenes peppered in wherever and whenever in a new TV show you like - you’re not even thinking about the gay person watching and what he or she may think cuz, yknow, you don’t like to have to think about stuff like that.
Gender activists go hard in the paint. I know this, because these are the circles I inhabit. Gender activists are thinking about you, yes, but not so much about You you as much as the fact that you don’t ‘get it’ and you really need to. They don’t give a fuck about your sense of Normal or how you came to have it, because it’s wrong. It, and the system that support it, are wrong.
I don’t disagree about the system or the wrongness of it; but my New New sense of Normal made me realise that there is a lot of social assumption that lies just below the surface of gender activist circles. Everyone is so often caught up with their voice being loud enough for you to hear it that they don’t stop to consider whether you are understanding what you hear. Or appreciating. Or even listening in the first place.
I had been doing the same thing with my blog posts. ‘Shouting' as hard as I could about what I believed (and still believe) to be Truth. But why should a person try to understand what I was saying in my blog posts, and what got me to where I was, if I’d first made no attempt to understand them and what got them to that moment of their life where they were sitting reading my post ? Again, I was more likely to achieve the opposite effect of the one I intended to.
Someone - gay - once asked me whether I’d ever entertained the idea that Jesus of the Bible had been gay, or bisexual. The answer was No, I hadn’t, nor was I interested in entertaining the idea - not because I care particularly about Jesus’ sexual orientation, but because I’ve always known the story to be one way and I didn’t feel an overarching need to consider it in another way. I will admit that I communicated this point to the person in a slightly more rough way at the time than I just did, and got accused of being homophobic.
I’m not sure that I am homophobic. I just have a sense of Normal that kicked in at some point, like everyone else’s does.
The New New Normal
Back to the New New Normal.
Since the world is imperfect, instead of changing it, I found myself having to change to suit it.
From a gender activist standpoint, what’s worse than people not ‘getting it’ is that, worse still, many don’t see why they should have to get it. And what’s most likely to result from attempting to push something unwanted in the faces of people who have already decided they’re not interested in LGBT issues, is that the attempt at activism further upsets their sense of privilege. They pull their privilege over them like a big blanket, turn over and go back to sleep, in het-comfort.
One can’t literally force people who don’t give a fuck TO give a fuck instead. What seems more realistic is to hope to shift their sense of Normal enough for them to think about why they should give a fuck.
I’m a researcher, so I think like a researcher. It’s not enough for me to say a particular type of thinking is wrong - I need to probe that type of thinking to try to gain an understanding of it, and why certain people think this way. I.e. their sense of Normal. With regard to gay rights and LGBT activism, I didn’t just get to the point I’m at overnight, so why would I expect anyone else to ? I need to try to gain an understanding of the privileged if I hope for them to (eventually) understand me and deeply question why what’s Normal to them was ever Normal in the first place.
I suspect that, if asked, most people actively or passively anti-gay wouldn’t be able to say why they are anti-gay, beyond what they learned from society, what they learned from religion or what they learned to be Normal.
Most of the world may not be ready for LGBT parallels to most things we’ve always presumed to be Normal (e.g. gay couples advertising personal care products on billboards). I’m not sure I’m ready for it (see Jesus of the Bible, above) but I do know that LGBT have a right to everything I have a right to, whether it seems Normal for me or not.
Indifferent heterosexual folk may likewise feel they have a right to their sense of what’s Normal to them. But they also have a right to be asked questions about it.
We’ve reached that time.