buddy is 19 years old, the same age as my younger sister. we “bonded” on the first day when it was revealed that we share our first name, and since then have become frequent activity partners for the practical components of our course. he’s got some pretty messed-up ideas about the world, but then again, i did too when i was his age. hell, when it comes to some things, i still do.
i spent the better part of thursday morning with buddy, playing with scaffolding in the compound behind the electrical shop area. first we climbed to the top of the 10′ high tower, then disassembled it piece by piece. after it was all in pieces on the ground, buddy and i realized that among the supplies we’d been given from the tool crib was a full-body harness with clip-on sling. apparently, only one of us was supposed to be on the tower at a time, and we were supposed to be tied-in. huh. go figure.
a classmate walked past us in the compound, and had a brief conversation with buddy and i about how challenging the scaffolding assignment was. right as he opened the door to enter the building, he summed up his opinion about the whole thing by saying:
“yeah, you just gotta get it done, but it’s TOTALLY GAY!”
quick as can be, i put on the biggest grin i could, and exclaimed:
“hey! I’M TOTALLY GAY TOO!”
classmate paused and looked at me. “oh… uh… sorry…” he mumbled. then he closed the door behind him, and i laughed.
so this is how it’s been. i’m pretty certain most of the people in my program know i’m queer by now, but unfortunately it’s not cuz i’ve been able to casually bring up my partner or whatever (the canning? the bike fixing? what exactly defines my homo lifestyle???). instead, a couple classmates have been thoughtless enough to let loose homophobic language in my presence, and i’ve found the energy to address it.
the amazing this is, it’s going really well.
for the first time in my life, i’m calling people out on their stuff, and it’s working: they say something oppressive, i tell them how that affects me, they apologize, we move on. we don’t become best buds, but that’s not what i’m looking for here… the point it, any tension and defensiveness gets diffused, and i think they get it.
i’m crediting oldandmoldy for my new-found success in this area, because i’ve been following his recommendations from the last time i was struggling with direct oppressive bullshit in my life.
- own your judgments (even if you know your opinions are the truth, recognize that other people won’t see them that way, because they have their own truths; yours are based in your reality, and you need to take responsibility for this)
- ask questions (find out why people are saying/doing things, find out what their reasoning is, create a situation in which questioning accepted norms becomes a viable basis for conversation)
- speak from the heart (don’t rely on theory or logic to explain your point of view; focus on your feelings instead, and make it personal… for example, try approaching a homophobic remark with “as a queer, this makes me feel unsafe, because…”)
i’ve got more to say on this topic, because the story with the classmate (mentioned above) doesn’t end there: we later had a good conversation, and it’s happened in other ways with other students. also, buddy himself has been a riot, though he’s also been a good supporter… i’m pretty certain he’s never before had a queer person as a peer.
right now though, i’ve got killer cramps, so i’m going to drink raspberry leaf tea and moan on the couch for the next few hours.