I’m not sure I should post this, and I may remove it later, but I had one of those big life lessons today.
When I came out seven years ago, and met my beautiful partner, I hadn’t navigated the obstacles raised by systemic homophobia. I must admit that overall, the reaction and support from most of the people in my life has been positive. W has been a godsend, helping me deal with a spectrum of reactions from family, friends and co-workers. She has been out since her early teens.
But yesterday, W took me to task. I came home from a particularly rough day, having had pretty well a week-long conflict with a colleague, who I felt was being demanding and unreasonable. As I poured out my concerns to W, I said that I thought that there was an element of homophobia in this colleague’s reactions. W asked why I thought that. The best that I could come up with was that this colleague had taken an extremely passionate and contrary position.
Then W said to me ” don’t ever hide behind this (being a lesbian, she meant). When I was sixteen, I came home from school ranting about this girl who I had had a fight with at school. I told my mom and dad that this girl was a bigot and queer-hater. My mom asked me what I had possibly done to aggravate this girl, and after a while talking, I acknowledged that I had made some pretty obnoxious comments to her. My dad said to me that sometimes people will not like me because I am a lesbian, but sometimes they will not like me because they just don’t, or they don’t like what you have said or done. It would be way to easy for you to dismiss people that disagree with you as homophobic, but that is the easy way out. Examine what you have said or done before you ever label a person.” W said this was the best piece of advice she had received in growing up as a lesbian. So many times, she said, she automatically assumed a degree of homophobia, but caught herself and analyzed and realized that in most of the situations, there was a legitimate factor that led to a conflict, one which had nothing to do with her sexuality.
Food for thought. I wonder now how many I’ve simply dismissed as homophobic, instead of examining the contributions that my own behaviours, comments and reactions might have made to the disconnect. And the truth is, not everybody is going to like me – that doesn’t make them homophobic.
Damn. I was in such a nice zone. But as always, thank you, W, for giving me another pearl on my journey.
Post script: Another life lesson. I showed W this entry before I posted, and she asked why I referred to her as just W. I told her I didn’t want to out her on my blog. She just looked at me with her “really?” look. So, just so my faux pas is there in print, I didn’t edit my post, but here and now say thank you, Wendy, for your love and support. That would be Wendy. Wendy Markham. I love you.