… lines and labels and language and the X factor…

Some time ago I did a post about the word “bitch” ((CLICK HERE TO READ IT)) and why I no longer use it and the cultural biases about gender and sexuality which pervade the language, which are part of the consciousness and vocabulary of perfectly lovely people.

I add to the list of sexist, culturally biased language the phrase “man up” – which I find completely offensive. It is usually used in a way meaning that the person being told to do so is somehow less than and ought – by virtue of fulfilling their masculine potential – to be better, MORE – as if “man” = “better/stronger/braver/more than” – and that is patently ridiculous and biased.

NOW HERE IS THE THING (without discursive caveats – I would not have a blog) – I’m trying NOT to judge.

AND HERE IS THE THING – what do I do with that?

Example: I find people who work against equal rights for all people to be people with whom I do not wish to spend a great deal of time. SO … when Mr. Romney, during the last presidential election, embraced a platform that was anti-gay and anti-woman and anti-most minorities – that ALONE was enough for me to know that I could NEVER vote for him.

But, I know people who did. Now, here’s the thing: they did not vote FOR his anti-equality stances, they voted for his economic plans (which, it could be argued, are – in fact – anti equality; but that’s another discussion) and foreign policy stands.

So, I don’t hate Mr. Romney, but I feel his anti-equality stands mean I could never spend time with him, I don’t want to be around people who embrace such things; but, I do love very much some people who would be around him.

Where’s the line? If you are someone I love and you vote for Mr. Romney – who embraces a platform which espouses the denial of my full humanity and rights – then, what does it say to me about you? Or, how much do I mean to you?

Now, Mr. Romney didn’t target Gays (or women or etc) personally – one by one. He didn’t say, “I want to deny Neil Patrick Harris his right to marry Mr. Burtka and raise their children.”

What if he had? What if someone targets someone you love PERSONALLY; attacks or slanders or sets out to make their life difficult; what do you do?

I have a dear friend (Z) who was treated quite badly by another someone (Y) I know, and when the badness went down, it wasn’t about choosing sides – it was the fact that if Y could treat Z, someone I love, with such vitriol, speak so ill of them, whisper and imply, then, well, I can’t help but believe that should it be beneficial for Y to do so to me – Y’s professed “love” or “affection’ will morph into self-serving spin and I’d find myself under a bus. In this equation, however, I am X.

Now, here’s the thing – since Y did throw Z under a bus, what is my responsibility as X? Everyone thinks they know what went down with Z and Y – and in most cases, they really do NOT – but, I sort of do, and so, if I continue to spend time with Y, or frequent Y’s restaurant, am I not – in some way – approving of Y’s targeting of Z?

If I am a vendor or consumer who benefits financially from continuing with Y – does that change the equation?

And if Y campaigns to win me, dangles carrots and cash, and Z refuses to stoop to “win” such a vote – what then?

These are ethical dilemmas we all face – I think – all the time. Where are our lines when it comes to what is and is not acceptable from others before we need to remove ourselves from their circles – and to what lengths will we go to justify our remaining within the circle of someone who – to whatever degree – has hurt or targeted someone (or some group) we love as “less than” or wrong or bad?

Or am I just too sensitive? A bitch who needs to man up?

Exactly. My. Point.

… fall comes out … the revelations … and acculturated homophobia and sexism …

I love the Fall. I love the cool of it, the beginning of chill, and the changing colors, and the way it promises a slowing, how its downshifting and stripping reminds us that every cycle requires an ending, a purging before rebirth, and too, the endings and purgings have a particular, specific and glorious beauty of their own. Fall: It celebrates with the death-bursts of beautiful hues and experiences unique to this phase of being.

I also love that this reveal, this Fall, is a reminder that the “end” is always present in the “beginning” – those spring buds, those summer leaves, the bold color-statements of the fall fashions before the strip to naked branch, even those empty, resting Winter landscape branches, are all of a piece, all part of the being, the truth of the landscape. The circle.

It is, sometimes, hard to remember when Spring and Summer are in full swing that there will be a Fall and a Winter. It is, sometimes, when one is a Fall person, difficult to remember in the throes of Spring and Summer heat and madness that the Autumn will return and embrace you, that if you look carefully and breathe deeply enough, you can feel it there in the Spring and Summer.

It is, sometimes, difficult to learn – when one is terribly attached to one or another season – to actually appreciate and enjoy the season in which one is living rather than to spend all one’s energy yearning for another time of year.

I love the Fall. It is a comforting season for me in which to sleep, the weather seeming to reach out to caress and cradle me into a comfortable slumber. I love the Fall. I am not a wonderfully-nature aware person as are some of my gardening and hiking friends, but in the Fall, I am hypnotized by the changing colors of the mountainside vistas I see and will lose myself in staring in awe and wonder at the pointillist glories of the horizon.

I have been thinking about this a lot; this reveal and the promise of all seasons in any season. I have been thinking about it because one of the themes of one of my current writing projects is the acculturated homophobia and misogyny embedded within the language, reactions and behaviors of otherwise completely loving and good-intentioned people. I was prompted to explore this theme by my own use of the word “bitch” and my discovery that its use was, ultimately, anti-woman and sexist – two things I NEVER thought I was in any way to any degree; but the cultural anti-woman and sexist bias had, to some degree, at least to the degree I used the word “bitch” – infected me.

Another example is the acculturated homophobia I have witnessed and, in fact, been subjected to by people who could never, would never in any way to any degree consider themselves anti-gay or homophobic; some of them are themselves gay. The gay MALE culture (I am not qualified to talk about the Lesbian or Transgender communities) has a sub-culture (not so sub actually) of stratification and pecking order wherein “personal preference” about age and “masculine” and the whole top, bottom, twink, bear, hairy, smooth, big, small, on and on delineation of who is and is not one’s type or hot or whatever seems to me a continuation and projection of an acculturated judgment about homosex and gender and masculine power.

I am, however, NOT allowed to talk about or say this because to do so – to in any way discuss it or suggest there might be an issue – is taken by some branches (see how I worked the trees back in – clever man) of the male gay culture and community as a betrayal, as opening doors for homophobes to attack.

Well, homophobes attack without needing my help.

But, this isn’t a dissertation – it’s a personal observation, sharing my experience, and while the acculturated homophobia (and sexism, good heavens, the sexism) of gay men is troubling enough, I don’t know a huge number of gay men, so what I have found more disturbing has been the hidden and unrecognized homophobia of the otherwise loving, liberal community.

Now, this is a touchy subject. I have found that often-times when a member of a minority group discusses his/her perception of minority-phobia in the behavior of society or individuals in that society, those individuals or society at large dismiss it as “You’re playing the homophobia/sexist/race/etc card” – and feel that the minority member is being overly-sensitive and trying to claim a victimhood to which they are not entitled.

I’m NOT saying that doesn’t happen. I’m also not saying I am a victim of anything. I am saying that I have had things said to me that felt to me shockingly homophobic – puritanical – sexist in foundation. One such example was some time ago and came from a Lesbian friend who would NEVER intentionally hurt my feelings and has a heart as loving and beautiful as the Fall horizon (she also never reads anything I write, so she won’t see this and if she did, she wouldn’t recognize herself, trust me – I would not risk causing her pain) so when she said what she said and did what she did – none of which I will go into – timed in reaction to me being more open and honest about my sexual feelings and experiences, I was quite taken aback, shocked, and fairly devastated.

Now, we have both pulled back from one another; she, for whatever reasons she has – I would guess she attributes it to being busy and feeling I’ve changed in ways with which she is vaguely uncomfortable – and I have retreated because, I have difficulty enough traversing the minefield of this puritanical culture’s anti-sex, homophobic, sexist, classist structure and strictures WITHOUT judging myself; I don’t need my friends to do the “Charlie … you’re being ….” or worse, the sort of implied “tsk-tsk” of judging me without actually KNOWING they are doing it.

Yes, I am expressing more anger than I have in the past in some of my thinking and writing and exploration of the why of things and the how of things; I think I am entitled. Yes, I am being more honestly myself and following urges I long submerged, exploring and expressing colors that were not there in the Spring and the Summer. Yes, I am changing, but this season of Charlie, this Fall, as it were, of bright colors and new bursts before that de-nuded landscape of the long Winter to come, is nothing that wasn’t there before, nothing that wasn’t always a part of me.

I am, I guess, a bit hurt by those who would rather I be Spring and Summer again, who have, in some ways, packed bags and left town until the season ends. But, I am who I am, and I apologized and held at bay who I was and what I needed to do for such a long time, often in the service of others, that I now expect people to have some patience with whatever sneezing or allergies my fading into reds and oranges and incipient defoliation causes them. We should all – each day – make sure to be aware of our acculturated puritanism, homophobia, sexism, and classism – to check at the door our acculturated sense of privilege and judgment – all those things which impede our realities and brainwash us into circumscribing and thwarting our creativity and self-expression.

I will change colors. I will ALLOW FULLY this part of my cycle, rather than the ways in which I obstructed and restricted my Spring and Summer, and I will NOT be judged nor tsk-ed nor marginalized. This Fall, I will only be celebrated.