“Be the Change You Want to See”Posted: October 23, 2011 | |
Accounts of gay teens killing themselves and LGBT individuals being tortured and murdered abound. I read, and I feel sad and anxious. I desperately do not want this to happen to my kid, or anyone’s kid.
A Dangerous World
Currently I live in a community with no queer visibility. Since we moved here two years ago, I’ve felt the lack of a LGBT presence. Recently it feels like a desert. Parched, I am crying out for a drink. There are crosses galore here, but no rainbows.
I became angry about this. I know there are queer people in this part of town, so why aren’t there any rainbow flags in the shop windows or stickers on cars?
People here are afraid, and for good reason. Workplaces are hostile. State and local policies are discriminatory, or blind at best. There aren’t domestic partner benefits or protections. Stories of bigoted cops harassing gay motorists are not uncommon.
I Am Complicit
The invisibility of my family’s identity, affiliations, and commitments make us complicit. I am the problem.
For the bulk of my adult life I have lived in places where I regularly saw rainbows in shop windows welcoming LGBT shoppers, or a long, thin, horizontal rainbow on the back of the truck in front of me at a red light, or an adorable woman, woman, dog, dog, cat stick figure family on the back of the SUV parked next to me at the grocery store.
Me, my naked car, my unadorned office door – this is the problem. I am the problem. Or at least I am part of the problem.
For many years I have benefited from the fact that others put their identities on display, so I can celebrate and appreciate the great community in which I live, or the cops can hassle them just a little extra at a traffic stop, or some bigot can scratch “Fag” across the hood of their car.
Walk the Walk
A couple of weeks ago I told my daughter, “I want us to put an equality sticker on our car.”
“Can we do it together?” she asked.
We went out into the garage, cleaned off the back window, and affixed the sticker using her kid-sized hands and my adult-sized ones.
I put my rainbow-colored Safe Zone sticker on the most visible spot next to my office door, and the matching Safe Zone pin on the bag I carry to work, and everyday I have worn a pin, necklace, or wrist band that makes my sentiments and commitments visible.
I had some trepidations.
I thought what if this harms my opportunity to advance at work? To that I concluded, first I have never wanted to work in a bigoted work environment. If I am just fooling myself that this place is inclusive by never testing the bounds then I am cowardly. Second and most importantly, my kid means more to me than this one job. If I expect her to stand up for her beliefs and identity, then I sure better do the same.
I thought what if my gay co-workers think I am being some weird poser with my purple NOH8 wristband? Queerness is not an open topic of conversation where I work. No one has ever asked me about my identity, so why should I care what others might assume about me?
Once again my fear and insecurity can allow the problem to continue or I can walk the walk.
I can’t make the larger community resplendent with rainbow flags, equality symbols, and little gay stick figure families but I can bring a little of it everywhere I go. I can make LGBT-ness visible to the cashier at the market, the student in the hall, and the teachers and staff inside the elementary school.
I don’t want my kid, or someone else’s, to grow up in a world feeling all alone. Hopefully, every so often these days someone is behind me at a red light or beside me in the produce section and finds comfort in a sign of LGBT community.
Be the change you want to see in this world.
– Mahatma Gandhi