Archive for the ‘hate’ Tag

Faith Vindicated 

I started writing a post this morning after reading a particularly troubling exchange on a chat group I’m a part of. I was heavy-hearted and disappointed, believing I was going to have to quit the group. I titled it “Naivity Disappointed”. My premise focused on what I called my naive optimism and how it had been proven false by the misbehavior of a few members, and the indifference of the moderators. I covered how I had let myself believe that the warm welcome and support I initially experienced when joining this group was universal among its members and would be lasting. Then I described how that naive belief was disappointed in the space of a few insensitive member posts and a single, crushingly dismissive response by the moderator. 

That draft post was a lament, a cry to the universe at the injustice I felt I was suffering. I wanted to express how painful it is to realize that all the hard work I’ve done to maintain a soft heart and a true faith in the basic goodness of my fellow humans through a lifetime of difficult experiences is worthless. 

Then I went to work and spent the day focusing on doing hard, important, substantive work. It felt good, especially because I’ve been down with the plague (bad cold), and took my mind off the bitter disappointment. So I didn’t see the follow-up exchange that happened in the chat group this afternoon until I got home. 

I try always to acknowledge when I’ve made a mistake, so that’s what I’m doing. I was mistaken about the moderator’s motives and indifference. I misjudged him and have personally apologized to him for it, even though he had no way of knowing what was still only in my head. 

Here’s what happened: 

A few days ago, a member of the chat group used “gay” as a slur in a group chat. It was more than the run of the mill, yet still wrong, use of the term as a substitute for stupid or less-than. It was an epithet, a weaponized, white-hot, buzz word flung with malice and intent to wound. I called foul by very politely and professionally asking the person to stop using that word to erase and invalidate the identity of an entire population of people for the sake of a weak punchline. I also suggested that a thesaurus might come in handy, if they couldn’t think of another way to express disfavor. The person flaired up defensively, justifying his remarks as joking sarcasm that should be transparent to everyone in the group. The mod then made some comments that seemed, at first, to support my request, but ended in an apathetic shrug of a comment that included the phrase “if you don’t like it, leave”. I misinterpreted that last bit as directed at both me and the other poster. 

I have been stewing a little over that comment ever since. This group is otherwise pretty neat. It’s a chat group focused on a new hobby I wrote about last year: begleri. (It’s a skill toy, two beads and a string, used to keep the hands busy.) Because this is still a relatively unknown skill toy, the community of “slingers” is pretty sparse. When I stumbled on this group, I was ecstatic that there were so many involved. Most of the discussion has been extremely interesting and helpful for those with lesser experience, like me. There are a lot of really talented players and they’ve all been really free with their tips and tricks. So, when I felt that the moderator was dismissive of a serious display of bigotry and insensitivity, I thought I’d have to give up the group. That made me both angry and sad. 

Then this morning’s exchange among a few of the members rehashed the earlier discussion and made some very unkind, derogatory comments about me and trashed the whole subject as some kind of “liberal bulls***”, suggesting that anyone offended by the gay slur should f-off and…you get the gist. I’ll admit to being hurt by it all, not least because not a single moderator jumped in to attempt any kind of discipline. 

So I started my draft post and then went to work. But when I got home, intending to finish my rant and then post it in anger, I decided to check back on the conversation. 

I’m so glad I did. My faith in the basic decency of people has been vindicated. I shouldn’t have given in to despair. 

The very moderator whom I had judged dismissive had walked into the conversation during the day. He started with a mild reminder of the community rules and a request to stop the abusive language. When that was ignored, he blazed! Jumped in with both feet and delivered a civics lesson in text form that my Sociology professor would have been proud of. Ending with a commitment to ban anyone who continued to use abusive slurs, he reminded everyone that the gay and trans members of the chat community have as much right to participate (without fear of abuse) as any others. I was never so happy to be wrong about someone as I was today. 

Mr. Moderator, as I’ve told you separately, I was wrong and I misjudged you. Thank you for supporting true inclusion and restoring my faith in humanity, even those who are just online strangers. 

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The Tally

Sometimes I can’t talk about what’s hurting me, but I can write. 

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For two days I’ve been battling to control my emotions. Tears come without warning at the slightest provocation. And a heavy, burning, acrid lump of shame and fear is stuck in my throat preventing me from gaining any calm or comfort by talking through the awfulness. 

Ambush emotions suck. Hard. And the shame and stress of having them come while I’m at work is doubly awful. Being busy will stem the flow for a time. But focusing on work or on anything outside of my head is a daunting task. I’ve been trying, but I’m failing more than succeeding. 

One of the emotionally fraught conversations I had with coworkers today (in which I was mostly silent and tearful) centered on the breathtaking variety of people who will be negatively affected by this new regime. We decided that really only one demographic isn’t immediately and directly harmed by it: straight, white, male, Christians. All others are less than, second-class, and targets for every kind of discrimination and hate. People of color, people of size, people who are LGBTQI, people with physical or mental or emotional challenges, people of any faith other than Christian and people of no faith, and all women are less safe today than we were on Tuesday (to the extent some of these groups were safe at all).

That led to us discussing in how many dimensions each of us is viewed as less than, as undesirable, as unworthy and unwanted. It was a grim discussion and it was repeated with a different set of people later, spontaneously. Because everyone is conscious of the danger that this ungoverned hate represents. And because talking seems to be the only way some have to cope…or not cope but try to commiserate. 

I know its not healthy or helpful to pursue these dark thoughts. But it’s difficult to avoid them when it’s still so raw. It’s akin to the obsessive prodding of a sore tooth, or the scratching of a scab: it hurts and is not productive, but it keeps you conscious of the injury and is, in a way, comforting to feel something even if it’s pain. 

So here’s my tally of factors of un-safety: 8.  I’m a fat, Hispanic, gay, gender non-conforming, woman with mobility issues and unpopular opinions, who holds a position of corporate power over men. 

These are among the most prominent defining characteristics of who I am. They are important to me. And, under this administration of horrors, they number the ways in which I am wrong, misfit, rejected, and reviled. 

I’m sure that tally will increase over the course of the next four years. Because there’s no chance that any of these factors will diminish, but every chance that these hate mongers will find new reasons to hate the hated even more. 

Wounded 

Friends, I’m really struggling. It’s difficult to fully articulate the trouble I’m having. In a way, it boils down to a tension, a tug-o-war between what I’m feeling and what I hear from the community I should be feeling. I feel stretched, pulled in opposing directions, pushed into an emotional corner, and I don’t know how to react or deal with it all. 

Here’s the nut of it: All the rallying cries to not be afraid, not be cowed, not be intimidated, and all the righteously indignant declarations of fortitude and perseverance are stirring, glorious examples of the best possible mindset, the reactions to aspire to. But I am afraid. I am sad. I am outraged and angry. 

Yet, I am so weary. 

It feels as if I, in my safe Midwestern town and with my good fortune in job and home and family, have no right to be weary and hurt and afraid. It feels as if I, being so recently out and so remote from the cultural experience of those whose journey to authenticity included finding sanctuary and solace in the bars and clubs and associations of IRL LGBTQ community, am not permitted to feel grief at the hate constantly flung at this community, that I’m somehow an interloper to this communal outpouring of grief. It feels as if my grief and hurt and sadness and anger are regarded as false, as not counting, as a burden to an already burdened community. It feels as if my emotional reactions are a betrayal of the fight that went before me and a weakness in the face of the fight that lies ahead. 

Mind you, no one has said these exact words to me. But every “we will fight”, every “rise up and march”, every “we will not be silenced ” pierces my heart, indicting my feelings as cowardice. Because I currently cannot muster the courage and energy to raise my fist and voice in protest. I’m bruised, wounded. It feels like too much. It feels never ending. The hate and danger burn like fire. The fear and paralysis burn like ice. 

Yet I am, today, safe and whole. There are people in my daily life that love me. I have a home with comforts and necessities. I have an income that supports me and those I love. So how — I hear screamed at me by my inner saboteur and the faceless media — can you feel this overwhelm, this acute injury? 

I can say only that I feel it. Yes from the horror at the Orlando tragedy, but also from the constant, ubiquitous negativity that floods every media feed and story. The stress of political and social strife, of brutality and hate, of unkindness and inequality pervading the news and social interaction is at a peak. It seems hardly possible to go to any public place (physical or virtual) and not encounter some form of aggression, hate, unkindness, or discrimination. What you wear, who you love, where you come from, who you do/don’t worship, what you do for a living, what you think about issues trivial and momentous…all are reasons today for someone to hate, injure, or murder you. I wear at least six of those targets as a Hispanic fat gay non-binary FAAB lawyer every day. 

That kind of insecurity and instability naturally inspire fear and dread in my heart. My instincts scream for me to make myself safe from it all, to withdraw, be still and quiet, to avoid attention. Yet the community demands we risk those dangers and assert ourselves, put ourselves in the line of fire to preserve the future from these tragedies. 

This is right and good and noble. I cannot speak against that call to action. I would be a part of it. Yet, I still am afraid and isolated from the stronghold of the movement. What good is a fearful, timid soldier? How can a weak tool complete a task?

Only in the strength of many can the fearful become bold, the weak become strong. Room must be made for people to feel what they feel without derision, without guilt. In our rallying for tangible action, let’s not trample those who aren’t able to run at the same pace, or at all. 

Peace & love & light to you all. May you find strength, validation, support, and love in your community both physical and virtual. 🙏

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Corrosion by Hate

This sad and true story really resonated with me and got me to thinking about my own experience with racism, and the effect broader bigotry has in my life.

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Recently a friend on Twitter posted a wrenching note about a friend who had been excommunicated from her birth family because of who she had married. They disowned her, not because she married another woman, but because her chosen spouse is a black woman. My suspicion is that if she had chosen a black man, the result would have been the same. The issue is racism, not simply inequality.

I am, sadly, familiar with racism and it’s insidious, corrosive effect on a person’s sense of self-worth. As the child of a white woman and a Hispanic man growing up in an insular Rocky Mountain town in Wyoming, my family dealt with a low-grade racism as the ‘token’ Hispanics in a white middle-class neighborhood. We were always being reminded and made aware in myriad ways that we were second, less-than, in the eyes of the majority population surrounding us.

We also experienced a few very frightening and violent instances of overt, hate-mongering racism. In fact, my family moved from the South to the relative safety of the West because of threats on my father’s life for his presumption, as a “damned spic”, at marrying a white girl. Having faced angry mobs and hate-fueled individuals alike on several occasions, my dark-skinned father and brothers were always watchful of their surroundings and taught me at an early age to do the same.

But through it all, the six of us had each other. Never once was I afraid that my family would splinter over race. When my very dark-skinned brother married a truly white-skinned, red-headed Irish girl and her parents disowned her for it, my family welcomed her as our own, never looking back and never questioning that she belonged among us despite her ethnicity.

That open-hearted acceptance in the midst of exclusionary culture is commendable. I’m proud that my family has proven that racism is not among our failings.

That safety, solidity, reliability of the forever-bond of family has formed the foundation of my world view since infancy. Losing it would crush me. Clearly that surety was shattered for my friend’s friend. What a gut-wrenching tragedy.

Again, I count my blessings daily that racism is not a feature in my family life. But what about bigotry? Is it possible to be bigoted and not racist? Absolutely.

Racism is a specific form of bigotry, focused on the belief in the superiority of one race over others. Whereas bigotry is a more general term covering the persistent, often irrational, belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions or values (regardless of topic) over another’s or even all others’. So all racists are bigots, but not all bigots are racist.

Racism, all types of bigotry really, is corrosive to self-worth and family cohesion and societal bonds. This hate (because that is what racism and bigotry are, at bottom) will slowly eat away at the fabric holding any family together–the bonds of love and respect each member has for her fellows.

I’m afraid of the corrosion of hate. Afraid of its affect on my family (both blood and chosen), as well as its affect on our culture (whether local, national or global).

Because hate can be disguised to look and feel very much like tough love, selfless enforcement of moral strictures, or even ethical responsibility, people can convince themselves that practicing hate is actually doing the right thing.

This insidious infiltration of moral, cultural, political, even regulatory environments is the nightmare every minority population struggles against. At a macro level, we see the fight and, thankfully, we can see some significant strides being made toward equality. Twelve states in the US now have legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions, to name only one example of progress. Activist groups and individuals all over the world are making a difference for equality every day. For this I’m thankful.

But on a micro-level, a selfish level specific to my own life, the corrosion that hate brings is manifesting in ways I never expected, though maybe I should have. The hate I fear to face from my family and close friends is bigotry in the form of homophobia. It is corroding my confidence in myself, in my family’s steadfast bond of inclusion, in my friends’ acceptance of me as a person, in my employe r’s commitment to equality.

My fear and reluctance to come out of the closet is rooted in this corrosive hate. Sure, some of that fear is simply irrational. I admit that. But not all of it. The break-down of bonds between individuals that bigotry against homosexuality causes is all too real.

That uncertainty that leads to trepidation, hesitation is the rust, the corrosion that is caused by exposure to hate.

As with so many of my recent posts, I don’t have a nice, neat resolution to tie it all up in a bow. This is where I’m at mentally and emotionally: rusting at the joints from fear of bigoted hatred. But I’m not stagnant. Though I fear, I stubbornly refuse to quit. I’m making plans to move forward in my journey. My progress may be slowed by hate’s rust, but it’s not stopped. I’m learning to be my own solvent and sealer to rid the rust…just call me WD-40. 😉

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