Thursday, September 6, 2012
Some Men Wear PINK
"Boys don't cross their legs like that." "Cooking is a girls job." "You run like a girl." "Boys don't play with dolls." "You whine like a sissy." " All male hairdressers are queer." "Most waiters are gay." "Flowers are for girls." "You hold your cigarette like a fag." "You walk like a gay dude." "Boys don't cry."
This is what I grew up hearing, these and so many more. I'm sure you could add to the list.. This was the neighborhood code of the day-- everyone in fear of being labeled a "fag."
Where did this shit come from and how does it affect me as a grown man of 54 years? I really haven't asked myself those questions before this year. But being exposed to Arise and Out Now, working on hate and homophobia, being in the presence of a large contingent of LGBTQ folks, holding the banner at the opening ceremonies of Springfield Pride week, applauding and standing in solidarity with my friends as the rainbow flag is raised, marching up State street in Springfield to protest a hateful-homophobic pastor that spreads hate through the community in the name of God. (Yes, Scott Lively) is changing how I think.
I must begin by saying that I have always considered myself a very open person, accepting of most folks and cultures. I thought myself a kid who grew up in the post 60's era of free love, peace and rock n roll (The early 70's). I was open to everything and loved being different. But as I look back, even then I was deeply affected by the code of society that dictated what was masculine and what was feminine. I didn't even realize how rigid I was.
About 7 years ago my youngest daughter called me and said "Dad, I need to come and see you. I have to talk to you about something. " Well, I panicked. A sickness? Some crisis? Maybe she was hurt in some way? I had no idea what was wrong. She came over and told me she was gay. She also said she knew I would be accepting, understanding and not judge her for her sexual preference What she didn't know was that her free-love post 60's, peace, love and rock n roll, father took a deep breath of fear when she disclosed to me. I knew how I was supposed to act, but I couldn't quite get my footing. After all, this is my daughter standing in front of me, telling me she is gay and her whole world is going to change and folks are going to not like her because she is gay, and she will lose jobs and people will discriminate against her, and GOD FORBID if she goes to the southern US, where she will be burned at the stake. I've seen what can happen to someone for just being different, but I kept my best poker face on. She left my house that day feeling that I fully understood and accepted her just as she was. And I do. But I worry. What that day taught me is that I have been tolerant of the gay community all of my life, but until that day, I don't think I fully accepted gay folks. They were different. 'They weren't my daughter!
A few days ago, I was cutting flowers for the vases. Arranging them just so. One of the guys came out and was watching me. I knew he was watching me. I straightened up a little, puffed chest- "What are ya doin?" he said. Almost by some instinctive, deeply ingrained masculine response, defiantly born of fear, I answered in deep manly bass tones, "Flowers are Fucking cool man"
Now my housemate said "What are you doin?" What I heard was a snaky-"Oh, look at that, are you playing with flowers girly-boy?" I immediately assumed a defensive posture. Defending my masculinity against the attack of the House Homosexual Patrol. (Real or Imagined). In my response to him I use the word FUCK several times and then invoked the term "My Ole Lady" Not once, or twice but three times, just to eliminate any lingering notion that I was not being masculine. Manley. Tough. Guy Shit. (disclaimer) BTW. I never use that term "My Ole Lady" I fact, I really detest those words.
I could almost hear "Flowers are for Girls" and "You whine like a sissy". I had an automatic fear driven response. Fear, learned long ago, deep lifelong lessons that go back generations. After I gathered the flowers and put them in the vase, I went to my room. I realize how pathetic I acted. I was somewhat sickened and ashamed. In getting some insight to where this shit comes from, I am now charged with understanding how it affects me and those around me. I do not believe this makes me dis-ingenious, on the contrary. I am more sensitive. Who fucking cares that I like flowers? And why does it affect me? I also like the color PINK. ALLOT! Can you see it? I come home in a pink shirt with a pink gym bag and begin to pick flowers for the boys. OMG! (Thanks for that Idea Holly)
But you see, that's what I want to do. All that. Without the fear. Without the judgement. Really! Ideally, I would come home in a nice pink shirt, because I like pink. And then pick a fabulous bouquet of fresh flowers and meticulously place them around the house. And not be looked at differently.And just as important, not feel as though I should be concerned with doing a "Feminine" task, as society and my roommates would view such an action.
There are a lot of issues going on here. Honestly, more than I really understand. Lots of questions.
How do I learn to overcome the lessons Ive unconsciously learned throughout my life? What is a helpful answer to those who would ridicule in such a manner? (Roommates, social situations, family, friends) Should I respond to comments with subtle sarcasm to engage the nefarious? Perhaps moral and ethical pleadings? Should I ignore being called a "Fag?" Do I take it as a challenge? Should I give them a testosterone-turbo slap? My earliest lessons tell me "Them There's Fightin Words" and "You Gonna Let em call you that?"
Well friends, for now I'm going to skip the pink leotard's and continue to pick those flowers for my housemates and me to enjoy. After all, Autumn is setting in, and the flowers are almost gone.
Til Next Year!