Feeling Low

Today isn’t really going very well so far, I gotta say. I’ve barely slept, Brody didn’t poo before I left this morning, I’m supposed to be doing a radio play tonight after work, but at the moment have zero cast confirmed so will likely have to push it to next week.

And I’m upset.

I think maybe hurt and/or angry is what I’m feeling most, but I’ll file it all under the umbrella term of “upset”. That’ll work for now.

I have a friend, who has a friend, and sometimes I look at their connection and think it’s closer to what I’m looking for in a friend. Not all friends; just one good one who I feel like I can trust and count on, and talk to about pretty much anything, if I want to. The connection they share isn’t quite what I’m looking for, either, but it seems closer than anything I’ve got going on myself. From the outside, at least.

Anyway, my friend mentioned her friend’s name during the conversation, and I commented on how her friend was a good friend for her. She responded that I am, too…which is great, but we weren’t talking about me. Then she said that they have being single and straight in common, and to me that felt like a punch in the face. It’s not the first time I’ve been singled out for not being straight, but again – we were not talking about me.

I mentioned that a comment like that would seem to disregard the connection they have, as they have way more in common than that. What I didn’t add is that, to me, those two things are very surface and/or inconsequential factors upon which to base a friendship. I don’t really look for people who are single and not straight to be my friends. I choose people I like – as people. Not relationship status or sexual orientation. I get that it was just an off-handed comment meant in jest, but it bothered me a lot. Still bothers me now, obviously.

Once again, I feel set apart, and for something that has as little to do with my ability to be a friend as I have control over it. Sorry I’m not straight enough to fit in, I guess? Only I’m not really sorry. From what I can tell, in general, men connect with other men on a different level than they do with women, and likewise women connect more deeply with one another on an emotional level than they do with men. When they aren’t trying to compete with one another, of course. But the potential is always there, so that’s what I’m referring to.

So in that sense, I feel kind of sorry for straight people, as they won’t ever know or truly understand that level of intensity and complete intimacy that comes with same sex relationships. Theirs will always be a little off balance. Though on the flip side, they also won’t know how it feels to never really have your relationships be socially acceptable and “normal” (ie not stared at nor commented upon). Nor will they know the shame and humiliation that comes from having a homeless guy yell “shut up dyke” and then spit at you as you walk by with a friend, for example. You know – there’s a trade-off.

What has actually upset me about an innocent little comment? I’m not sure. When I was getting ready for work this morning I texted that being single probably felt much the same no matter what your orientation was. If love is love, then no love probably feels similar regardless of who’s not loving you. She responded that she hadn’t intended to make it sound different.

And that’s the thing. Obviously she didn’t intend to hurt or anger or umbrella upset me with it – and yet it did those things, anyway. I guess one thing, aside from setting me apart as different yet again, is that it seemed to not only diminish their connection, but to also suggest that ours is even less than that, because we don’t even have straightness in common. That sexual orientation came up as a factor even in jest…bothered me. Maybe because I don’t really think about it anymore. It kind of shocked me, I guess, that she apparently does; that she sees it as a difference between us even if I don’t. And worse, that she might even see it as a difference that makes me less-than when compared to her straight friends.

Now, don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of love coming at me from this person, and while I struggle to figure out where I stand and whether or not I’m pulling my weight in this particular friendship, this also isn’t the first time a comment has been made which sets me apart from the others due solely to my perceived sexual orientation. I think this is just the first time it’s really bothered me.

Maybe it’s just because I view their connection as stronger than ours already, or more valuable to her than ours, and that I wish she and I were closer than we are. So when it’s pointed out that they are both single and straight, and that’s two of the things they have in common (and the only two mentioned) – like, I’m single, too. For coming up on 8 years now. But I’m not as straight as they are, so it came across to me as one of the main differences between us – and one of the main reasons why my connection with her isn’t as strong, nor as valuable, and why we are not closer than we are.

And fortunately or unfortunately, it’s not really something I can fix.

So while I understand that the vast majority of the above is all in my head, it doesn’t make much difference in how low I feel today as a result. Reality is subjective, after all, so knowing none of it is intended to make me feel this way…doesn’t mean I don’t still feel it.

Search For Equality

Had a chat recently with  a friend about the experience of being a woman in a man’s world.  About being anything other than a straight white guy, really.  Although there are a billion differences between people, there does seem to be at least one similarity that both unites and divides us – the inability to express this experience in a way that will be understood:  without emotion.

I’ve tried writing about this before, and likely will again.  I feel like it’s something that most people either try to discuss, or pay lip service to, but it’s been so entrenched in our global culture that I’m not even sure how aware any of us are of our own responsibility in perpetuating it.

The thing is, I’m not sure there’s really a way to change it.  Not really.  Even if it were possible to do, it would take unfathomable effort on everyone’s part, and continuous effort at that.  And who wants to do that?  We’re comfortable.  We’re mostly comfortable.  It’s much easier to accept the status quo than it is to demand change – especially with no plan or idea of what it would look like – and then have to live up to that change.  Take responsibility for it.  Own it, the change we brought about in the world.  Do we want equality – true equality – enough to battle that hard for it?  For the rest of our lives, and expect the generations that follow to fight for it, as well?

What if we take a step forward, and fail?  Would that prove that whoever put straight white guys in charge of running the world right in having done so?  Isn’t it easier to just let them make all the mistakes, instead?  Besides the fact that we can’t even talk about any of it without getting upset and sounding like fanatics.  I can almost feel the eyes rolling as I write this.

Here’s the thing:  I’m not a feminist.  At all.  Nor am I a…humanist, or whatever it’s called when someone feels all people should be treated equally.  I don’t even really like people. If we lump all other species into it…all life…then that is closer to what I am.  Whatever -ist or -ism that ends up being.  Maybe there isn’t a word for what I am.  Maybe there isn’t language for what I want to express.  Maybe there is just the sense – the unshakeable certainty – that something is very wrong.  That our balance is way, way off.

From the treatment of and language surrounding women in politics, to the awards show fiascos of late, to…why is breast-feeding a thing?  Haven’t people been breast-feeding since, like, there were people in existence?  How is it even remotely an issue?  There are far more behaviours that people should be ashamed to perform in public beyond feeding a kid.  Like urinating and spitting.  If guys in particular could control their need to spew their bodily fluids all over the place, we’d all be much healthier.  But that’s another conversation.

When I was practice teaching, I did a unit on discrimination and the like, and there was one class – a group of amazing Grade 7’s I adored – that I had the most powerful experience with.  Or ‘with whom I shared the most powerful experience’.  Whatever.

Anyway, I started a class discussion about the topic, without telling them that I would actually be discriminating against some of them based on some completely superficial element of their physical appearance.  I think in that particular case I chose children with blond/light-coloured hair.  Most of the class and I had a lively conversation, while I ignored the kids I was “biased” against.  I watched their eager little faces change to various expressions of frustration, sadness, confusion, hurt and anger.

It sucked.  But it made a pretty powerful example for our topic.  I let them (and myself) off the hook after a few minutes, because scarring the poor kiddos was not my intent.  Together, we sorted out where I’d chosen to place my bias, and even then, some kids railed against it.  “My hair is BROWN, it just looks blonder in this light!”

Sadly, however, it’s my perception that matters.  It doesn’t have to make sense, and it’s not something I need to explain.  If some quality about you fits my undefined biases, then I shall discriminate against you.  I don’t even need to know why.

That’s how discrimination works.

Now, it wasn’t a perfect example, to be sure.  I was acting differently with them than I ever had before – interacting differently with them.  Some who had been used to receiving my attention suddenly found they weren’t, whereas if I was truly discriminating, I would have been ignoring them the whole time.

As well, I hated doing it.  Of course I have ridiculous biases of my own – some I am aware of and some I’m sure I haven’t even noticed yet.  But since this was a careful decision I made on my own – a choice – knowing I was potentially hurting feelings and causing all of those other emotions – WATCHING the effect my behaviour was having on people I actually liked – was truly one of those “this hurts me more than it hurts you” things.  At least, I hope it was.  I guess I’ll never really know for sure, but things did seem better once all the cards were on the table.  The playing field had been levelled, at least as much as it ever was, and we moved forward together with new insight.

There’s an impossible amount of history to sift through, and no simple bandaid solution will suffice.  Yet, maybe there isn’t a way to fix it at all.  We can say children are the future, and that things will improve bit by bit with each generation, but I think that’s problematic and lacks a certain…taking of responsibility.  We all carry with us the effects of our upbringing, of our understanding of the world based on the experiences gained throughout our lives.  Each generation is, in many ways, a product of the generations that came before.  None of us exists in a vacuum.  In that sense, children are also the past.

And we can’t change the past.  We have very limited effect on the future.  So all we really have to impact is the present.

I have no real idea how to do that.

But I’m trying.  I’m trying to find words to express myself, my truth, my outrage, my hurt, my joy, my love – my heart, my mind, my soul.  There will be many times when it’s so clouded with emotion and a myriad of conflicting thoughts that it won’t make a lick of sense, even to me.  This post itself is all over the place.  It’s not the first such post, and it won’t be the last.

And that’s okay.  That’s what struggle looks like.  And so long as I continue to fight to find my voice, there is hope of finally gaining that sense of equality I’ve been looking for.

Because in the end, the beginning has to come from me.