Today, for example, a friend posted a link to this blog post:
in which the author notes that she, as a fat woman, gets regularly harrassed by men as she runs or walks for exercise. Things that would make you want to take a bath, and maybe scour out your ears with a brillo pad. Really. Read it; I'm not repeating it here because I'll need another shower if I do.
My mom responds to the friend's post, saying that she regularly experiences people--again, mostly men--slowing down near her house, rolling down the windows, and shouting things like "f***in' dykes" at her, and presumably at her partner as well. Her partner happens to be a woman.
In the article above, the author notes that it really doesn't help much if, when you're trying to talk about the experience of, say, being rudely propositioned out of pity because you're such a fat c-word, to people you love and trust, or to your facebook friends, or whatever, to be told that "All men are not like that."
Of course all men are not like that. And all straight people are not like that. And all white people are not like that, either. But saying that does not mean it didn't happen, and does not mean it didn't make you feel dirty, or disgusting, or angry, or despairing. Having someone say "All men are not like that" distracts from the matter at hand: that some horrible excuse for a human being just made you feel like dirt.
And the harmonic convergence part hits close to home. Because it concerns people from my high school, from my town, and because they are people on my facebook friends list, this seems like both a twist of the knife and a trip back through time to when I was afraid to be myself.
One friend posted a link to a recent article and picture of Michael Sam, gay NFL draftee, making out with his boyfriend in celebration of being picked for a team. She wrote how happy the sweetness of this picture was making her. The other friend commented something along the lines of "It's just as sweet when a straight man kisses his girlfriend." Friend one--we'll call her Sue, because that's totally not her name--has deleted the post and so I don't know exactly what was said. Friend two, whose name is not Camille or anything resembling Camille, got offended when Sue took offense. They have now unfriended each other, and the first I knew about it was when Camille posted a rant on her page calling Sue by first and last name, stating she was a 'bitch', and saying that Sue had taken something she'd said 'wrong' and gone ballistic on her. She said in a comment that Sue got upset because 'I called gay people and straight people equal.'
And I totally missed the boat to comment on this behavior. I waited, uncomfortable, and by the time my response was well thought-out and complete, Camille's post was 24 hours cold and I don't want to go on there poking a dead horse and starting it up again. Apparently Camille and/or her friends and family have been inappropriately pursuing the matter and harrassing Sue (again, not something I can see, and therefore it is hearsay, but Sue is freaked out and scared).
So. The harmonic convergence bit, right? Here it is.
Camille is wrong. Not morally wrong--at least the point I want to focus on isn't about morality--but factually wrong. When she said that she called gay people and straight people equal? She didn't. Straight people don't, as a rule, worry about posting pictures of themselves kissing the people they love. While a nude photo of me having sex with my husband would get me banned online and probably fired from my church job (no picture like this exists, by the way--it is purely theoretical!), a picture of me smooching him at our wedding raises not one single eyebrow and garners the most 'likes' of anything I posted all last year. But my friends who are gay? Some of them don't, even now, dare to put a picture of their life partners on their desks at work. Because it is still legal in many places in the US to fire someone for being gay.
I'm going to say that again.
It is still possible to fire someone for being gay. In the US. Here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
So, when a man--who just a very very short time ago, days or weeks ago, would not have been allowed to play football because of the person he loves--gets to freely be himself and we all get to see him love someone and enjoy how sweet it is... this is in no way 'equal to' the picture of me smooching my hubby at our wedding. It is far and away, incredibly, sublimely more amazing and fantastic than my wedding picture! It is a celebration of brand new, life-affirming freedom, and it is wonderful! And if a straight person, who has never once had to worry that someone would discover her secret or fire her or harrass her or beat her up for being who she is, comes by and says, "Oh, but straight people are cute too!" she, whether intentionally or not, is kicking this wonderful, special moment in the teeth, saying, "You are not special! I'm going to normalize you so fast you won't even know what happened, because I can't let this special moment shine out. That would give credence to it and make it right."
Of course all men are not like that. As I quipped to the friend who posted that article way up there, if all men were like that our species would have died out long ago. But almost all women have the common experience of having been treated like a dirty, common, horrible thing by some man sometime in their lives--I mean, really, who among us hasn't been wolf-whistled at or propositioned from a moving car, or called fat, or called thin-and-therefore-bitchy... we've all been there. It makes us put on a hard shell and protect ourselves from harm. And when those who purport to be our allies refuse to recognize it, refuse to hear about it when it happens? That perpetuates it. When you dust it off with "All men are not like that," you're allowing it to go on. When you dust off the wonder of a gay man being allowed to freely kiss his love in public by pointing out that straight people have been doing that for years, you're stuffing gay people right back into the closet they've been fighting to escape.
So, Camille, I hold out little hope that anything I say will change your mind, but if you read this, and I've touched you at all, I hope you'll at least delete your nasty post with Sue's name in it. If you're really getting this, then think about why that picture made you so uncomfortable that you needed to make the comment you did. And maybe next time take a minute to listen, and put yourself in someone else's shoes. It might save a whole lot of high-school drama.