How I Learned to Love the Bomb…or, Why I Stopped Being Angry and Started Living Life
Ninjas are much cooler than pirates.
Pirates are all there and in your face…you can look at them a mile away and say “Hey, that’s a pirate! Better stay away!” I mean, he could be the nicest pirate in the world, but you’d never know because you’re not going to let him get close enough.
On the other hand, ninjas sneak up on you. You don’t know about the ninja until he pops up and is all “Hey, I’m a ninja!” Could be a good ninja, could be a bad ninja…who knows…But most of the time he’s been there all along, lurking.
Sometimes I come home on trash days and our trash can has already been pulled up from the curb. It’s our next door neighbor, trying to be nice. He’s about 60 and very clearly retired military – still has the haircut and everything. Lee says he was in the Air Force – she talks to him more than I do because she’s home more.
I wonder sometimes what he thinks about us. I mean, I doubt the realtor said to him before he bought the house “Hey, there are a couple of mixed race lesbians living next to you. Don’t worry, though, I don’t think they’ll bring down your property value.” Still, I sincerely doubt he’s had much contact with “people like us” – we don’t tend to exist on military bases.
His name is Max. He says “hi” whenever he sees us. His grandchildren like our dog.
I’m sure some part of him says “there goes those lesbians again…” But mostly I think he thinks “Oh, it’s Kim and Lee.” The ‘lesbian’ part kind of gets subsumed.
We’re pretty much like the rest of the neighbors. We don’t have loud parties, and there are no lesbian orgies on our front lawn. We go to work, come home, walk our dog, and generally don’t bother anyone. So, other than being a slight oddity, I don’t think most of our neighbors are disturbed by us.
In college, I went through my big “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” phase. My car had more bumper stickers than paint on it, and I ran out of space on my bookbag for all my queer pride pins. I was the president of the LGBA
, ran the huge annual conference, and ended up on local TV more than a few times. I spent a lot of time being angry, and wrote a whole lot of poetry
about how angry I was.
I don’t get angry like that any more. Being angry is tiring, draining. And what good does it do, really? What am I going to change by being angry that Jesse Helms is a bigot? What major policy am I going to affect by getting ired at the various DOMAs that are being passed at the state and national level?
Think globally, act locally. I *do* get angry about those things. The difference between by near-30-year-old self and my 20-year-old self is that I think you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
I may not be able to change the world, but maybe I can change a few people’s minds, simply by being here.
The master’s tools may never tear down the master’s house, but if you take away the tools, eventually the house falls down from disrepair. Maybe there are some KKK-style bigots in my neighborhood. Hell, I have no doubt that there are some at work. But as long as they’re not actively trying to bring down me and mine? Fuck ‘em. All I can do is live my life, the best way I know how and hope that maybe, just maybe, they’ll come to see me (and my wife) as more or less just like them, except we happen-to-be-gay.
This is a major identity shift. This is not “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” This is “we’re here, we’re here, sure you can borrow my lawnmower, we’re here, we’re here, your grandchildren are adorable!, we’re here, we’re here, yeah I hate Bush too, we’re we’re here…oh you didn’t know we were queer? Well, we’re still here.”
Kill ‘em with normalcy. Don’t allow them to create artificial differences and divides so that they can solidly place us as “other.” Instead, be just…like…them… Only gay.
Now, some people are going to read this and call me an apologist, or accuse me of identifying with the oppressor. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. But I’m tired of being angry, and you can’t get blood from a stone.
One of the hardest things to learn in my line of work is the concept of psychological triage. This is the notion that you only have just so many resources, and some people are beyond your help, or else have so little chance of making meaningful change that they’re just not worth your time and effort. Ours is a helping profession, and having to acknowledge that you can’t “fix” everyone is a difficult task, and particularly dissonant to a new therapist.
People who have been in my job for more than a few years often get accused of being “jaded.” We’re not jaded, we’re realists. We’ve been burned a few times by people we’ve tried to help and have finally accepted that psychological triage is not only valuable, but necessary. You have to pick and choose your battles, and focus your energy on those battles you think you might actually be able to win.
The diehard bigots? Are still going to be bigots, regardless of what you do. But the on-the-fencers? Show them that you’re not a sex-crazed freak (well, no more so than anyone else), and they may even learn to see you as a human being. The only people that “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” convinces is other queers. Sad, but true.
This doesn’t mean that you go around hiding that you’re queer. This means that you make it a non-issue. Don’t go out of your way to publicize that you’re queer. Just take it for granted. And the more *you*
take it for granted, the more others will, too. Playing the pronoun game isn’t a cop out, and it isn’t a way to hide. It’s a tool for transformation from “other” into “normal.” Don’t allow others to connotate your relationships by making assumptions based on gender.
Despite your lack of overt queerness, eventually, your co-workers, neighbors, etc. will have the “ah ha”
moment and realize that “them there’s a bunch of queers!” At which point they’re going to have to really stop and think. If they knew you and liked you when you were “just one of them,” is the fact that you’re queer going to automatically turn it into a hate fest? You, by having employed the “here, here, here…oh yeah, and queer” tactic are going to force them to challenge a lot more of your assumptions than if you had been using the “I’m here, I’m queer, get used to it” mentality.
I hear the screaming of the masses saying “But we shouldn’t *have*
to hide.” You know what? You’re right. And you’re also shit out of luck. As Lee would say, “Two tears in a bucket, fuck it.”
We have to work with what is
, not with what should be
. And what is
is that homosexuality makes a lot of people uncomfortable.Laws aren’t going to change people’s attitudes.
You can pass all the gay rights laws you want, and the country is still going to be full of bigots. Why? Because while you can legislate behavior, you can’t legislate beliefs.
We’ve seen how well trying to legislate beliefs worked with civil rights laws. We have tons of laws, and yet discrimination and racism are still both institutional and individual phenomenon, which don’t show any signs of going away any time soon.
I didn’t want to write this essay, because I hate confrontation. And I think some of this is going to make people angry. Ok, great, be angry. But my question to you is, what are you doing with your anger? What purpose does your anger serve? Because if you aren’t doing anything with it, you’re wasting your energy.
For me? I'm just going to live my life, the best way I know how. And that means I'm done being angry.
I'm a ninja, not a pirate. And I'm okay with that.