Bitter Activism

Since half of what I think and write about has to do with changing hearts and minds in the interest of equality, one would think I'd be better at socializing with "the enemy", so to speak. Unfortunately this isn't really the case. I have internalized my reading about hierarchies of gender and sexuality as well as my own experiences with oppression to the point that I have really isolated myself from others in the interest of self-preservation. Basically, I have a lot of opinions but I'm afraid to express them to potential challengers out of fear that they won't accept me because I'm not status quo.

Now as I'm reading a lot of what I just wrote, I realize how much of it seems so ridiculous: "the enemy" is not always intentionally oppressive and may want to have challenging dialogue, they may be more like you and I than one might think, they may have perspectives that can successfully challenge our own... and further, we need to confront people in order to work out differences and create change.

I think a lot of these issues center around fear and group identities. It may be wrong to have a brief exchange with someone and assume they are oppressively status quo, but when you have a history of discrimination that you bring to the table, those experiences may be layered with anxiety. For me, when I meet guys of Western, cowboy stature that give off a hypermaculine aura, I read hegemony and kick in my avoidance engine. I don't engage, I might be shy or demeaning or obnoxious, I assume the worst and imagine all those assbag dudes that have made my life a living hell in the past.

Then I moved to New York City and met a new breed of straight dude. The super gay-friendly straight guy occupies a powerful place in Manhattan and New Jersey, and it's growing rapidly. At first I wrote most them off in the fearful way that I do, but then I got to know them and hear their stories; I learned how they successfully negotiated their straight male masculinity growing up with gay men in such way that what once were effeminizing forces are now close friends.

I think it's unproductive to burrow ourselves into little activist pockets where we all think alike, but I also acknowledge the psychological effects histories of discrimination can have on individuals as they go out and take on the world.

A friend of mine once told me that coming out is a lifelong process. When you are not among the status quo, perhaps we must learn to build a thick enough skin to coexist in challenging circumstances. But we can't expect ourselves to do this without a safety net. Some of us just can't emotionally afford to experience again the tougher falls we've had in our lives without coming home to people who love us and understand us. And I think that's okay.

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