Tuesday, May 10, 2011
All Gay All Day
I am so fortunate that I get to do work where I am both allowed and expected to bring my sensibility, understanding and experiences as a lesbian to the work. I was reminded yesterday while I participated in a luncheon, panel and work session at the University of Oregon around LGBTQ issues in our public school system how many people are not yet out at work and how it can still be unsafe and unwise. The event was called UO TeachOUT leadership summit and it was dedicated to creating safe and inclusive work places for LGBTQ faculty and families in the k-12 education setting.
Yesterday evening, I attended a community briefing organized by Basic Rights Oregon on the marriage equality campaign that they have been so diligently organizing. While all of this work and social justice organizing is inspiring and important, it can also be a constant reminder of inequalities, unsafe communities, bigotry and other ugly realities. I can't pretend that everything is hunky dory, nor can I expect to do the work without outing myself and my family constantly. I am not alone, there are many others of us who do this--whether because we are lesbian or gay or transgendered, or as a member of some other oppressed minority. It can be both a gift and exhausting. The conversations are important, being out is important--but how many hetero people have to out themselves as straight every day? How many hetero people know that in outing themselves, they are also outing their partners and families?
I have an amazing partner. I know that when she chose me, she had no idea the extent or the realities of the life she was choosing. A few days ago, on Saturday, Teri and I drove up to Portland to attend yet another event--a crowded cocktail and schmoozey (as we like to call them) crammed full of other people who do various forms of social justice work. For someone who was uncomfortable with being out only a decade ago, Teri does an incredible job of making conversation and answering the "what brings you here?" question. I overheard her telling someone she'd just met about her painful coming out process, and then talking about the estrangement she feels from her childhood religion. I don't imagine this is cocktail conversation for the het set!
It is funny to me that people will still say things like "I'm fine with gays, I just don't want to know what they do behind closed doors." In truth, it is at home that I get to relax and just be a middle-age woman, I don't have to be THE lesbian and Teri and I don't have to be gay couple. It is behind closed doors that we get to just be two people--happy, content, ordinary and we can let down our guard a bit. It is out and about in the rest of the world that we have to be careful, diligent, aware and political. Being all gay every day can be pretty darn exhausting!