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Monday, May 16, 2011

Humor, Fear and Activism

Living outside the made-up or perceived norms can be a bit scary.  I don't really think about my own lack of protection on a regular basis but every once in a while, I am reminded that safety is not a given.  I read a news article about someone who has been the victim of violence, or find out about some hate graffiti or other activity and I am reminded how unsettling living in even the "safest" cities and towns can be for those who are not white, not straight and not shrouded in privilege.

There are an awful lot of people who get to pretend that everything is alright.  There are an awful lot of people who haven't experienced the gift of getting to see life through the eyes of the non-privileged.  And, yes, to some extent I think it is a gift.

With the fear and lack of safety, I think the Universe gives us some other coping skills--courage, activism, and humor, to name a few.  I can tell you that I have not met a gay person or another minority soul who doesn't have a pretty decent sense of humor around oppression issues.  This doesn't mean that we think they are funny, it means that we can find humor in some of the ignorant, outlandishly racist, or overwhelmingly bigoted things that might go down.  We also can poke fun at some of that silly oppression stuff from the inside (as in Teri and I standing along side the dancing "fruit stand" sign on a recent trip up the Columbia Gorge with our good friends (two gay men we call the Boys.)

The courage to be out, to stand up, and to work as an activist does not always go hand-in-hand with minority oppression (I sure wish they did!) but they are some of the best and most bitter-sweet coping skills I know of.  Being active--whether as a volunteer, an organizer or activist, or simply as a person who refuses to stand idly by gives us a way to participate in trying to fix the problems and right the wrongs that others create with their hate, fear and ignorance.  It gives us a way to try to create a better world for those who may come after us just as our ancestors worked to make it possible for us to live as we do.

The other day, I had a fantastic work meeting with another local activist--a black woman who happens to be in her sixties.  As we were chatting and I said something about being an out lesbian, she grinned and said: "I didn't know you were a lesbian--that makes you so much more interesting!" I chuckled and told her that when she'd called me on the phone, I hadn't realized she was black and that little fact made her much more interesting as well.  I think we were both acknowledging that the differences are a gift, being able to move outside the perceived norm can also be a powerful place to maneuver.  My gayness does not completely negate the white privilege I wear because of my skin color in the U.S., but it does give me and others like me a different perspective--one tinged with fear, humor and courage.

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