Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Your discomfort is your problem.

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.   

“I’m uncomfortable” is being added to the list of many many many many phrases that cause me grey hairs.

You know how it goes. “I don’t hate gay people, they just make me uncomfortable..” “I’m not a homophobe, but when you kiss…” “I totally support gay rights, but you guys freak me out..”

And it’s not their fault precious! They’re just UNCOMFORTABLE. Can’t we understand that and just make allowances and give them some space? Can’t we just understand that it’s not hatred – it’s just how he was raised/what he believes/his age/his discomfort!

One of the many wonderful (please baste this word liberally with sarcasm) experiences to come out of these past holidays is a nice prolonged visit with Beloved’s parents (who I would call my in-laws but I expect doing so would cause much confusion and spluttering from them). I always feel off complaining about Beloved’s parents because they are, I have to admit, so much less problematic than my own mess of a family. I feel vaguely like I’m setting myself up for an argument when I’m already on the losing side – and since in arguments with beloved I Always win and am Always right (it is known).

But beloved’s parents are horrendously discomforted by me. At one point, I praised them mightily. I mean there was his dad, temple vein throbbing, face flushing, fists clenching just desperate, desperate to  tell me to get my filthy f@ggot self out of his house and keep my perverted hands off his son – but holding it in, locking his jaw and forcing those polite words out while his inner homophobe burst a blood vessel.  I praised this herculean effort back then. 10 years later and he’s still chewing on his anger and Beloved’s mother is still speaking to me like I’m the tax inspector come round for a surprise audit and it’s getting tiresome.


I have a newish colleague at work. Technically he’s been around for several months now, filling the important role of being one of the senior partner’s nephew (what? I can’t figure out why else we were suddenly hiring). And I’ve hardly ever seen him which is extremely unusual in our firm. Now why? Well, he’s uncomfortable around gay guys and since I refuse to tip-toe around him for the sake of his precious uncomfortable fee-fees. I now have to work round a colleague who I am being actively separated from for the sake of his discomfort.  This is not the most productive working strategy. I wonder if he has been instructed to hide behind the coffee maker should we both get a cup of sweet sweet coffee at the same time? Or will he just run to the supply cupboard and cower behind the paper mountains?

It’s the excuse Ron Paul’s apologist used for why he didn’t use a gay man’s bathroom (really, man? Really?) He was uncomfortable. It’s his generation.

It’s the excuse continually used to force us back into the closet to spare the precious straight folks the discomfort of our existence. It’s why we “shouldn’t”  come out in sports/at school/at work/anywhere and why we should tolerate homophobia when we do.

And like any other kind of homophobia, it’s not excusable or justifiable. So stop – stop the excuses. Stop, each excuse makes it worse.

And don’t give me the “I can’t help it” crap. You can help how you treat people. You can respect my humanity. You respect a dozen other people every day, you are perfectly capable of respecting me

And don’t give me the “I’m trying”  excuse – don’t try, do. The fact you have to try – and it’s so hard you’re failing – to respect me as a person rather than a walking manifestation of ick doesn’t make me more kindly inclined.

And don’t give me the ignorance excuse – you don’t need information to know that treating people like they’re a dog that just rolled in shit is ok.

And while we’re on the subject –  no, I’m not doing anything to deliberately make you uncomfortable. Get over yourselves already. Seriously, how self-absorbed do you have to be? Amazingly enough, I do not live to make homophobes uncomfortable – that is merely a happy side effect. I am not using you as a guinea pig until I can find the exact combination of gayness to make Rick Santorum’s head explode. I am not testing to see how much discomfort I need to generate to drive the pope into hiding. I am living my life – which, shocking though this may seem – is not about straight people.

I didn’t correct your reference to my wife because I wanted to make you uncomfortable – I corrected your assumption. Because, really, how awkward would it have gotten if you kept talking about

My picture of Beloved isn’t some kind of statement – it’s a picture.

My objecting to your language is not me trying to make you feel bad, it’s my reacting to being offended.

Ultimately - if I make you uncomfortable by being gay, you’re a homophobe. Deal with it. I shouldn’t have to.