Sunday, October 10, 2010

Response to "Is that HATRED in Your Pocket... Or Are You Just MAD to See Me?", at Confessions of a Valet Boy

Dear Mr. Valet Boy,

Once, a few decades ago, you, Mr. Hampton, and I shared the same spot in the space/time continuum for a while. At that time, I'm pretty sure I was the most naive of the three of us. It was Los Angeles, it was theatre, and statistically, it was clearly populated with people who were gay.

We can, all three of us, think of many individuals we knew, I'm sure, who were gay. But was anyone "out"? Hardly. I thought I was in love with three of them, no wait -- four, oh hell, probably even more. Yep, it took years for me to understand consciously the joy of being friends with gay men, and all the extraordinarily wonderful qualities these friends had (once I got over their disinterest in going farther with me), that absolutely drew me to them. Fortunately, I can now say that some of those friendships have lasted decades.

And then there were the women. Yep, many of them were trickier to identify -- but what I did see, often, was simply young women who courageously opened doors, who refused to be told they couldn't take a drafting class instead of sewing, who wore slacks under their graduation robes, who engaged ferociously in life because they weren't defined by male approval.

They certainly wouldn’t have let the high school chemistry teacher get away with making sure the few girls in his class failed, with constant reminders that we didn’t belong there, denying assistance, and pop-testing (me) on material he knew I’d missed, taking me, an outstanding math student, down -- from a B+ to a final grade of D-, one point above complete failure – ultimately directing me away from a university education, a degree, and undoubtedly a life of greater financial security. But that bullying teacher was satisfied; his world of dominance was maintained, for a time. Until more of these women stood up.

Damn right. A lot of the strength of the Women’s Movement came from women like these – lesbians –  who weren’t waiting for permission to be heard.

Yet, we also – all three of us – knew individuals who were gay before it could easily be acknowledged, who needed to arm themselves (or punish themselves) for their differences – with masks of intense makeup, liquor, pills, destructive relationships, even suicide – because they lived in a world in which they couldn’t be honest, not even with their close friends. And all of this. . . affected all of us.

For we are a community of interconnected beings. And we all have an affect on each other.

When a person fails to thrive, we all lose out.

And, boy oh boy, girl oh girl, have we, the population of this world, lost out by allowing the arrogance of heterosexuality define. . . ANYTHING!!!

Right now, we know, without a doubt, that we are missing out on one voice, the voice of a violin, soaring, blazing into our souls - the sound that Tyler Clementi was bringing to the world - one that would have changed those who heard, one that would have led others to also bring their voices into the fray.

It is no minor loss – the passing of a violinist!  You see, perhaps the most effective teacher who ever lived was a simple Japanese man who heard a violin, sought one out to see if he could recreate what he had heard, found his voice, and believed that all children could do the same.  Dr. Shinichi Suzuki thus taught teachers who went on to teach many teachers, who have taught hundreds of thousands, making the violin, and in time, many instruments, Voices of Peace – for this one Japanese man, maturing in Germany, knew the importance of consciously raising children with "Noble Hearts" (inspired by great music and diligent study), Nurtured by Love -- he knew these children would grow up to achieve better things than war.

So, what could Tyler Clementi have brought to the human community?

And what about those we don’t even know about? Those whose talents and offerings were squashed before they could be expressed, cut short before they’d found their stride, dropped before they’d dared to speak.

There is a powerful teaching which has as one of its tenants, “Above all else I am determined to see things differently.” (Note: This is actually also a healthier explanation of the “turn the other cheek” metaphor – seeking another angle to see from -- rather than offering up greater victimhood.)

That is what I believe – that where there is a problem, the solution is in SEEING THINGS DIFFERENTLY.

So, if that is true, then wouldn’t those who see things differently be our greatest healers?

Therefore, in allowing the arrogance of heterosexuality to bully down/away the ‘others’ – have we spent centuries de-voicing our greatest hope?

Is this the foolish downfall of humanity? In our unwillingness to embrace what is different than the majority, in our actions and words being tied to our own fears of being rejected the way we reject others – we, as a community of people living on this earth - do not thrive.

We know that is true.

And it only changes as we speak up and declare our dedication to an inclusive, whole community, one in which we actively see differently – and so we nurture, listen, respect, and continue to speak boldly of what this brings us.

That is how we thrive.

And that is how we honor those whose voices have been silenced.

Thank you, Valet Boy, for picking up the luggage and making me walk alongside you and Roger.

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