Yesterday, while thinking of suggestions for a point of view writing exercise at the Grit Uplifted writer’s group, a suggestion came to mind which I offered for consideration. The situation I suggested was from a real life experience where I, as a security guard, had entered a gay bath house in Toronto to buy coffee and snacks from their snack bar. My partner, who was connected to me by radio from the site where we worked, began to say some nasty and derogatory things about gays which everyone near me at that moment was able to hear. I turned my radio off quickly and then had to deal with a very embarrassing situation. The point of the exercise we were doing was to write from a point of view. It occurred to me at that moment that there was only one point of view I could have chosen to write about in that experience – my own.
I have never spoken to anyone who I knew was gay about how they feel when faced with those kinds of comments. Do they feel hostility, do they feel embarrassed, hurt, self conscious, any or all of the above? Generally, because of my own experiences growing up and the conviction that it is wrong to make anyone feel that way about themselves, I tend to empathize with anyone who is made to feel embarrassment or self consciousness about their person regardless of the reason. Yet, here was a large group of people that I had never even considered from a sympathetic or empathetic point of view. It is not a question of understanding what it is to be gay; as a heterosexual I doubt I would really grasp that. It is a more important question of the psychological impact of bigotry. How do I, as a caring, adult man, explain never once considering the impact of my, or others‘, words and attitudes on people whose only offense, as far as I can honestly tell, seems to be that they would like to live, love and be a part of society with the same rights, freedoms and respect afforded to everyone else?
At the writing group I chose another topic to write about and not this experience. But what I took away from the exercise is that simply by not caring enough to ever think about it, I am as big a part of the problem as those who actively discriminate. I am thinking about it now though. Hopefully that will change my point of view in the future.