I started to make a comment in reference to a book that I and some of my friends are studying in a course. The manner of studying the course requires people to partner. Some definite tensions had developed between me and a straight person I chose to partner with for this course. We started studying the course together. I, feeling that it might be more effective for us to partner up with other people to continue our studies and drills, started to reference a quote in the book where it talks about married couples who are quarrelling would be better off not to work with each other. I was going to draw the parallel to our specific situation but never got the chance.
As soon as the words “married couple” came out of my mouth, she went ballistic. “Don’t you ever talk about ‘married couple’ in relation to me. You’re a LESBIAN.”
“Oooo,” I sniped back, abandoning everything I've ever learned about effective 2-way communication, “Touched a hot button, did we?” (Of course that was pretty immature. But then moments where you are trying to get the upper hand on someone instead of really achieve an understanding, are generally immature, bordering on downright stupid.)
Needless to say things deteriorated into a trade of insults, including my informing her that if she were the last woman on earth I wouldn’t be interested.
So much for maintaining dignity and diplomacy. I felt superior at the moment, realizing I had uncovered somebody’s deep down paranoia. “That’s your interpretation," she responded.
She had tried to come back almost immediately in a much softer tone, apologizing. But the truth was out. I really wasn’t interested at the moment in her attempts to lessen her initial outburst. As far as I was concerned she was just attempting to cover her own a-- and basically deny what had just taken place.
So for a few hours it was “all about her.” Then I realized that I was feeling down and I was experiencing tears welling up – and had to ask myself, “Why?” Had I allowed the shot in? Was I harboring some latent, underlying guilt or self-image problem? I’m a pretty openly out person. This wasn’t the first time I had encountered this woman’s prejudice. So why was I feeling sad?
Fortunately the training I’m taking at the moment helped me to recognize that I was sliding down an emotional scale at the prompting of this incident, and I was able to become the “Observer” guiding myself through to a healthier conclusion, as well as a higher, more productive place on the emotional scale.
Still, I wonder about what prompted the slide? What was the sadness I felt? I’ve never really understood prejudice. Oh, I mean I understand that it’s ignorance in action, but the fundamental “Why?” behind it has always been a mystery to me. It doesn’t matter which prejudice we’re talking about – I was born in 1950 and I never understood prejudice against Afro-Americans, or Asian-Americans, or even the dreaded Russians we were taught to fear and hate as the silent enemy lurking just beyond the shores waiting to destroy us. Whenever I’ve witnessed it in action, I’ve felt a sadness.
I know people fear, and often kill what they don’t understand. Kill it. Make it bad. Make it wrong. Eliminate it. “They’re different. We’re okay – they’re not.” “Don’t let anybody see you with them, or hear you talk good about them or they’ll think you’re one of them.” The ignorance goes on and on.
I’ve dedicated my life to organizations that celebrate ALL PEOPLES. I’ve marched for respecting Diversity, honoring Choices, and Dignity for ALL. I know that prejudice and ignorance are still abundant. Yet when it hits in an intimate place in my life, I’m still caught off-guard.
Maybe some of you will think that’s naïve – maybe even stupid. But I know that if I hold the highest ideal for something or someone, I help create that reality. I’ve learned to create my life. Not sure what I created in that encounter. I’ll have to look a little deeper inside to see…
©2008 Deborah Adler. All rights reserved.
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