I’m fascinated by people and I love food. I enjoy saying things that people think but would never speak. Here’s an example – every time I hear a reference to GLBT I immediately think of a BLT sandwich and I wonder what the G is supposed to be because I hate guacamole. For the moment I have settled on gruyere but I’m open to suggestions.
Part of my social privilege in this society is that I’m not aware of what people think of my sexual identity because frankly I don’t think anyone cares and I can’t imagine why they would. This is a problem only because as a heterosexual, able bodied, white male my perceived sexual identity is assumed to be normative while others are perceived as outside the norm and thus are seen as deviant or in some way less than. This of course is fear based ignorance and yet it is perpetuated knowingly and unknowingly in countless forms.
The part of my social privilege that I am uncomfortable with is that I forget things because they are outside of my experience/awareness/mindset. When I am paying attention, I will offer to walk a woman to her car at night. When I am not paying attention it does not occur to me that I walk out to my car in an unlit parking lot without ever having a passing thought of being sexually assaulted.
Because of my privilege and because I hate homophobia, I manage to forget that those who seek my services as a therapist or substance abuse counselor have to be concerned with whether or not I am homophobic or otherwise judgmental. It’s a rare person who will simply ask me whether I care to judge them for being gay. I even manage to forget that in most cases folks who identify as GLBTQ are coming to see me because someone else who identifies as GLBTQ told them the equivalent of, “yeah, Jim doesn’t judge people.”
In truth I do judge people – everyone does. I just have my own self righteous criteria. I judge racists, bigots, sexists, homophobes, zealots, and because I am somewhat ridiculous, I am intolerant of people who are intolerant.
Many of the people I love happen to be GLBTQ and while I honor what they claim as their identity and I am sensitive and supportive to their struggles because of how others judge, the truth is it’s just not otherwise important to me what their sexual identity is. I don’t have “gay friends” and I lose patience with having to explain to people the difference between having friends who happen to be gay and having “gay friends.”
Here’s the challenge for me – I am NOT complaining, I am hoping to have dialogue about this and to be of service. I can imagine nothing more condescending or patronizing than for me to publicly say some variation of, “Hi I’m Jim. I’m a clinical therapist and I am totally cool with gay people.” I’d sooner shoot myself in the head.
It’s useless for me to rant about how disgusted I am that many of my colleagues see fit to judge folks based on being GLBTQ. By no means am I saying that those who are oppressed have a responsibility to educate me. I am saying that I want to be part of the solution. I want to help create safe spaces for folks who identify as GLBTQ to get their needs met in mental health, couples/family counseling, addictions, and substance abuse and I have no idea how to engage that conversation with my colleagues and the communities I serve in a way that doesn’t make me want to hurt myself.
I know how to engage individuals, couples, and families. I don’t know how to engage communities. This blog is a lesson in communicating with people I’ve never met and it consistently connects me to very cool people. I’ve learned a hundred different times that rather than agonizing over my challenges I can share them and that when I do this, the Universe puts people in my path. I don’t know who you all are yet – but I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you. All feedback welcomed. – Jim