A letter to Pam Wilkinson…

You don’t know me and, with any luck, you will never know me. I was the confused teenager going through high school in the 1980’s. No one raised a rainbow flag back then.  What we raised for was religion. We still were standing for the Lord’s Prayer. Too bad for the kids who weren’t Christian but it wasn’t an option to avoid. We could stand in the hall but we were still standing for the prayer no matter where we went. And there was a teacher in the hall to make sure of that. I bet you loved those days.

My classmates all grew up with Three’s Company and Jack’s over the top pretending of being gay. Being gay was a joke… when it wasn’t simply disgusting. Fellow classmates and even some of the teachers talked about driving into the gay section of Toronto just to throw rocks at people on the side walk. It was fun, they said. I hardly thought it was fun for the people getting pelted by stones but they didn’t matter. This was the 80’s.

I don’t have fond memories of school in the 80’s.

I started having suicidal ideation in high school, strong urges to jump over the railings in our local mall, strong enough that I walked by the wall at all times, just in case. I pushed those thoughts away, just like I pushed away any romantic thoughts about girls. I was already being teased, I wasn’t going to be a joke too. Those weren’t my thoughts, they were an aberration.

Sexual education was strictly cisgender and heterosexual. We learned how to make babies and the names of the genitals. Thanks to that education, I learned that what I was feeling was wrong. I didn’t know my own sexual orientation until I was in my mid 40’s. And I certainly never saw a rainbow flag until I was an adult with children of my own.

You were interviewed in an article claiming the rainbow flag is a wall. I disagree. The wall in my school years was built with ignorance, hatred, and ridicule and it kept me from learning who I was for decades. The rainbow flag is a bridge and a sign of community and hope. Countless faith groups support it, it’s not anti-Christian.

The sad part is you have taught your own daughter hatred. The part of the song you disagree with? The song that was played at flag raising?

If you preach hate at the service/those words aren’t anointed/and that holy water that you soak in, is poisoned.”

It’s not anti-Christianity, it’s anti-hatred. He’s saying that hate is not part of Christianity and God will not accept those words. How much hate is in your religion that both you and your daughter felt personally affronted by this.

You said that the rainbow flag builds “walls, not bridges. You can’t get groups to respect each other that way. You cannot broker peace if half the stakeholders have left the table in anger.”

I say that if someone sees a flag, which is widely known as a symbol of love, hope, and unity and see nothing but a wall, there wasn’t going to be a chance to broker peace in the first place. If you can’t handle the symbol of LGBTQIA unity, how can you handle the reality of talking to actual gay, lesbian, and trans people? What are you going to do when a drag queen wants a say, in all their glory? How about when a lesbian couple wants at least one book in the library with same sex partners so their child doesn’t feel invisible? Or a gay thirteen year old wants a Gay-Straight Alliance in his elementary school?

How can you broker peace with someone who wants you to be less than yourself, wants you to hide yourself to make them feel comfortable? You can’t. First it’s the rainbow flag but that won’t be last. You don’t want peace, you want ignorance. You want to not have to face any sign that the LGBTQ community even exists. And that’s not going to happen. So many of us struggled to simply be ourselves and we’re not going to let you push us back into being less than we are.

The rainbow flag is staying. We are staying. Get used to it.

rainbow_flag_insert_by_torbakhopper_via_Flickr

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An intersectional traffic jam…

This time last year I had a friend who was told to “stay in her lane”. For those people who aren’t living in snowflake social justice warrior land, this means don’t speak over marginalized people. Use your voice as a support, not a sledge hammer. Let minority people have their voice. It sounds nice and simple, doesn’t it.

In this case the friend, who’s a big Harry Potter fan, got told to stay in her lane because… wait for it… a POC had an opposing view of Harry Potter (namely that he wasn’t an ass) and my white friend had to back out and let her speak. I pointed out that Harry Potter was not, in fact, black culture and that both people had equal rights to their opinions. The white friend had a huge amount of knowledge on the subject and, if anything, this was definitely her lane. That went over like a lead balloon and I ended up unfriending the “stay in your lane” person because she. would. not. stop. arguing.

Yesterday I discovered a picture of Roseanne Barr dressed up as Hitler, pulling little burnt Jewish people cookies out of a gas oven. There are so many shades of wrong in those pictures and I posted that I wasn’t going to watch her new show over this. Roseanne’s problematic in all sorts of ways, this was just the final straw. Then a friend of mine, the same friend who was told to “stay in her lane” over Harry Potter, told me the same thing. Stay in your lane, stay in your damn lane. She continued by telling me only Jewish people could have an opinion on this because Roseanne is Jewish (although she was raised Mormon) and no one else could apparently have an opinion on mocking the Holocaust except for Jewish people. Meanwhile the two Jewish people in the thread agreed with me and were quite confused over her opinion. The friend immediately unfriended me. Apparently I’m too problematic for her because of this one post.

I think the whole concept of staying in your lane is a good one. We shouldn’t speak over minorities to tell their story. We need ensure minorities have space to talk about their issues and listen to them while they work on solutions. Our voices should be used to enhance them and to stand alongside them for support. But standing up doesn’t mean standing silent, that’s something I’ve learned through bullying. Silence is usually seen as joining the oppressor. Staying in your lane should not mean staying quiet in the face of oppression, hands on the wheel, face forward, ignoring the prejudice.

I have a voice for a reason and that is to use it. I will stand up for intolerance whenever and wherever I can. If someone’s making transphobic comments, I will speak out against them. If someone’s blaming POC for getting shot, I will stand up against that person. If someone’s speaking out against any kind of equal rights, I will be there detailing why equal rights are wanted and needed. The only time I will stand to the side is if someone from that community is speaking, then I will simply support them.

In the end, the friend made the choice she chose. She chose to ignore Jewish people while telling me to stay in my lane. And if that isn’t a case of irony, I don’t know what is.

be the good