I’m a gay man. I am so passionately committed to seeing a world where there is equality for all that I literally have tried to eliminate every notion of separation I have from others. Accessibility and respect for those that have different abilities isn’t something I aspire to, it’s just part of what I do. I know women have struggled to have equal seat at the table, and I want them to have it.
Equality, for me, means much more than elevating some and controlling the influence of others – it means that we stop holding on to the reasons we are different and start embracing the inalienable truths that make us the same.
I believe in the utopia where all this exists and there’s no notion of suppression, oppression, disenfranchisement, or bias.
And recently there have been a few things that have reminded me that we are so far from that reality.
It can be very easy to jump on bandwagons — some gay couple was discriminated against because they were gay, this image tells a story of female suppression — and suddenly Twitter explodes with vehement agreement and disagreement, news agencies publish opinion pieces, everyone becomes a bit more “amped up.” Though a sad truth, most then immediately forget the bandwagon, transferring their adrenaline and ire to the next newsworthy cause when that story breaks.
There have been a few matters like this recently that have caused me to think very carefully about this topic, two of which are very present in the news these days:
BLOOMINGDALES SUPPORTS RAPE: The header image of this post is my own riff off the Bloomingdale’s catalog ad that has resulted in a huge amount of backlash towards the company, Bloomingdale’s apology, and a whole host of articles like this one in the Washington Post which declare that America is ill-informed about male raping of females. Rape is wrong. Period. Could the ad have avoided sensitivity, yes. But the biggest issue has nothing to do with this…it’s the assumptions made about the tone and tenor of the ad and how much individual commentators “story” is being applied to it. The man looks angry, the girl is jovial — who is to say she isn’t the prankster? When did “spiking the punch” move from a funny a mostly urban legend activity from the movie GREASE and turn in to RAPE? Why is the man automatically vilified here? What of the man bound in red and white ribbon on the left side of the page — perhaps this is the devious vixen’s victim?
Just as in my post yesterday about idiots, it seems we’ve pivoted towards assumptions (a form of inequality) versus better approaches like giving the most respectful interpretation, or not assuming that something is about an issue when it’s just a clothing ad. Rapists will rape. That doesn’t mean a clothing ad is promoting it.
“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” said Sigmund Freud. Let me make his point a little more clear. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, it isn’t a penis the guy is holding, and he’s not about to attack you with it…he probably just wants to enjoy the cigar.
RED STARBUCKS CUP: (music video here) The land of the free, home of the brave…a country built upon an escape from England to pursue religious freedom is UNDER ATTACK! Christianity, as it turns out, is nearly ready to go out of business because there is no tree, no star, no present, no snowflake drawn in white outline on the iconic but ever changing red Starbuck’s holiday cups. Never you mind that there are still gleaming glittering red and green bags of coffee in each store I’ve been in declaring the blend to be “CHRISTMAS BLEND” (not Kwanza, not Hanukkah which the CEO himself celebrates).
Two days ago I stood next to Howard Schultz in line at Starbucks (we go to the same one) and he seemed completely calm in the face of the brutal attack against his religion perpetrated by those same bags of coffee. I wonder why. The trick here is this — omission is not ATTACK or oppression. We lived through that in the late 90s and early 00s where every ad had to have a person of color, or a different religion identified, or had to simply not reference anything of any cultural significance whatsoever. Representing diversity is important, when it actually speaks to that diversity. Doing it via rote because we’re afraid of offending via omission makes no sense however.
If you are a Christian and person of faith — TRULY — the kind I find myself becoming…you know God doesn’t give two shits about a Starbucks cup and that those who believe this is an attack on their faith are much further from God than those who recognize the reality which is that it’s just a cup and…let me repeat myself…God doesn’t give two shits about it.
When we include naturally and without thought to the benefit of doing so, highlighting and showcasing the diversity represented, it’s noticed, beautiful, educational, and uplifting. When omission and exclusion is perpetuated, it is also noticed and tends to remind good people of the core of their beliefs.
More often than not, we are reminded of how much inclusion, altruism, and empathy matter — regardless of the individual faith, belief systems, or upbringing these points of morality originated from.
Forcing or simulating inclusion is not equality. I’m not entirely sure its less damaging in its lack of authenticity as blatant racism. Both just continue to show the ways we are different versus the very natural ways we are alike.
BENEFITS & INVESTMENTS: I’m a gay single man with no children, which may be how I remain for my life. I’m not thrilled about that but I’m not upset either, whether it’s my choice or just the way things are is irrelevant. I’ve watched company after company expand benefits to mothers, to fathers — I think this is wonderful. Similarly, I’ve watched single people who don’t take the paid year off that those folks receive be asked to take on the work of those people while they are away….doubling their workload because no one can be hired in their place. We extend a great deal of sympathy when a parent says, “I have to leave early, Suzy’s transportation from soccer practice fell through.” When I leave early in advance of a business trip, because I have to run all my errands, pick up dry cleaning, pack, and close my home since no one will be left in it, people are less sympathetic. On average, the benefits package for single people is nearly 30% less valuable than a married person, and 40% less valuable than a married couple with a child. And yet dollar for dollar, I have to spend more as a percent of my income and time to maintain my life. I don’t have a husband to go to the north side of town while I go to the south to run errands. I don’t have a kid I can make unload the dishwasher or help fold clothes.
People of all life choices should be respected equally and in the era of having normalized much of the inequity of the past, it’s time to check in on this.
Equality to me is like that thing which you can’t identify without its opposite. Without a gay bar, there is no “straight bar.” Without preference, there is no discrimination. Without entrenchment, there is no battle.
Equality means we simply stop seeing reasons we are different and stop relying upon those differences as the definition of who we are.
I’m Jason — stubborn, smart, opinionated, kind, sensitive, and complex. I’m driven, love cooking, creative in idea beyond my capabilities, and a person of faith.
I hope for a day I don’t have to describe myself as “gay” and can just say “this is the person I love.” I hope for a day when my maid Blanca and I could sit side by side and just talk about our mutual admiration for each other and there would be no awkwardness because our financial and educational backgrounds say there should be.
I hope for a day when connections like the one I have with this guy Mason at Starbucks becomes natural — he’s a barista, works hard, and because I’ve chosen to not see myself as above him or like my service person, I’ve learned he studied political science and is interning at a top news organization and wants to be a journalist and is perhaps one of the smartest people I’ve come in contact with in a long while.
I’d have missed that connection with Blanca, or Mason or the butcher at Safeway I wrote about a while back because even if just in my mind, I would have separated myself from them and I promise–as open and accepting as you believe yourself to be, even in the notion of having to “accept” there is a sense of inequality. Test yourself.
Friday and another week fait accompli.