Monday, September 1, 2008

Even Though

A great day with friends yesterday spawned an interesting conversation that hasn't left my head. Great friends will challenge your thought process and yesterday I was confronted with the problem with 'even though'.

How often have we, as lesbian and gay people, heard someone say something like this to us:
"You know, I think you're (fill in the adjective.... nice, wonderful, awesome, intelligent, great....) even though you're gay," or, even more delicately put, "you're the way you are. "

I know that when people that have become close to me or that I have admired have said something like this to me I have felt good about it. I have felt like maybe I have been able to change their prejudice, certainly where I am concerned, but perhaps on a broader scale.

But in taking pleasure from that, have I actually perpetuated the prejudice?

Here's the thing.... no one would ever get to know someone and then say "You know, I think you're a great person, even though you part your hair on the right side." And the person that is said to would never be happy that someone said that, assuming they believed the person saying it was serious.

That seems like such a mundane comparison... a hair part compared to someone's sexuality, but is there any difference? When you tell someone that you think they are whatever wonderful thing you want to say, but qualify it by pointing out the thing that you think makes them different from the rest of the population, you are taking the time to point out they are different. Is the message being sent that they are LESS?

The 'even though' phrase implies that whatever follows is something negative. There are other phrases I have heard too... in spite of.... regardless of the fact that... in this context it seems the next phrase is something that the speaker believes is perceived as a negative thing.

I don't think that most of the people are intentionally trying to tell me that I am less of a person by saying 'even though'. In fact, I think most people think that they are trying to convey that my sexuality isn't a big deal to them. But in my acquiescence of their statement, am I actually acknowledging that I am, in fact, less than they are? At the very least, am I buying into that implication that I am different, in a negative way?

Indeed, I recognize that all people ARE different. We are not clones of one another and we did not all get raised in the same household and environment. Being different is standard.

The problem comes in when a difference is picked out that then becomes the thing that society uses to define you as a lesser person. Being black. Being Jewish. Being Japanese. Being gay. It IS how prejudice is born.

Something to think about.

Perhaps the next person you meet that you like, and you want to share that feeling with, simply say.... I think you're a great person. Maybe that person is gay, or black, or Jewish or has red hair.... just send the message that you like the PERSON.

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