weighed down

Am I woke yet?

Nope, probably not…

This post is about my ongoing evolution as an older privileged straight white guy (OPSWG).

I admit it. I’m fairly LGBTQ ignorant, even to this day. Using pronouns scares me.

I remember almost like it was yesterday, the day I met Brian, a McDonald’s work friend in a Woolco store in Hamilton’s Eastgate Square Mall. The year was probably 1974 or ’75.

Brian and I were always friendly and “jokeable” with each other.

He had a ready smile and was easy to chat with, we were a couple of teenagers shooting the shit. That’s just what we were doing in-between the racks of shirts and pants in Woolco when I noticed an emblem on his T-shirt and naively asked what it was about.

With no sign of embarrassment or hesitation, Brian replied that it represented the Gay Association for Hamilton and that he was the President of the group.

I could feel the red rise in my cheeks as I tried to formulate a response… any response. I fumbled and hmmmm’ed and dug myself roughly out of my own discomfort. He was cool, I was flustered.

I liked Brian before. I still liked Brian. A lot.

Nothing changed in that moment except everything changed.

eyes open wide

Someone I absolutely, completely knew now to be gay was a good guy. He was no threat to me or a Boogie Man.

There was no such thing as LGBTQ in that era. It had no meaning yet. Sounds like a delicious summer sandwich, right? No, he was just homosexual.

I wasn’t actively anti-homosexual in those days.

But you might not have guessed it because I stood nearby on a number of occasions while some of my friends made jokes and derogatory remarks about the guys I knew who were “most likely” gay or had some effeminate characteristics.

It was cruel and hurtful and plain old bullying.

I was too weak to protest or stand tall and defend the young boys who were marginalized and ridiculed.

For most of my days, and like a zillion other dudes, the sight of two women kissing (or more) has unsurprisingly been a sensual turn-on for me. Conversely, the sight of two men kissing (or more) has – until recently – been a huge repulsive turn off. I don’t turn away anymore.

Everyday normal people doing “normal” human things and yet I had visceral reactions in different directions.

Meandering in the fog, I’m learning to change and correct course.

I had a good friend from an immigrant Italian family that I hung with for a number of years leading into high school. We were both in a classical-music-is-kind-of-cool stage. Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring was our hit song of the day.

jesu joy

He didn’t really display any outward signs of “non-heterosexuality”… sure, he wore tight pants that often showed the outline of his “manhood” (ewwwww), somewhat like the inverse look of a snake after eating a whole rabbit where you see a sharp outline of the ingested critter … but I think that was more young teenager stuff than a what-is-my-sexuality issue.

But there were others in the high school cliques around us that must have picked up on something and began to harass and make fun of him as a “faggot”.

Again, I did nothing to defend him against the bullying… and I do know now with certainty that he, like my McDonald’s friend Brian, is gay. Big deal!

Years have passed and I cringe at my lack of a backbone when others suffered needlessly over something that they hadn’t chosen to be… you might call it God-given… I go with plain old genetics.

……………………………

I know my good fortune in life has been swayed hugely in my favour because of the womb I came from… billions of others have suffered oppositely because of the womb (or country) they burst out of.

I know my life has been simpler because I was born:

  • white-skinned and male.
  • “straight” sexually.
  • into a middle-class upbringing with access to good education.

As a result of no choices that I’ve made, I’ve been given the gift of relative ease in a difficult world.

Suffering should not have to be what triggers compassion. At the very least, can I (and you maybe too), show compassion for the life of others who are sent to the hitter’s box with two strikes and a cracked bat… a putter for the Tee shot?

Our inner thoughts and – sometimes – outer actions, might just as well put our knee on the throat of someone who is already at a disadvantage.

I’ve travelled fairly extensively in my adult years and have watched and heard others down-talk persons of other colour, socio-economic strata, different religion or cultural belief, gender, psychological makeup… you name it…

It never makes us or the world a better place.

No, I’m probably not woke and likely never will be. I’m still an OPSWG…

But I know that seeking out the kindness inside of us will never steer us wrong.

Each day I’m going to Yoda-try to evolve and be aware and reach a little higher up Maslow’s hierarchy… probably the closest this old heathen will ever get to heaven!

heaven reach