Friday, February 15, 2013

To The Table

Um, pardon ...

I was chatting with someone, that I don't know very well, about the controversy over Rex Reed's comments about Melisssa McCarthy's weight. During the conversation she referred to Mr. Reed as "just an old fag."

Before I continue let me tell you something. I hate that word. When growing up, feeling like the only gay kid in the world, I heard the words ... fag, gear box, homo are but a few. Those words terrified me more than they hurt me. I desperately didn't want to be someone who had a whole 'nother set word weapons that could be used against me. I already had 'fatty fatty two by four' and 'lardass' and 'pig face.' To this day I don't like "fag" or "fatty" or any similar words that have come along, and, ultimately I don't like name calling. I'm not even very comfortable with the "I'm X so I can use the word." You use it, I hear it, the context may matter to you, it kinda doesn't to me. So. I don't like the word. Back to what happened.

When the word "fag" was used, I said, politely but firmly, "You do realize that I'm gay don't you." Recognition dawned on her face that she'd used a derogatory word and, after a second's fluster, she said, "Oh, that's OK, I don't think of you as gay."

Um, I do.

This has happened to me a number of times as a disabled dude too. People thinking they are giving me the bestest and biggest compliment when they say, "I don't think of you as disabled, not really."

Um, I do.

I think that some of us in minority communities play the "we're just like you," tune far too often. I'm not "just like" anyone. Further the fact that I 'm gay, I'm fat, I'm disabled, affects my perception of myself, my world and my experiences in the world. I have a whole different set of "truths" than you may have. I think that one of the best aspects of DIVERSITY doesn't come from any struggle for sameness but from the celebration of differences. Gay people are different from straight people in some fundamental ways. Disabled people are different from non-disabled people in some equally fundamental ways. That's a GOOD thing. What we bring to the table, when the world holds a pot luck, are dishes created from ingredients that grow in the furthest regions of our world - and they'd be missed.

The fact that those in the "norm" (and don't tell me there's no such thing as "normal" - you may want to believe that but none of them do) feel that they are somehow elevating me when they "don't consider me different" is insulting. I don't feel "elevated" I feel discounted, I feel erased, I feel that someone just spit in my potluck casserole.

So.

I've said it before.

I'm gay.

I'm fat.

I'm disabled.

That isn't all of who I am, but it IS who I am.

12 comments:

Jayne Wales said...

I can remember a friend of mine years ago saying that about being black. He said people used to smile and say that they did not see him like that. They would often say oh Clarence not black either, coloured. I think he was less able than you Dave to use words to say what he would have liked to do.! Each time things like that happened he said it felt like a small murder until he knew one day he would just flip and probably kill someone.!
Not that he ever did but boy it used to make him soooo angry.
Good lesson in life for me though. Thanks Clarence you opened up my eyes to that crap.
But people wonder why someone will one day just end up screaming at them as a result of a lifetime of listening to other people with dominating lifestyles and assumptions.

Andrea S. said...

"I don't think of you as ____" only counts as a compliment if "____" is something really bad. And "____" is usually something that doesn't go away just because other people are uncomfortable thinking of you as "____". So it's really just an insult disguised as praise. It probably isn't usually MEANT to be an insult. Which is probably why many people would protest at being told they have just insulted someone with that comment. But, guess what, intent isn't magical, the insult inherent in an insult doesn't vanish just because you intend it to.

Hope Dittmeier said...

As the adoptive mom of two amazing kids who have mixed racial identities, I can say that the "back handed compliments" have been part of our experience too. People say such crazy things about families that were made through adoption and/or families of mixed race. My favorite uninspired comment ever was when a friend (yes, I like the woman a lot!) asked me how I would feel if I end up with dark skinned grandchildren!!!! IF??? REALLY???

FunMumx3 said...

Sorry to hear about your experience Dave.

On the odd occasion where I (gently) call someone on the use of the word R*TARD the first response is always, and I mean always, "I didn't mean it like that". Eye roll...

My follow up is usually, "Of course you meant it like that, and it's very hurtful. If you didn't mean it like that then use a different word next time"

... one person at a time ...

Anonymous said...

I try to keep in mind not everyone has experience "up close and personal" with people with different needs, backgrounds or how to extract their foot out of their mouths once they have firmly inserted it. "I don't think of you as chubby"....Really because I have seen myself naked you know :)
Over the years I have chosen to think of it this way...maybe what they are trying to say is I see YOU. A person. Not the fat, not the color, not the disability, they just see someone they like, a friend, mentor, co-worker. This is a possibility too :)
Take care
Donna
PS If you care to know Dave I see you as a teacher and advocate first and foremost. That is how I describe you when I reccommend your blog or books. When I think of you I think of your words not your wheelchair, strange isn't it? How vitally important your chair is to you; but to me it is really not something I consider "part of you" (although I understand your independence and ability to get around relies on your wheels). You really have me thinking this afternoon....

joanne said...

Honestly Dave, when you come into my mind...I "see" you as a very strong advocate, having a very clear agenda who communicates this very well. I "see" you as a very sensitive person that also has a terrific sense of humour. Too bad the human spirit doesn't have a physical context to display itself in. I wish it was this that we were all bringing to the potluck table...perhaps one day. thanks for the food for thought

Dave Hingsburger said...

Donna and Joanne (and everyone else) My disability (including my wheelchair) is simply a part of me like my gender, or my eye colour, it has meaning to me, it may have meaning to you .. but either way - it is.

CapriUni said...

Speaking of language and how we choose our words:

I really like how you expanded the metaphor of "a seat at the table" with the idea of a pot luck. :-)

Utter Randomness said...

What gets me is when people say "it's okay because [insert reason here]." No, it's not okay. I told you it wasn't okay with me. It's about consent and respect. It's not okay because they don't think of me as being part of that group that they're maligning, it's still wrong to malign that group. It's not okay because their cousin/uncle/son/brother/aunt/daughter/sister/next door neighbour is from that group. It's not even okay because their cousin/uncle/son/brother/aunt/daughter/sister/next door neighbour from that group doesn't mind the language. I mind, and that's what matters.

On the topic of "I don't think of you that way" well, that's just insulting. Yes, we're all made up of different parts, and we're not only one part of our identity, but those parts of us still have influence. I am gay, and I am disabled and I don't like to hear ableist and homophobic language, even from people who "don't see me that way" which might actually be part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Unless and until the words "straight," "hetero," "skinny," "able-bodied," etc carry a negative connotation, are used to disparage, are words that must carry with them an apology, I will be offended by terms that "friends" feel they must apologize for using to describe me or any group I am part of. But I will continue to be equally offended by negative, stereotypic, or cruel references to ANY group, whether or not I am part of that group.
I heartily agree it is important to see ourselves as who we are, and to have pride in who we are. But we must see each other as equals, as equally valuable, have pride in one another's uniqueness...

Anonymous said...

Continued --
"fag" is hurtful and cruel, is used intentionally to be hurtful and cruel. And it is hurtful and cruel whether or not it is used in front of someone who is gay. I am so sorry, though, that your friend was hurtful to you in this way. May she or he understand the hurt and may this change her thinking and her actions.
Thank you as always for sharing such personal stories that open all our minds and help me at least to think...
Purpletta

Rickismom said...

I agree that when they say "I don't think of you" they MEAN to say "I see you as a person", HOWEVER, their initial use of the word in a negative way shows prejudice.And THAT hurts, because we want to believe that we are GOOD, and our attributes are NOT something inherently negative.

Good post