Monday, October 23, 2017

Joe, The Email, And What I Have to Say

Today is Joe's 65th birthday. We have been together for all but 16 of those years. Our lives have intertwined in ways both planned and unexpected. He has earned every grey hair that he has. His work often goes unacknowledged but his commitment to the cause of disability rights and civil liberties is unrivaled. He is, frankly, an amazing man.

What I'm going to write about today stems from a place of some anger, however. I received, yesterday, an email. The content is unsurprising, I've gotten this before, but maybe because of Joe's birthday, maybe because of our years together, it struck me twice as fast and three times as hard. The email stated that I should 'stick to disability' in my keynote presentations because people have no choice but to be there and when I mention Joe, as my husband, I am making a statement that makes some people uncomfortable. The writer said she found it difficult to hear my message because of the white noise of my sexuality getting in the way.

I want you all, and her in particular, to know that Joe and I have long talked about my lectures and about our joint decision to mention our relationship, long before marriage was even thought about as a possibility, in every talk that I give. Every. One. Joe fears that someday someone will pull out a gun, I know that's a possibility but I think a small one. Our decision was made precisely because we wanted it to be clear, to any other LGBT person in the room that they weren't alone. We both know what it is to be the only one in a room, we both know how lonely that can be. I know specifically that in our field agencies have a dreadful history regarding LGBT people often attempting to purge us from the workforce. This still happens.

Because of what I do, I hear a lot of keynotes and a lot of session presentations. I have not kept data but I'm willing to posit that nearly 100 percent of heterosexual presenters mention their wives, husbands, boyfriends or girlfriends. They do it casually as if they don't notice the privilege they have, in that moment, to not fear the reaction. The blithe way they don't seem to realize that they won't get an email telling them to shut up about their lives and their loves. They also don't know that they are signaling to every LGBT person in the room that their relationships are allowed air time, that their relationships expect to be met with welcome, that their relationships are valued. I'd love one day to hear a heterosexual presenter say something like, "I know I've mentioned my husband a couple of times and I want you to know that I am aware that there are people here who are not free to speak of their loves or their lives and I acknowledge you and I support you in your fight for equal time." But I'll wait a long time I suspect.

Privilege is like that. It doesn't notice itself. It doesn't acknowledge itself. But it loves the freedom and power it has.

So, I will continue to mention Joe here on this blog, there in my lectures and anywhere I wish. If that makes you uncomfortable, you need to look at yourself and your attitudes not request of me, silence.

I love Joe.

He loves me.

I'd love those two statements to be purely personal without a hit of politics. But, for now at least, they are both. I know this because I still have LGBT people come up to me after a lecture and wait until they are sure their comment won't be over heard and they will whisper, "Thank you for being openly who you are," and many walk away quickly wiping tears.

It can be hard being so alone.

In a room full of people who say they care for people.

In a room full of people who say they believe in inclusion.

In a room full of people who say they believe that all means all.

In a room full of people who trim the edges off all and for whom inclusion for some and exclusion for others.

So, it's Joe's 65th birthday. And I get to spend it with him. I get to continue living the life we have together. I get to sit quietly with him, laugh uproariously with him and I get to continue to make the same silly joke with him that we've been making for 49 years.

Yes. You may have heterosexual privilege.

But I have the privilege of living with and loving Joe.

You have no idea how much better that is.

Happy Birthday Joe!

17 comments:

wheeliecrone said...

Happy Birthday, Joe!

Your post caused me to be sad and angry. Not at you, Dave. Not at Joe.

I am angry that in 2017 there are still people who believe that is their right to demand that others pretend to be something they are not. Because who you are makes someone "uncomfortable".

I call bullshit on "uncomfortable". Turn the page, lady! Don't read Dave's posts. Forget the fact that you might learn something important. Don't go to Dave's lecture. If the real world and its real people make you "uncomfortable", stay at home in your comfy little cell with your "comfortable" fantasies, particularly the fantasy that you are a good and loving person.

There! I'm all ranted out.

Rickismom said...

NOTE: If you find this insulting, please feel free to delete it. But please read to the end, as I have no intention to belittle you or your choices. My only point is that even those who disagree with your PERSONAL choice SHOULD be able to live with it, as they live --hopefully!!-- with others they disagree with on any range of topics.)


Dave, I haven't been reading your blog in ages (nor have I been blogging for even longer...). Real life takes precedence.(And besides, since Ricki died my life has been much less interesting...)
Today I was writing a blog, and in referring to a few of my old blogs, I came across a referral I had made in an old post of mine to this blog. And I thought to myself- "Gee, I need to see if Dave is still blogging" .
I find it so amazing that people are so unable to let others differ from them. [ I see parents trying to force their adult offspring into molds of their own making. I see those who try to erase the actuality of a gay life-style, as if acknowledging it will make them into accomplices. I see people willing to murder those they disagree with politically. ]
I personally am no big supporter of the gay lifestyle, but reading your blog will not make me gay.
I realize that others have the right to choose their partner, even if I disagree. I disagreed with one son's choice of spouse; but didn't change my love for him.
Your being gay certainly doesn't hurt your very important work (and probably enhances it, as you deal with the discrimination, and being looked-down on).
I want to thank you (and Joe, for all he does to enable what you do) for being honest, and informative. For all of the tremendous work that you do. And even for promoting your right to be yourself.
I realize that since I am (theoretically) against the gay life-style, you might not care peanuts about what I have to say... but anyway, Happy birthday, Joe! Dave and you are lucky to have such a great relationship.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Dave,
Like you I am not surprised, though it remains sad and angering each time I hear of yet another incident in which some people want others to simply erase parts of themselves and their lives and even the people they love just so they (the people wanting the erasure) can continue to live in their own comfortable little bubble never being reminded that diversity exists in the world, and that love can take multiple forms and still be love, love, love.

It also continues to sadden me (without surprising me) that lgbtiqa+ people still get labeled as "having a lifestyle" that others may choose to disagree with, while cissexual and hetereosexual people simply get to have a LIFE. That happens to have LOVE in it. That can simply EXIST without being a thing for others to have any opinion about, whether supportive or not.

Rickismom, although you seem to be trying hard to be open minded and accepting and with some degree of success, the way you label lgbt+ as having a "lifestyle" suggests to me that you still have a journey to make toward greater acceptance of diversity in the way people are. People may choose who to stay with as a partner from among the people they are drawn to, but the orientation that influences who they are drawn to is not itself a "choice," it's simply a way of being. There is nothing to be "against" in the so-called "lifestyle" of being gay (or being straight, or bi or pan or asexual, etc.) except for love.

That said, I am sorry for your loss and wish there were better ways to offer comfort than words.

Utter Randomness said...

I’m no fan of the heterosexual lifestyle myself.

leslie sobel said...

Happy birthday Joe! And congrats on 49 years together - that is awesome!

As the mother of a couple queer kids (adults and one partnered) I share your strong conviction that being able to acknowledge one's love is important and sends an important message. Love is love is love - and having it one's life is a blessing. Being able to share both love AND the fact of one's love is a gift.

And to the poster before me - people don't "choose a gay lifestyle" - it's who one is - and just as immutable as whether one is short or tall.

Belinda Burston said...

Happy birthday to one of my favourite people!! 65 is a special one! Celebrations are in order soon I'd say!! Have a wonderful day Dave and Joe!

kstableford said...

Happy Brithday, Joe. Congratulations on your nearly 50 years together, Dave and Joe. Any reader who would limit who you love and what you write and speak about should feel free to read and listen elsewhere, and their world will be blander as a result of the limits they've imposed.

h smith said...

Rickismum, what on earth is 'the gay lifestyle' in this context? Dave and Joe have been in a loving, committed, mutually supportive relationship for decades and then they got married as well. The exact kind of relationship that most heterosexual people claim to aspire to and that most never manage. So *How* does it matter that they're both men??? And what on earth is there to be 'uncomfortable' about or 'against'? It baffles me that some heterosexual people think they have the right to have an opinion on gay relationships but are happy to ignore the many serious problems with the 'heterosexual lifestyle' and culture. Seriously, what is so threatening about people being in love and loving each other??

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Happy Birthday, Joe! And many, many more.

The email you received would merely be pathetic and an attempt to claim privilege where none exists IF it were not dangerous to be anything other than what that particular woman thought acceptable.

You have never said, "I'm gay, so everyone should be," but heterosexuals HAVE said that, and forced people to hide and pretend or be eliminated.

You have the high moral ground here. Keep speaking out.

aplacetoputthings said...

Happy birthday, Joe. Happy all days, Joe and Dave.

I sympathise a little with uncomfortable lady: it can be hard to stay open to what affronts one, and to realise that Obviously Wrong stances can _also_ be moral ones; or Obviously Bad things (Unsanctified Sex! flouting norms!) can from another view be good ones (a lifetime of committed love and mutual support, and mutual growth to boot). I believe that entering into mixed company, or just understanding the world as fully as I think one must strive to, requires a willingness to be offended - and I don't always live up to that standard.

E-mailing you was staggeringly crass.

Good discomfort is an important reason why I read your blog.

Rickismom, condolences from a stranger.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday, Joe! Hoping your next trip around the sun is filled with love and laughter.
Clairesmum

Jayne Wales said...

Happy birthday wonderful Joe
I wish I was able to take you for a few drinks again in the local pub here
An evening I will always remember while Dave slaved away on a hot stove awaiting your return
You are the funniest, sincerest, gentle and handsome soul
You two just rock and that's it
You compliment each other just perfectly and have found a way to cope with cruel prejudice through your exemplary love
For the person who commented adversely I would say ' saddo get a good life yourself' and I certainly wouldn't want to have those ciders
Have a wonderful day and share your skin cream secrets as a side line
Happiness makes you both look so well and good
Honesty and decency and. Fair share of very naughty humour xxxxx

Shannon said...

Not sure what a "gay lifestyle" is. Keep on mentioning Joe wherever and whenever you wish.

Ted Bates said...

Happy Birthday Joe, and Happy lives to you both, you are both ever so lucky, and I know, I get to be a witness!

Ranvaig said...

Happy Birthday, Joe!
Sharon

Rachel S said...

Happy belated birthday, Joe!

Dave, I want to tell those people to take a flying leap. You keep on mentioning your husband when appropriate (as in whenever I might reference a husband, if I had one.)

Sherry-Lynn K said...

Why would you NOT mention Joe??? He's your husband. He's a major part of your day-to-day life. Of COURSE he's going to be talked about. It'd be weird if you DIDN'T say anything about him.
I don't believe anyone has ever told me I shouldn't mention my opposite-sex husband in speeches or in conversation. When I bring up my hetrosexual "lifestyle", I am not caring one whit whether or not someone agrees with it. Oh, wait...it's only a "lifestyle" if you're gay??

Good grief. *bangs head on wall* Keep celebrating Joe, and your relationship with him!