Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pulling Oars in Another's Boat

Over at Mass Revolution Now!, Andy starts a nice commentary on the recent New Jersey marriage-equality ruling with some navel gazing. There he is, holding forth on homosexual rights and related issues, and is what can only be described as straight.

In solidarity with my heterosexual lefty fellow traveler, I note that:
  • When I lunched with Bay Windows editor Susan Ryan-Vollmar, she said that she and her crew were a bit surprised to discover that a marriage-equality advocate would be heterosexual, and as old as I am.
  • At Chris Cagle's going away party in August, there was one of those What?! moments. We still have two boys at home and my wife was tired. So she skipped it. I think everyone else at the party was gay, but that didn't come up at all, until...I was in the open kitchen talking with hosts Whit and Joe. Maybe 30 guests were handy -- it was where the wine and booze were. We were talking away, personal, blogs and politics. Then I said something about my wife and he reflexively shouted, "YOUR WIFE!" It was a classic movie moment as everyone stopped talking and whipped their heads to look at us. He composed himself and then said what several others commented separately later how he read this blog and had always assumed I was gay from its politics.
Not to trivialize Andy's introspection, but he shouldn't fret. Assuming that your blog allows comments (or that you out yourself at public parties), people are more than willing to tell you if they think you're off base. If enough say you don't know enough to comment, that's a message.

The bad thing would be if you were holding forth condescendingly. No matter what the group, if you see yourself as the necessary savior for those who can't help themselves, grow up and deflate that ego!

I can outfret Andy too. When I was just out of journalism school, I ran a Black newspaper, the weekly in South Carolina's capital, Columbia. I'm as WASPy, honky looking as possible, down to blond hair (what there is left). No one would mistake me for African-American, unless they consider Chief Justice Margaret Marshall one.

My Andy moment there came early and I got it out of the way. A board member (all Black board) spoke to our college newspaper banquet, saying they were struggling and could use some help. When I left school, I went to him and said that I wasn't sure what I would do next and I'd like to volunteer. He looked at me for a long time before saying, "What we really need is an editor in chief."

My single thought was like Andy's. Would that be right for a white guy, long-hair, earring and all, to run the weekly for the Black community? Well, unlike Andy, I had seven board members letting me know that it certainly would be.

They were fine with it. I had a job to do. The staff and Black community members had no problem. The only questions I got were from people like the governor's press secretary and the few journalists who had not met me before. The white guy from the Black newspaper, what's that about?

Whatever you're blogging on or campaigning for, if your head is pointed right and you don't see yourself as God's gift to your cause, do it. Do it right. Do it intensely.

Spend a very short time rolling around any doubts or guilt. Then get over it and on with it.

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Anonymous said...

I for one am thrilled that there one a few good heterosexuals like you out there willing to work towards a common goal of fairness and equally for all. My opinion is that ANY inequality in society is the concern of ALL of society. I am saddened that so few heteros who are otherwise civil rights advocates are not universally up in arms over this glaring legal disparity based on something so flimsy as sexual orientation. A few years ago they could get away with the "I just wasn't aware" explanation. With gay bashing coming from the President on down, no one can pull the ignorance plea any longer. So THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORK.

p.s. I've always wanted to open a Minority Camp for Mainstreamers. Mainstream individuals would be dropped into social situations where they would have the unique experience of being a minority for a day. Few white heterosexual Christians have had the experience. Perhaps if more did, they would reconsider their own callous behavior towards others.

Ryan said...

To tell you the truth, Mike, I always assumed you had a husband and not a wife! I laughed when you said people gasped at that party - I wish most straight people could be in that situation and understand exactly what it feels like to be in the minority.

massmarrier said...

Thanks, Ryan. I consider that a compliment. We should all be comfortable as the other.

I've often been in the minority at a meal or party, in a group, task force or as part of a committee -- by gender, sexual orientation, age, culture, race, religion... I agree that to broaden your attitudes and awareness, it's good to be unlike the majority in some obvious way. Particularly when people who don't usually get any denigration or disapproval feel out of synch with the group, it's an education.