My last post was called “How things work,” published April 7, in which I wrote about my encounter with a young man doing missionary work for the Mormon church, as I walked home after picking up something at Home Depot. The young man was polite and friendly, and I pointed out that the Mormon Church, for forty years, has been in the forefront of the fight against gay people, in making my world unsafe for me. My partner, C, told me I was “confrontational.” OK. Yes. And then I pointed to the Stonewall Riots, where men and women fought back against the New York cops who had made their world unsafe for them. I wrote: It is necessary for us to fight back, all the time, without ceasing, even when we are tired of it. Polite people never get anywhere.
But other people felt that the confrontational mode is not appropriate to them. Or is difficult. Or wrong. An old friend writes that she struggles with it. Her default mode is civility, and confrontation doesn’t come naturally to her, even when she understands the point of it. Today, in Boston, we are experiencing what seems to be a civic moment where people on both sides are in the confrontational mode.
The point, I think, in my blog, is that I am fighting back is a truth that ought to be said but isn’t said often enough, even in the gay press. We are weakened by not hearing this regularly. We need somebody–I need somebody–to say fight, stop being polite, stop trying to get along, stop being afraid. Gay people have a right to a safe place. I’ve learned (intellectually) that not fighting, being polite, trying to get along, being afraid, are corrosive of my character and are bad tactics. I need to stop living my life by the easy-way-out. I know I will take the easy way out, if one is offered to me, so I need to pump myself up by saying over and over (this is my way of giving myself courage) stop being afraid.
This is what happens to me. I seek safety. I seek comfort. That is my default fallback. So I resort to civility. For years, the ruder, cruder, more appallingly brutal you were to me, the more civil and polite I became. And then one day I realized that being polite was not stopping any of this brutal behavior. My tormentors took my civility as permission to continue to torment me. It was then that I came to understand that polite people never get anywhere.
To truly engage with the people in our culture who are conveying hatred and ignorance against me and the people I care about, I have to get down and dirty. I have to make it cost ‘em.