Understanding, Listening, Hearing

IMG_0785My spouse and I put up a pride flag for the first time this year. I can’t speak to all of her reasons for doing so, but I know my own reasons are complex. Some are even contradictory.

I mention this because we received some well-meaning advice to take the flag down for our safety. Those offering this suggestion said, “I understand why you put it up, but…”

Here’s the thing. I disagree that our loved ones understand why we put it up. They might think they do, but I don’t think they can ever fully understand our reasons because they aren’t LGBTQ. Furthermore, we haven’t ever really talked with them about the issues we face as lesbians, so how can they understand why this year—after 24 years together—we chose to buy and display a Pride Flag?

One reason I wanted to display the flag was in reaction to the Presidential election. It feels like America took a giant step backward by electing a large number of politicians who oppose gay rights. Flying this flag defies their bigotry and is a reminder that we won’t lose our hard-won rights without a fight.

Another reason is guilt. We are middle-class, white lesbians who own a home together. I work part-time in a job affiliated with local government, and she works for a large firm that has a strong track record on supporting and actively recruiting LGBTQ employees. We are financially secure and in a fairly unassailable position. And yet so many of our LGBTQ family—especially people of color and the transgender community—lack most of the protections we take for granted. By flying the flag, we put ourselves at a slight risk to show support for them and to bring attention to their needs.

Another reason is for the children in our community. I am not an educator any longer, but being a good ally and role model is always in the back of my mind. Growing up is difficult even in the best of times, and it’s really challenging for queer youth. I don’t know if any of our neighbors’ kids will realize they’re gay, but maybe seeing the lesbians down the block live openly can help them as they navigate their own journeys to adulthood.

I would love to sit down and have a long conversation about these kinds of questions with our loved ones. But I really can’t. Partly, that’s because of the miles that separate us. But, it’s also because we have all avoided talking about “uncomfortable” issues for too long.

Some of that was trying to keep peace and not lose contact. I assume that most of my immediate family are ultra-conservative, and they assume I’m ultra-liberal. Because of that, we think any attempt to talk about politics will result in hurt feelings and arguments. We chat casually, but we cannot talk about the issues that really matter.

While my in-laws share some of my views, we still don’t talk about these issues because my spouse and I don’t always agree with their viewpoint on the topic. Rather than debating nuances of our positions, we avoid the debate.

We all do one another a disservice. Instead of using healthy debate and discussion to sharpen our own points of view, we avoid opportunities to grow.

That’s something that everyone in America does these days. We can’t sit down and talk about substantive issues because we assume we already know what the other will say. We don’t want our opinions challenged. We don’t want to hear another point of view. Listening to answer is so much easier than listening to respond. We’re all so narcissistic that we just sit and actually absorb another’s words.

I don’t know how to change that, but I’ll start by saying I’m willing to sit down and talk with anyone that wants to have an honest conversation.

2 thoughts on “Understanding, Listening, Hearing

  1. Beautifully stated, Ruth. Those of us in the straight community have no true idea of all the challenges you face. I hope that someday everyone can sit down and talk with one another in a constructive and positive way about lifestyles, politics, etc. You are taking a huge step in that direction. I wish you peace and love always. – Carol Lenfert

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, Carol. At times, writing blog posts feels a bit like trying to scream in space. It’s good to know that someone sees what I post here.

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