I think I’ve been bitten by the showing-off-bug, and it feels just a little bit fabulous. Having spent the winter, and it felt like a very long winter, keeping quiet, and trying not to get involved with things that might tip my fragile self into darkness and despair (overly dramatic much?), I got out a book I’d bought and then never read (because my 11yr old got to it first and then left it at Grandma and Grandad’s house – damn these kids who read things) – Small Acts of Resistance. Which is about, er, well, small acts of resistance.
If you haven’t read it, do. It’s brilliant, and inspiring, and it shows you what can be achieved by ordinary people doing seemingly tiny things. Anyway, it inspired me. And then I re-read one of my favourite books (Evangelisation Mode: ENGAGED), Half The Sky by NY Times journalist Nick Kristof and his wife Sheryl Wu Dunn, which takes what you think “inspiring” means, and blows it right out of the water. If you’re reading this and you haven’t read Half The Sky, I will find out, and I will come for you, and I will make you read it. Do it now.
And anyway, shortly after that, there was an attempt by a fascist group to march through my home city, and I got all fired up and despite having spent most of my life believing I ‘wasn’t really a protest march kind of person’ (I’ll unpack that later, if I remember), what I had read made me think differently, and I took me to the streets to protest. And it felt good. And then a few weeks later, Pride came along
I’ve only been to Pride once before, because it’s a cause close to my heart, and because I love Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and in my mind any Pride celebration should be that fabulous. Like one placard said: Don’t tolerate, celebrate! But this year there was something in me that said that I had to go – not because it was fun, not because the kids would get some always-needed different perspective on life and people, but because I realised that I knew now that my being there would make a difference. A teeny weeny tiny difference, maybe, and possibly only to me, but still. I’m not gay, but I am human. I’d been following the US court ruling about overturning Prop 8 in California with bated breath, because I have friends over there who married when it was legal, and then had their marriage revoked, and were also waiting with bated breath to see if they would be allowed to be married again.
“Allowed to be married”? Who the hell decides that? I’ve grown up never having to explain to people that I’m straight. Never having to wonder if people would approve of me having a boyfriend, or if I’d get abuse or ridicule for it. Never having to think ‘I love this man so much I want to marry him, but I’m not allowed to’, or worrying about if I should hold hands with him in public, or what my friends would think about us having kids. Never. And I know people who have been bullied, ridiculed, and ostracised for who they are, to the extent that they have denied it to themselves, to people they love, and eventually just kept their heads down and hoped society would leave them in peace.
And I’m in a position, unbowed by years of fighting to be accepted, to stand up and say say no, this is wrong. So I thought long and hard about what I had to say (carrying a placard to a gay event when I’m not gay filled me with a massive fear of saying something stupid, or patronising, or insensitive, or all of the above), and I wrote my placard, dug through the house for something rainbow to wear (the only thing I could find was my daughter’s slinky, so I used it as a bracelet), and dragged Boy Wonder into town for Pride. He wasn’t sure to start with, but ended up with a big Stonewall sticker and a couple of badges, and I bought him a rainbow flag to wave, and he was very happy. And we joined the parade, and marched and hooted (yeah, we were noisy) with the best of ‘em. Loads of people loved the placard I’d made, so that was a huge relief, and when I handed it to a steward as we left (“We’re going now, but this is why I came, so would you like to keep it?”), he was so happy and grateful he gave me a massive hug and told Boy Wonder “Your mum’s brilliant!”.
So I guess what I learned (along with, if I want to wear a rainbow slinky as jewellery, and a patchwork dress, and look like a raving hippy, then I CAN), was that just because an injustice doesn’t affect you directly, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight it. Which when put like that is kind of obvious. Yes I have “gender privilege” or whatever, but that’s just what society gave me, so is it wrong to use it? I’d appreciate further discussion on this, though, so please chip in! It wasn’t a woman who signed the paper giving women the vote, and it wasn’t a black man who abolished slavery. It’s not about gay rights, or women’s rights, or black rights – it’s about human rights. And we’re all human.
P.S. A great little story to illustrate privilege can be found on Cracking The Code’s YouTube channel. Go watch, it’s only a few minutes.