Why Do I Like This?

IMG_1647Recently, my kids decided they no longer wanted to share a room and were ready for their own space. As is my nature, I was both wistful at their growing up and excited for them. With each of them in their own rooms, I was able to move their desks out of my office. I didn’t realize it, but it had been a long time since I’d had my very own space to do with whatever I pleased. So, I set about, with marked mindfulness and purpose, arranging the office I sit in now. I didn’t just let it happen; I made pointed decisions about what would be included in my very own space – something I hadn’t experienced since my early twenties.

The things I put on the wall and arranged around the room were half practical, like pens and pencils, and half intuitive. Today, I began to wonder: Why do I like these things I intuitively picked out as decor? Each one has a story. There’s a painting Jack made when he was three. It might look like your standard abstract child’s finger painting to the untrained eye, but it’s his depiction of the 2011 Steiner Ranch fires – a huge, disastrous event that threatened to burn down our entire neighborhood. I have a lamp with a cheetah-print shade. It used to be my sister’s, and it reminds me of her. I have a large, cheap photo print – a closeup of a tulip. I love the bright colors, and I have a thing for flowers, but it’s also one of the first things Jason and I bought together. I have a calendar of local events that a friend gave me. It reminds me that, even though we now live out on the edge of the Hill Country, I’m still a part of Keeping Austin Weird. I have photographs of the kids when they were younger. In some of them, they are grinning at the camera as asked, and in some, they are completely unaware, lost in a book or play dough. I have photos of friends and family, some whom are still in my life, some not. Some have died and moved onto wherever our energy goes when our bodies no longer function for us. There’s a bright-red, plastic Ikea chair I bought off of a neighborhood resale site. I walked to pick it up, thinking it was a kid-sized chair, and was surprised to find it was almost three feet tall. I walked home, Jack at my side, carrying it over my head – quite the spectacle for passing traffic.  I have a thing for birds, and I just recently realized I tend to pick out bird-related things. I haven’t figured this one out yet. Why birds?  I like artistic, shadowy interpretations, especially when they’re red, like the decal I picked for the specific space it fits on my wall.

Each thing has a story; some of them make me want to cry, and some make me laugh. Some give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. They are just things, and things are not people or memories, but they help me. They spark something, remind me of who I am, who I have always been. From the birds, to the memorabilia, to the lamp from Target that a million other people have, what these things have in common, despite all their varied stories, is they are all me. I don’t share this office space with anyone else, so each thing is just because I like it or connect to it or find it useful. So, while things are “just things,” any of which I would give up in a heartbeat if it would help someone in need, those things are useful to my memory, my sense of self. And my kids are welcome to come in my office anytime they like…as long as they don’t touch anything.IMG_1645

 

LGBTQ – Get Comfortable

30358074 - happy gay couple watching sunset on the beachI’ve got something to say, and I’m kind of angry about it, so, warning: this is a bit of a rant. Recently, I have had several interactions with folks who are somewhere between uncomfortable and blatantly judgmental about people who are LGBTQ, and I’m about all done being nice about it. One person told me they were “not ready” to talk to their children about gay marriage, though their children had asked about it. Well, honey, you better get ready, because LGBTQ people aren’t going anywhere, and they and I are sick as hell of them being denied basic rights because of whom they have romantic relationships with or their gender identity – sick of being treated as less than, as something you have to “have a talk about” with your kids.

I know a lot of people in my community are not so much prejudiced (though there are those) but simply uncomfortable with people who are gay or trans, and there is nothing wrong with that. If it’s not something you’ve been exposed to in your life, discomfort is understandable; I was once a little uncomfortable myself. But, your job is to work at getting comfortable: read, learn, talk to people who are LGBTQ.

Our neighborhood consists mostly of cisgender, white, straight people in two-parent families with kids. Most people in our community chose to live out here to be by the lake, to have access to hiking trails and to send our kids to quality schools. We didn’t move out here (or at least I HOPE no one did) to avoid diversity. In fact, I moved out here despite the lack of it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find more variety in people than I initially thought I would. There are people here of many different nationalities, abilities, ages, cultures, religions and yes, sexual orientations.

Statistically speaking, some of you have children who are gay, though you may not yet know it. If you ignore the fact that gay and transgender people exist, how is your child going to feel? Even if you never say anything blatantly prejudiced, they will know it makes you uncomfortable. Wouldn’t you rather your child know that, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity, you love and accept them and think they’re great? Wouldn’t you rather them be exposed to same sex couples in the community, so they can see that as a normal, valid path? So, when your child asks, “are they married?” of a same sex couple (assuming you know they are) say, “yes they are.” And that’s it. No long-winded explanation needed. Your kids may or may not ask questions at this point. If so, answer them as honestly and simply as you can. Trust me, they’re more open-minded than us adults. And it’s okay if you bungle it up a bit. The fact that you’re trying is the point.

Perhaps you have some guilt, as I have, over your privileged position in society. I long felt queasy about how easy my life was, being white and straight, until I listened to an interviewer ask a person in a social minority group, “What can we, as people of privilege, do to help?” And the response was, “use it.” Use your privilege. Advocate for those who need it – in this case, the LGBTQ community. Don’t feel guilty; feel empowered. You don’t necessarily have to march on the Capitol; just talk with your friends about it when the subject comes up. Or maybe just stop ignoring the lesbian couple at the pool or the girl in your child’s class with two dads. All of that takes steps towards normalizing homosexuality, which is a good thing, because, duh, it IS normal. Use your privileged power for good.

Look, if you’ll just take the time to admit you’re uncomfortable, and then go about fixing that, you’ll find out that people who are gay or trans are not that different from you. They worry about their kids, they take care of their families, they work, play, laugh and cry, same as you do. A funny thing happens when you get comfortable with other people; you also feel better and more accepting about yourself. Do it for you and for your kids. It’s high time we people of the world rise up together and discover we are better than all of this discrimination nonsense.

You’ll notice several terms in this post are clickable, so you can discover their definitions. Even if they are words you already know, reading the definitions can be enlightening. Knowing the terminology that pertains to LGBTQ people and other minority groups is one tiny positive step towards understanding. What will your next one be?

Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_epicstockmedia’>epicstockmedia / 123RF Stock Photo</a>