Not About Me

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Friday, many of my Facebook friends turned their Facebook profiles “rainbow” in celebration and solidarity. I did not immediately change my profile picture, because it was my daughter’s 19th birthday and I had posted a picture of the two of us that I intended to leave up for all of June 26.

Early Saturday morning, I “rainbow’d” myself. Shortly afterwards, I posted a status that wished Tallahassee runners good luck in a 5K being held that day and commented that I was glad the race supported high school cross country, which was a great cause. It was my first “post-rainbow” post. An acquaintance immediately commented, “Oh great so YOU’RE on that bandwagon now too. Weren’t enough people already?” I responded “I am proudly and unapologetically ‘on that bandwagon’.” Then another acquaintance chimed in with a commentary about the confederate flag. The two of them exchanged barbs that had nothing to do with running. After once asking that the thread be kept to support of runners, I decided to take back my own Facebook page. I deleted the entire comment thread and stated that I was rebooting the thread to “support 101” so that the focus could be kept on running. The phrase “on the bandwagon,” though, had gotten me thinking …

About the road to “that bandwagon”:

When I was in high school, I loved someone. This relationship was one of the first intense loves of my life. I seeded the short-term, unseasoned reality of this teenage relationship with unrealistic hopes and expectations that it would last a long time; this relationship was central to who I thought I was.

When he told me, somewhere in our first couple of years of college, that he was gay, I was crushed and disbelieving. A close adult friend consoled me by sympathetically saying “you’re not strong enough for that” (as if a “stronger” person could overcome this particular reason for a relationship ending). More than one person empathized, “you don’t even get to use femininity to overcome this.”

In an attempt to gain some semblance of hope for the future, I went to a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meeting here in Tallahassee. This was before “B, “Q,” and “T” (for bisexual, queer, and transgender), among other letters, were part of acronyms for groups like this. What the facilitator said was not what I wanted to hear:

“THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU”

One of the facilitator’s central points was “he has his own work to do, figuring out this part of his identity, and he could use your support as opposed to your misguided anger.” Although it took me decades of life experience after being told “this is not about you” to fully comprehend what that meant, I got there.

I got there when my volunteer responsibilities (and subsequent paid on call supervisor responsibilities) made me one of the first counselors on the Florida AIDS Hotline (since our crisis counseling service held the contract for the AIDS Hotline).

I got there when I became more involved in the FSU Film School community and was witness over and over to acceptance among people representing ALL the letters of the alphabet: L, G, B, Q, T, S – whatever.

I got there when I had the opportunity to be involved in making this:

I got there when time moved on and I realized the person who I thought had broken my heart in the early 80s had actually been fate’s way of squeezing a wedge in a closed door of my heart and beliefs. This wedge let the light in and created a spectrum of color where previously only black and white had existed.

Not About Me

 

 

36 thoughts on “Not About Me

  1. I understand your perspective, but I will not be turning my profile picture rainbow. This de sip will have a greater effect than we can see now. As a Christian no matter how much I love my friends and family who are gay. I cannot condone their behavior. The ruling Friday will have a very large impact. Federal funding for Christian colleges will be cut unless they change their doctrine. the law they enacted will also open the door for many things we didn’t even see coming.
    I feel and whole heartedly believe the time is NOW for Christians to stand firm and stop watering down the bible to meet our culture.

  2. Paula, thank you for sharing such private moments of your life with us. Each week you teach us that everything in our lives happens for a reason and we should take the time to reflect on those moments. Sometimes we learn from them, sometimes the other person does, and sometimes we both do.

    • Thank you, Moe. This is about 600 words of a 6000 word story, but hopefully the words I picked will extend positivity at a time when it would be easy to give in to divisiveness.

  3. Love this post, Paula. And you’re right. It’s not about me, nor will Friday’s decision in any way change people’s views, but at least more people will have their civil rights.

  4. Love learning a little more about you, Paula. 🙂 Personally, I am disheartened by my Facebook feed right now and a little frightened at some of the reactions I am seeing. I love how you talked about seeing things in black & white versus a spectrum of color! That’s just perfection!

  5. Paula, thanks for sharing. I’m sorry you had to experience that and at an early age. We know nothing then! It was a defining moment and made you the incredible person you are now.

    Everyone deserves love without judgment. Now we have it.

    • Thanks for commenting, Susie. Although it was painful to my 19-year-old self, I am glad things unfolded the way they did. It’s a much longer story than one blog post can cover, but I marvel at the attitudes in our small town back then vs now – back at that time teenagers who were lesbian or gay really did not have adults with whom they could find acceptance. He still lives (and teaches) there, and I know he has made a difference.

  6. Oh, that *bandwagon* comment! I’ve heard variations of it too, in different situations, as in…why do you care, it’s not as if you are gay/ black / poor / without healthcare, etc…. I fully endorse taking back our own FB pages. My own gay “education” began in the world of horse shows, continued among writers, and then among my own extended family, so like you, I learned as I went along, everything /everyone teaches us something. Nice post.

    • Thank you, Lisa. I think the thing that made me scratch my head about the bandwagon comment in particular was the implication that I had hopped on just because it was the “in cause” of the day — it gave me a great deal of food for thought. The individual doesn’t know me well, granted, but it still made gave me pause ….

  7. That’s lovely Paula. Having a personal stake in understanding and working on something sure beats the op/ed culture loop.

  8. I loved reading this! And I echo the sentiment that was shared by a very good friend.
    “Supreme Court is charged with interpreting the U.S. Constitution, not the Bible. The Court is not asked to discern God’s will, or what constitutes ethical or moral behavior for Christians. Likewise, Christians do not determine their morals from public opinion polls.”

  9. I’ve gotten some of the same reaction on my feed as well but, I am proud to say that because I chose to color my profile my nephew felt the courage to finally come out to his family. His father passed away quite a few years ago so we don’t see him often. When he was little we were very close. It was so wonderful that he felt safe enough to finally tell us because he knew we would accept him.

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  11. Goosebumps. Well said Paula. Thanks for sharing this. One of the things I like about this is the knowledge that you “got there.” I am so sick of the word bigot for anyone who is not “on the bandwagon” yet, because truthfully I believe they are not there yet and calling them names will not lead them there. We all get to our beliefs when we get to them and they almost always come from personal experience. I got that when I realized my BIL and SIL were both gay and I loved them so much there was no way I wouldn’t be joining on that bandwagon. Thanks for sharing.

    • So true, Ann, and thanks for sharing. I agree with you that name calling and casting aspersions on those who are not “on the bandwagon” (or whatever) is so very counterproductive.

  12. Wow! Your post is touching. Some of my best friends are gay & lesbian. They said it took them awhile to figure out how to live their lives as they truly wanted. I love them for being themselves.

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