A Straight Mom Reads a Gay Book, Chapter 2

I suppose if I’d thought it through a little longer I’d never have been so self-assured that I could post every weekend. I am taking Calculus this summer, after all: two hours a day, five days a week, for six weeks. And last Monday we had our first exam, plus I had a paper due for extra credit. I know, a math class that caters to English majors, who ever heard of such a thing? 😀

I will post when I can. Next week looks good because our exam is on Friday. Today I just need to write before I get started with a day full of homework, and another extra credit writing assignment. 🙂

A few weeks ago I attended a training for work. Our first activity was to list words that we would use to describe ourselves. I really didn’t think much about it. I wrote down several things that I thought describe me, mother, woman, student, writer,…straight. It turned out to be a very educational list.

We list what we know, is the best way to summarize those lists. I had no idea that a man would not put “man” at the top of his list. Not one man in the entire group did. In fact, not one man listed “man” at any point on his list. All the women had either “woman” or “mother” at the top of their list. The other interesting thing was that the two students who work with the ASL classes listed “hearing” and I, alone, listed “straight.”

It turns out that this is how we think. If we are not exposed to something on a regular basis, for example, women are always reminded on a regular basis that their gender is supposed to define them but men apparently aren’t, we simply do not think about it. Aside from the two ASL tutors, no one in the group listed anything close to “able-bodied.” We never have to think about it. I have a Trans child, therefore I think about things like, “What do all those initials stand for in LGBTQIA+?”

The second chapter of Dawson’s book is about those initials. It’s a very helpful list for those of us who have absolutely no idea. After the work training, I see that it’s not my age that factors into my lack of knowledge about LGBT+ issues. When we introduced ourselves we were told to share our pronouns. This had to be explained because most people in the room (almost all) had no idea what the speaker was talking about. Nearly all my co-workers are traditional college age.

Dawson gives a brief description of each and a few anecdotes to create a clearer picture, which, as someone who is relatively new to all of this, is very helpful. A good understanding of people who identify as each helps us to consider things from their point of view instead of insisting that our idea of what Trans or Gay or Pan-sexual people are. We tend to do this, insist on our own definitions of other’s experiences. It makes us comfortable.

Most of us were raised in a culture that mocked the feelings of anyone different from ourselves, or our group. If you were raised far-Right, like I was, you weren’t even allowed to learn about other experiences. That is why they view all education as suspicious. They probably have a point, because the more I learned at school, the less the rhetoric rang true. The same for the definitions and stories offered in this book. The more I read and understood the feelings of various LGBT+ people, the more I could see it as “that is who they are” and that there is nothing wrong with that.

That idea of just allowing people to be who they are is a very good reason to recommend this book to straight, cis-gender people. Most of us do not have much contact with anyone openly LGBT+, so we just don’t think about that side of things. Even those of us who would have no problem with it, who consider ourselves allies, still might not really know and I think that is an important part of fully accepting others.

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