Over lunch we were told a long, and very detailed, story about them having been out for lunch at another restaurant some time in the recent past. The waiter who was ‘obviously gay’ had been rude to them, ‘like he thought he was better than them,’ and then it went on to what a snob he was and how poorly he did his job. The ‘obviously gay’ remark was thrown in there several times just so we never forgot even for a moment that this guy was a poof. Then the story ended. There was no point except to say that an ‘obviously gay’ man had been mean to the poor little straight couple. What did we do? Due to the politics of the situation, we simply changed the subject and went on.
The whole episode bothered me, like something really weird had just happened but I couldn’t figure out quite what it was. Then, yesterday, I had someone I know well tell me a story, in response to the fact that I’d mentioned I’m back to using my scooter for short runs while I try to get my power chair fixed, wherein someone in a scooter had nearly run them over. Then once that bit of the story was out, a bit of a diatribe followed, they go too fast these scooter users, they don’t pay attention, they think they own the side walk. Again, I was caught in the politics of the situation, there are times when it simply will cost too much to speak up.
I held these two conversations together in my mind and compared and contrasted. Neither of them had a point, they were just recounting negative experiences with marginalized people. In both, the privileged were victims of people who were rude and who demanded space. It seemed to be to be a way to through homophobia and heterosexism or disphobia and ableism into a conversation. It’s a new way to call names and a way to present oneself as a victim of those who should know their place.
In the first I wondered if I was expected to apologize for the behaviour of another gay man.
In the second I wondered if I was expected to distance myself from one of my scooter using siblings.
I wondered if I was supposed to somehow let them know that their sense of hurt and outrage was justified and agree that we at the margins should stay put.
Well, because of the politics of each situation, I couldn’t blast them, but in this case my silence was more than silence, it was rebellion, although a quiet one.