I am thinking a lot about homophobia today. Current events may explain that.
It goes well with yesterday's post examining how we think about racism, and with where we are going in how we think about sexism, but I swear I was just trying to get to an understanding of why it was so hard for me to feel good about myself when I was younger. Perhaps a new story will help tie things together.
I have had several queer coworkers at different times. Some I really love, most I get along with, and one was absolutely terrible, which I would say was unrelated, except maybe a lifetime of facing prejudice is what turned her into such a nasty piece of work. Regardless, the one that really bothers me is the one where officially I didn't know.
I didn't know unofficially either. Some other coworkers had guessed, which I found out later. Maybe I should have guessed based on how much he hated my slingbacks (I liked those shoes!), but that's such a stereotype.
If I had been asked, I would have opined that he was far too immature to be in a relationship with anyone of any gender, and I would not be wrong. Nonetheless, I think he tried to come out to me one night, and I botched it.
It was not completely my fault. His opening gambit was trying to get me to understand why he could never be attracted to me. I am not even sure why potential attraction to me was an issue, unless that just seemed like the best way of introducing it.
The problem with that is I wasn't hearing "I don't like girls"; I was hearing "You are gross and disgusting because you are fat."
It is not unreasonable to point out that if you want to have a difficult discussion with someone, and you want their understanding and acceptance - maybe even compassion - that insulting them may not be the best strategy.
It could also be reasonable to assume that his point was not about insulting me. I'm not positive, because he was a brat who really liked getting under the skin of anyone around him. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes it was not a big deal, and sometimes it would have been really easy to throttle him, even knowing you could get fired and jailed for that. So, yes, he might not have been against the insulting part, but he also may not have realized how I was hearing it, because he didn't even like girls.
It registered for me because my deepest belief ever was that boys could never like me, and being aware of it didn't make reminders any less painful. I couldn't believe that he was sticking the knife in like that.
I did feel like there was something significant about the exchange. I could feel him willing me to understand, but I was understanding the wrong thing. That was my weakness.
I have seen before that the insecurities and fears that you carry around can keep you from being there for other people. It's usually only something that can be seen in hindsight. Later, after we didn't work together anymore, I found out, and that's when I started to figure it out. That's when I started to feel like I failed him.
I don't beat myself up for that one a lot. I know he had other support, and we didn't become enemies from it even then. We never had another exchange like that. I do wonder now if he had tried other ways of leading up to it that went over my head, but I don't specifically remember any.
I do try and remember that it's not just okay to like yourself; it's necessary. If you can't feel like you deserve that for yourself, maybe being there for others can give you the motivation to get started. So many of the terrible things you fear about yourself are false anyway, and they can lead to so much harm. It's better to let them go.
This post's title is present tense, but I think I am better now. There may still be things I don't realize. As I balance my current external crisis with my improved internal state, we'll see. The main point I want to make is treat your wounds. Acknowledge they are there and treat them.