About twice a month I write a newsletter to share and promote the queer thought leadership that’s published on my magazine, Th-Ink Queerly on Medium. The day after I published, Normate Gays, an LGBTQ Canadian Coin, and the Importance of Inconvenience I received a response to the newsletter. The offended party wrote:
“Take me off your mailing list please. I will not be called queer, it is offensive and disgusting. Besides half the weird shit I read from you makes me very very angry. You've absolutely lost the plot...you people make me not want to be gay... funny isn't it, it's the gay community that makes me feel like this.”
No one can make you feel the way you feel.
I cannot make you angry. A politician cannot make you angry. A friend or your partner cannot make you happy. Only you can choose your feelings based on behaviours and beliefs. Seeing the truth of this requires self-compassion and mindfulness.
When your partner strokes your hair looking into your eyes with love, you can ignore them and feel nothing, or you can melt slowly into their eyes, appreciating the experience of tenderness and intimacy.
When someone writes an angry tweet, post, or makes a negative comment, you can ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist. You can respond with probing questions in an attempt to dialogue. Or you can react with anger and shout back, or write expletives in retaliation.
It is our choice how we respond.
It is admittedly difficult to control our reactions that are based on unconscious behaviours learned and patterned over many years. Many of these behaviours are meant to protect us from harm. It is a mindfulness practice that helps us slip into the gap – that moment of no time and no thought – which allows us that meditative pause to override the ego’s need to defend or flee, and to choose a more tempered response.
You know you are making a difference when you people push back.
You know you’re disrupting the status quo to a large extent, that when someone is so “shook" out of their protective “box" they can't click "unsubscribe”. Instead, they have to first lash out in an attempt to make you feel bad, to shame you for your ideas, to prove that you’re wrong.
It's easier to close your eyes, cover your ears, and say nothing about what’s wrong in the world. It takes massive amounts of courage and an ever-thickening skin to risk offending – not for the sake of offence, but for the sake of disrupting people from out of the fog most of us live in.
This is not to sound trite, dismissive, or better than. I did not respond as effectively as I would have liked to the above person. I treated him with as much kindness as I could, but I also challenged him each time he came back at me with another jab, more bullying, and more shaming of my work. According to him, I alone am the one person in the world who is destroying the world for gays.
This person taught me a lesson. He showed me the man box culture at work, exactly as Mark Greene described it to me in our Living OUT Leadership interview. Thanks to this serendipity, I’m reminded that I'm on the right path.
Challenging people’s beliefs it’s not an easy path.
Sometimes I want to give up. Sometimes I think no one cares, or that no one is listening. That’s not because I need followers or want attention. I don't want to win people over. To me, that's competition and a numbers game.
Instead, I want to change minds. I want to help people think differently. I want to help my LGBTQ friends to use their difference to make a difference. I want people to engage in dialogue, even if that ends without an agreement, but with respect for each other’s value. That is where evolutionary change will happen – not through personal attacks, shaming, or bullying. Given how many people “communicate” in this way isn’t a reason to give up. I will continue to trudge through the obstacles in my way to get to the clearing of minds on the other side.
I push buttons. Not because I want to piss people off, but because I’m not afraid to. And that’s an important distinction. Tweet
Image credit: Jeremy Segrott, “Left or Right, but definitely not straight on.”