Working in retail teaches you a lot about yourself and how you interact with different types of people. Going to gay bars does the same thing.
I do not dislike minorities. In fact, I tend to hold them in higher regard than us perfectly normal, non-disabled white folks. My dad always taught me to root for the underdog, so I'm sure that's part of it. White guilt is another part of it. But, sadly, there's a part of me that just thinks minorities are neat
Despite this fetish, or perhaps because of it, I'm always hyper-aware of a person's minority status while interacting with them. Sometimes, perhaps when speaking to an Argentinian, I find it difficult to listen to what they are saying because I'm repeating the words "I am speaking to an Argentian" over and over again in my head. This is where the discomfort comes in. I then start to worry that others can tell what I'm thinking. I also assume, in a gross generalization, that all minorities expect people like me to be fixated on the fact that we are different. Which, of course, I am. I justify it by believing it is somehow different from being an outright bigot. "Don't be silly, sir. I like
you because you're brown."
The worst is when a person in a wheelchair approaches my register. I make a concentrated effort to treat these people like I treat everyone else - with fear and a hint of animosity. Then I worry they'll take it the wrong way, so I become overly friendly. This is not my nature, and I don't pull it off very well. The result is a bumbling, visibly nervous asshole faking nicities with a handicapped person who, at this point, is usually rolling their eyes and trying to end the transaction as quickly as possible.
I also, apparently, love gay people. I have long considered my lesbian cousins to be the most outstanding members of my family. They didn't have to accomplish anything to earn this status. Simply being homosexual is enough.
Last night, I went on a whim with some friends to check out the new gay bar in town, Detour. I spoke with the door person for a few minutes before realizing I had no idea if they were a man or a woman. Later I found out she was born a female, but now chooses to identify herself as a himself, and even goes by a more masculine name.
Way cool, I thought.
Inside the bar, as one of three straight males in the place, I tried to let everyone know I was one of the good ones. Maybe I even flirted with the male bartender a little, meanwhile scanning the room for any attractive members of the opposite sex. "I'm a fruit fly," one girl told me. I guess I am too. Again, going out of my way to look comfortable merely made me look extremely uncomfortable.
I confess these things here, not with pride, but in an effort to come to terms with this unfortunate side of my personality. Believe me, I'm offending my own liberal sensibilities with this stuff. I'm a special breed of bigot, but a bigot nonetheless. I just hope I'm in the minority.
Labels: race relations