As I write this, the election is about a week away and I’m swimming in a sea of emotions: hope, worry, insecurity (due to all the uncertainty about the future) and calm (I know I’ll be fine whatever happens, even though I worry so much).
I have been reading two fascinating books: “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson and “The Night Watchman” by Louise Erdrich. I love to read. I enjoy learning about other ways of thinking, seeing and living. Reading helps me get outside my gay, white, cis, male “bubble”.
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” beckoned to me from the bookshelves of a great little bookstore in Moscow, Idaho (a lovely little town). I’d read a review of it and was intrigued. In some ways, the book was a typical coming out story. However, by combining his autobiography with a queer, black political manifesto, Mr. Johnson created something unique. His story mirrored my own – young feminine boy grows up in heteronormative household – except for two important differences: he’s black and he had a very supportive family.
I don’t know much about being gay in the black community. I had an African-American boyfriend – Dwayne – for a spell when I lived in San Francisco. When he and I went to his (black) church, I could hear the elder women in the church whisper about us. “What a waste”, they said as we squeezed past them into a pew.
I wasn’t sure that we were “a waste” because he was gay or because I was white. Or both.
This experience gave me a little insight into Mr. Johnson’s tale of being a double minority, and how each minority mistrusted the other: the African-American community wasn’t thrilled with him being gay, and the (mostly white) gay community wasn’t very welcoming because he was black.
As a gay white guy, watching all the BLM protests has left me feeling largely ignorant and helpless. Today, I had lunch with a new acquaintance (older, white, wealthy, gay) who told me, “I’m so sick of all those BLM protests. I’m voting for Trump and anyone who opposes the Democrats.” I sat there, my food growing cold. In shock, I didn’t trust myself to respond. I kept thinking, “How could you say that? How could you believe that?” But, for a change, I sat quietly, listening. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I WILL speak up about it. But, that wasn’t the moment. I had no idea he felt this way. My gut reaction was to stand up, grab his shoulders and “shake some sense” into him. Luckily for us both, I didn’t.
“The Night Watchman” talks about how Native American people made their way through a largely racist, white world, from North Dakota in 1953 to present-day Minneapolis. Ms. Erdrich – long one of my favorite writers – weaves a tapestry of two cultures, often diametrically opposed. She presents both cultures as rather hapless, doing the best they can with what they know. Racism, of course, is always in the background.
Just like today.
Both of these books are about anticipation: the anticipation of something good, right and just after living through oppression, chaos and unfairness. I too, am living with anticipation. I hope to see a Biden-Harris victory and the Senate returning to Democratic leadership. I anticipate the undoing of much of the damage done by four years of the Trump administration. I look forward to a president who is rational, sane and mentally stable.
Whatever the outcome of the election, I anticipate that things will – eventually – get better. I don’t know why, but I have always been deeply optimistic. I’m sure glad I was: it kept me from killing myself as a closeted queer man in my teens and twenties. I didn’t come out until my thirties; I just couldn’t accept being who I was.
Regardless of who wins the election, we all have to face the reality of its aftermath. Even if our candidate(s) win, it’s likely to be a bumpy ride. But, I’m optimistic. I am living with anticipation.
I hope you are too.