Out, About, And Read All Over.

006One of the great things about riding the bus is I can read. That’s hard to do while driving. Sometimes if I’m really into a book I take it to work with me so I can hopefully get through a chapter or two on the bus. I know one of the advantages of e-books is you can be discreet about what you’re reading, but I always kind of hope someone will get a glimpse of a cover and ask me about my book in hand. Once I commented on what a fellow rider was reading–something about World War II–and we had a fun debate about whether the Battle of Britain was a major turning point in the war or a minor skirmish.

If I don’t have a book I can buy a copy of The Contributor, a local newspaper that’s written and sold by homeless people. Or I can pick up one of about a half dozen free magazines that are published locally. One of those is Out & About.

One day I happened to mention something I’d read in an O&A article to a friend who happens to be gay. He raises his eyebrows. “You were reading Out & About? Are you trying to tell me something?”

Yeah, I was trying to tell him I really enjoyed an interview with Lily Tomlin and thought he might find it interesting too.

Sometimes I can be incredibly oblivious, but I’m aware that O&A is mostly written by and for LGBT people, but that doesn’t mean only LGBT people read it. I have friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. What affects them and what concerns them affects me and concerns me–even if it doesn’t always affect me as directly as it affects them, although in retrospect that Lily Tomlin interview was a lot more interesting to me than it was to my friend.

Sometimes too in spite of my obliviousness I’m aware that the fact that I’m reading O&A might make some people on the bus suspicious. I don’t want to stereotype bus riders, but I understand that LGBT people live with a constant threat of violence or even just intimidation. In a lot of ways things are getting better. I’ve seen family members and friends be able to marry–to have their marriages legally recognized, which some of them thought would never happen. But things are far from where they should be. Violence against transgender people has risen in 2015, and aside from violence LGBT people still face discrimination, sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly. There have been at least two cases of copies of the print edition of O&A being stolen by people who didn’t like its focus, one as recently as this year. Just reading O&A on the bus could prompt someone to harass or even harm me.

I refuse to let it stop me from reading what I want to read. That’s all I’m trying to tell you.

And in case you’re wondering I think the Battle of Britain was a major turning point in World War II.

14 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    Chris, I’m not sure when you’ll read this, but I don’t find you oblivious at all.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m reading it on the same day, and while I appreciate it I can get lost in my own thoughts. Ironically being so lost in my own thoughts can sometimes lead to me saying things that are thoughtless.

      Reply
  2. Margot

    My brother is a homophobe. He has many other great qualities, and I adore him, but he can be very frustrating to talk to. He was visiting this summer and we got to talking about his views on sexual orientation and gender identity. I won’t bore you with all the details of our conversation, but I was trying to understand why he was so bothered by these issues. It basically came down to their being “unnatural” and not making sense from a scientific standpoint. OK, I don’t agree with that, but I still wanted to get to the bottom of why it mattered to him since it didn’t seem like if affected him in any way. His response was that it *does* affect him. He feels it is unfair to heterosexuals that that they don’t get to have special attention like “straight pride” or parades because of their sexual orientation. So, basically, straight people aren’t afforded some of the privileges that gay people are. Also, they’ve stolen the rainbow—you can’t decorate with them anymore or wear one on your tee shirt without people thinking you’re gay. He honestly didn’t seem to understand the effects of centuries of oppression.

    I only bring this up because I thought it might be interesting to you to hear the homophobic logic of an otherwise very kind, decent and generous man. It blows the mind, doesn’t it?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It does blow the mind, and I really appreciate you sharing that. It says a lot about privilege and how unaware someone who enjoys a privileged status can be. In this case in particular he’s unaware that pretty much every day is “straight pride day”.
      In my own experience people who have these sorts of attitudes tend to be ones who’ve never really talked to someone whose experiences differ from their own. I don’t want to presume but I take there aren’t any LGBT people in your immediate family. It’s easy for a person to have those kinds of attitudes when he or she doesn’t see the effect they have on others. I know some people whose feelings changed significantly when they had a family member come out and for the first time saw what it’s like to be dismissed as “unnatural” or hated for being different.

      Reply
  3. Gina

    That’s great that you can feel comfortable reading a gay newspaper in public. I’m glad we’re able to see all these changes in our lifetime. I’m going to be the “best man” in a gay friend’s wedding in November. My son is excited to go to his first wedding. It doesn’t seem weird to him at all that it’s two men.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I also have a running joke with that friend of mine. I’ll mention that I listened to, say, a Scissors Sisters song and he’ll say, “Are you sure you’re not gay?” As if you have to be to enjoy certain things.
      Your son going to his first wedding reminds me of when I was five and my friend Troy wanted to go to a wedding so he could get married. He didn’t quite grasp the concept of guests. He might not have been so interested in going if it were two men getting married.

      Reply
  4. Margot

    That’s pretty much what I said to him—that straight people are in the majority and don’t experience having their sexuality considered disgusting or sinful, ergo there’s no need for “straight pride.” Our conversations usually end abruptly when he can’t come up with something to dispute a point I make. But I’ve been on a mission lately to not just think “you’re an idiot” and write a person off. I’m trying to understand why people believe something that, to me, is so obviously wrong. I think I ended up saying something along the lines of “I guess I didn’t know you felt so strongly about rainbows,” and then had a good laugh with my husband about it later.

    You are absolutely right about there being no LGBT people in our immediate family. I’m positive that his views would shift if it turns out that one of his kids is gay. (Although I would sure feel bad for my niece or nephew if they had to come out to him). I like what you said about the privileged not being aware of the status they are enjoying–it’s a great way to conceptualize it. I don’t think my brother even believed what he said about gay people ruining the rainbow for everyone else. It must have been hard for him to make sense of. Hopefully he’ll understand the effects of his attitude one day.

    Reply
  5. Catherine

    It is a shame that what one reads could cause someone to harm them. I love to see what others are reading and discuss books with anyone who will talk about book with me. Books, newspapers, and other readable items should bring people together in discussion.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It is a shame, but it’s also reassuring that I’ve never had a problem. Maybe that’s because most people don’t notice what I’m reading, but I’m sure some do.

      Reply
  6. Sandra

    I shouldn’t be shocked by the reaction of people in the face of LGBT conversation/reading material. But it does shock me. I work in what I thought was a fairly progressive work place, and when I spoke of Kate Jenner, I was stunned to hear, “I’m sorry, but I have a real problem with that!” I was all, “You have a problem? Imagine how Kate Jenner felt her entire life? Now that’s a problem.” I guess slowly the world will change but snail’s pace makes me want to bang my head against a hard object. Great post once again Christopher, and I must say, I’m totally intrigued by The Contributor. I’m going to click on the link you provided in your post and see where it takes me.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve never been interested in the Kardashians–I sometimes jokingly refer to them as “the famous family that must not be named”, because they’re so ubiquitous already–but Jenner really has sparked a wonderful open conversation about transgender people. And she’s got the advantages of a supportive family and being well-off financially. In his Emmy Award acceptance speech Jeffrey Tambor, who plays an older person transitioning, said something amazing: “I had a teacher who used to say, you know, ‘When you act, you have to act as if your life depends on it.’ And now I’ve been given the opportunity to act because people’s lives depend on it.”
      And your response to your co-worker was amazing too. The world is changing, and it’s changing because people are saying, “Think about what it must be like from another’s perspective.”

      Reply
  7. Sandra

    Went to the link and was able to sign up to The Contributor.

    Reply
  8. kdcol

    I’ve always enjoyed AARP articles even though I’m not old (huh hum… yet). I agree, you should read what you want. I believe reading from a variety of sources makes a more well-rounded person. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It really does. I would probably read AARP’s magazine if it were available free. There’s another newspaper called The Ledger that’s mainly business and legal news. That’s not normally my thing, but sometimes I’ll pick it up on my way to the bus and read it on the ride home. And sometimes business and legal news can be really interesting.

      Reply

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