Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It really is that simple

A little over a week ago, I wrote a post about my brother and my cousin that went viral. Viral for me. Of course, my viral is like the common cold compared to other bloggers, for example Bloggess, whose viral is ebola plus the stomach flu with some herpes thrown in. But still, satisfying. As I watched all the shares on Facebook accumulate and the views on my stat page rise, and as I cringed every time somebody tagged me and that nasty graphic showed up on my feed, I waited ...waited for an email or a call from the one person who really mattered when I wrote that post and published it at 4:00 am on a Monday morning: my brother.

I waited through Monday, checking my email way more often than I usually do. Through Monday night when I wrote another post, but the post about him kept getting the views and the shares. I sent my son Drake a message and said I hoped I hadn't offended him.

Tuesday morning I got up, no email from my brother. I sent my daughter Elvira a message and asked her if she'd read it ... and if she thought I'd written anything that would have offended him. I told her I'd asked him  if I could tell the story before I wrote it. She said, no, nothing offensive. She thought it was powerful and he probably liked it.

Here's the thing about writing about someone else's story: it's awful if you I don't get it right. Especially a story like this that's outside of my experience. Not that I've never been offended, but I'm not a gay man, and although as a woman I do hear and see people talking about me like I'm less than human, I can't assume I understand his experience.

In a way, it's not my story to tell. And yet, if I don't tell it, how do I show I'm standing beside him in this ridiculous battle for his rights? Which, if you understand the concept of rights, can't be taken away, and yet here we are.

So I stewed. I checked my email again and again. After school I talked with Elvira. I told her I still hadn't heard from her uncle, and I was getting really worried. She said I should probably call him. Yes, I said. I'll call him this evening.

Drake called, and I had the same conversation with him. He said, "You should probably call him."

After we got off the phone, I clicked through my phone book and hit the call button. My brother's phone rang several times, and then he said, "Hey. What's up?"

I said, "Hey. Everything OK? Did you read what I wrote the other night?"

He said he had, and that he'd shared it (not on Facebook, of course) with some of his friends. And when they realized I was his sister and I was writing about him, they shared it with other friends. He said several people he hadn't been heard from in a while contacted him about it, and he was feeling really good about that.

"Oh," I said. "That's a relief to hear. I thought maybe you were mad at me. I thought maybe I'd fucked it up, the story. What I said. I was afraid you were offended."

"Oh, no!" he said. "I was going to call you. I was just trying to think of something better to say than 'thank you.' Those two words didn't seem like enough to express what I wanted to say. No, I'm not mad at all. I'm sorry you were worried."

I reassured him that he didn't need to be sorry. I just get paranoid sometimes. The problem with being a writer is that I send my words out into the world, and I don't get to see people's faces when they read them. So it's only my imagination sitting here beside me masturbating and making itself feel important. It's an insecure feeling sometimes.

We talked for a long time, about Indiana and how they fucked that up; about how good it had been to hear from people who wanted to support him; about how his friends wanted him to tell our cousin to fuck off, but we both agreed that wasn't going to be productive; about how I had unfriended our cousin after I gave her 12 hours to see the post on my Facebook; about how our youngest sister had unfriended her too.

Saturday night I talked to our mom, and she said she'd unfriended our cousin, her niece, too. (To be honest, she had my baby sister do it for her on her phone.) She said she didn't need to be friends with anybody who posted shit like that that hurt her son.

And herein lies the solution: We all have to take up the fight. We all have to say enough is enough. This isn't a gay problem or a lesbian problem or a transgender problem or a queer problem. This is a human rights problem. And it will take all of us to push back and fix it.

These are the last words I wrote in that post: "Your dehumanizing hatred is going to cause a backlash like you've never even imagined. A backlash of people loving and supporting and fighting for their gay relatives and friends, and yes, even strangers." The backlash might be something as simple as unfriending someone on Facebook. It might be as simple as telling the story of someone who was hurt by words. It might be as simple as baking a cake for someone, and not even asking whether they're gay or straight ... because it's not your business if they are. It might be as simple as treating everyone with the same respect you'd like to be treated with yourself.

And it really is that simple. Isn't it? It really is that simple. Who are you going to unfriend on Facebook today?