Feeling the Sting of Discrimination
I am a 52-year-old lesbian who has had the good fortune to never feel directly discriminated against…until yesterday. Over the past couple of years, we have all watched as formerly unthinkable behaviors from a US president became commonplace and barely surprising. The rude, offensive, immature and hateful behavior seemed to give permission to members of our population who harbor fear and hatred to act out on those feelings. Racists have become emboldened. Misogynists, homophobes, and xenophobes spew lies and hatred while hiding behind language and arguments fed to them by a fear-mongering conservative press. A country so many of us felt was moving forward seemed suddenly to be tossed back by many decades.
I have been lucky in all of my years to rarely have encountered the hatred directly.
Although many of my friends cannot say the same, I am not a member of the #metoo movement. I’ve not been assaulted in a bathroom, or had my job put on the line by a male demanding sex, or been raped by a stranger, or a friend. I’m completely supportive of the women who are finally standing up after feeling without a voice for so long. I’m just not one of them.
I’ve mostly lived in or near large, liberal communities. I’ve been out as a lesbian since I was 21, and never tried to hide it from employers, neighbors or friends. People have simply treated me as another person, as far as I could tell. Were people really meeting my expectations and treating me as I wanted to be treated, or did I just not see the ugly truth at times? I can’t know for certain, and that’s OK. We each create our own truth to some extent. I choose to believe I have worked with and lived near mostly good people who judge others on their merits, not their race, gender, religion or other characteristic having nothing to do with actual behavior or character.
Yesterday, something happened to change that. It was not overt. It was not life-threatening. I almost didn’t even know about it, which maybe makes it worse because how often is danger lurking and we don’t have a clue?
I received a text from a friend explaining that my wife and I were getting quite a reputation in our very small community. (We live in a rural area just outside of a smallish town which is just outside of a large city.) The text went on to explain how we were harassing the children of some new neighbors because of where they were riding their dirt bikes, how the father had yelled at us to leave the boys alone, and we had even chased the father down the street to yell at him about his kids’ behavior.
This was all news to me because none of it was true.
We haven’t even heard the dirt bikes. In the rumors, which my friend had heard from two people, we were “the grumpy lesbian couple” down the road. There are only four houses on our private road, and we are the only female couple, so that narrows it down pretty easily.
I will confess we spoke with the father when the family first moved in because they were running a chainsaw all morning, so we asked what they were doing and what their plans were. They are renters, so we were surprised they were cutting down trees, especially off of the property they were renting. I thought we had a pleasant, informative conversation. We found out he was doing our neighbor a favor, which was really nice. Apparently, the father, or the wife, or the teenage son, did not think it was a pleasant conversation, and we have now been branded “the grumpy lesbians.”
It hurts to know there is someone out there spreading lies about me. It hurts that people believe the lies. It is frustrating not knowing exactly who said what or why.
I don’t think I am being unreasonable to say that it is being done, at least in part, because we are lesbians. That is how we were identified, meaning that is important in the person’s mind. I don’t know if someone else is really yelling at the boys about their dirt bikes or why rumors would be spread that it was us.
Rationally, I know this is likely just one person, or at most, one family. They’ve not directly threatened us, the rumor is nothing scandalous, and compared to what some people deal with, this is nothing. Still, it feels like something. I think this is really my first taste of discrimination.
We are being targeted not because of something we did, but because of what we are.
I understand this is but a small taste of what so many others deal with daily. It’s a bitter taste and I don’t need another bite. I will let this inform me as to how fortunate I have been, and how painful it must be to consistently be judged by one small facet of who you are. The unfairness ate away at me last night. In the darkness, I wondered if I had something more to fear than rumors being spread — would they hurt our kids, our dog, our house? The isolation we have enjoyed living on a small, private road could also make us easy targets. I wonder if this is how the very few Asian or Black families living in this area feel. I suspect it is worse, more constant, and in this highly polarized time, likely to get worse before it gets better.