Friday, June 18, 2010

Connections of a Human Sort

Connections of a human sort

Day in and day out I’ve sat in this chair and worked hard. I've put in countless hours completely focused on this artificial screen reflecting back to me this light that displays to me the inserted functions I've typed in over the past few weeks. It's become the same regiment every day.... Wake up at four, leave by five, facebook till six then spend the rest of the day typing away at my project.

 however today was different. Today, despite sitting in the same chair and being tied in the same condition... I was struck deeply by a few unexpected encounters. The kind of encounters you rarely experience throughout your life. One of honesty, authenticity and at it's very core, an element of a truly HUMAN to HUMAN connection.

 First there was Michael, this beautiful twenty something man who expressed to me his thoughts on the world, in particularly the realities of race and its associated injustices throughout the world. We talked about my whiteness as a form of power, one that has come to me without any effort or energy placed into gained the supposed power.  It was a harsh look in the mirror I guess you could say as I struggle on a daily basis with being the other. There’s nothing like walking down the street every day and having every one staring at you unabashedly. It’s mostly because of my race and that assumptions that come along with that…I have power, I have money…I have.. Michael and I talked about this for awhile. Tied to our reality I had to admit that I have privilege in the world simply because I am white and come from America. And despite my efforts to hide that fact, it is none the less…a fact. Michael said that I could never understand his experience nor he of mine…and yet I had to push back on that for a bit. Because while in many ways I have power… much of it has been given to me by others. And so I questioned…at what point to we begin to question our own impositions on others and the power that we give so freely to another human being to either degrade us, tear apart our hopes and dreams, or to control aspects of our lives that truly matter to us.  As usual, I was an advocate of a commonality between Michael and I…to try to persuade him to recognize the same power that he has given me simply because of my race, and even worse, but the all to ability that I have to take away his power, simply because of his race.  I’ve been given much in my life and to those who are given, much is to be expected I told him. And when he told me that he feels like he’s only experience 20% of what he is capable of, I couldn’t help sympathize and understand. It was at that moment that I only hoped I might be a small part in helping him recognize the other 80%, even if it just means being a real authentic friend and believing in someone and all that they are and what they could be.
Then there was Kelvin, only 18 year’s old…something I found out the day AFTER our conversation…but we had this incredible conversation about objectification and inner beauty and what love really means, what attraction really is and how that influences our life decisions. I know this may seem a bit shallow, but at the same time, I think it is an all too true reality for many young gay men in our world. In so many ways, we are seen for WHAT we are, what we look like and what potential suitors hope to do with us. Of course this is not unique to the LGBTI community, yet it is an experience that many face on a daily basis. For awhile it’s fun…this person thinks you’re cute…you make out, do your thang…but then…they are on to the next person. And you do this over and over and over again until you are completely numb to the greater truths you first sought when you initially came out. It suddenly becomes about getting off…not about finding love, or a human connection with someone who’s been in a similar position as you. Sadly, it is a cycle that I think our community in particular repeats over and over with future generations. A young person comes out of the closet, searching for like minded individuals who get what they are going through, they meet an older, more experienced person…or so they think….they get used for what they look like…and are left wondering…why did I come out in the first place.  Kelvin and I undertook the hopeless romantic sides of ourselves that seek to live in a world that values us for WHO we are. To live in a world that wouldn’t dismiss what I say simply because of my age, or to live in a place that honors who I am and recognizes that I am more than my smile or looks, is important.  And after realizing that this person was only 18, I really appreciated his ability to see his greater humanity within the world and to acknowledge that he and others had a greater purpose within this world.
And finally there was Kat…my beautiful, amazing and wonderful co-hort from Canada. Kat is here doing research for her Masters Program studying the Lesbian community of Kenya and the many MANY injustices that face young women coming to terms with their sexuality throughout the city of Nairobi. I learned so many of the horrible things that face this hidden community within Nairobi. First being women, it’s hard enough to get through the day here in certain ways in traditional homes. You are expected to marry, to have children, and to serve. Your role is in relationship to a man within your life. Thus to be a lesbian…yikes…imagine that…you don’t fit in to the role you were ascribed at birth. Many young women have been raped, beaten up, and even murdered for disclosures of their sexual orientation. And what Kat and I discussed was the fact that so many of these same women remain so resilient and strong in the face of this adversity. Of course they have a vulnerability that demonstrates their trauma, yet, the fact that they are still getting by…wow. How significant of a situation for these amazing and strong women to survive in a world that seems to be in many ways, against them.  And too that, where Kat and I’s conversation led was our place within this world. Who are WE and what is our role here other than to observe, support where we can and learn their stories and remember who these people were. There is something to be said about our western conceptions of identity and how it has been transposed to other parts of the world. As an LGBTI American, claiming my identity has had a net benefit for who I am and the world in which I operate on a day to day basis. However, claiming that same identity in a different culture can be much more dangerous and begs the question…do we truly know the reality of what “sexuality” is?  I’m I coming here to impose my western thoughts and life upon this population who has adopted our terminology and lingo, but who live in a different world where that terminology was not created. Anyway, to make a long story short….it was an amazing conversation and I was so happy to discover the greater depths of this new friend, Kat.
  At the end of the day, the dull monotony slipped into pure bliss and reminded again of the reasons why I am here. That even in a normal scene that repeats itself nauseatingly over and over…that there are moments that we shouldn’t close ourselves off too. That within a short few hours you can connect with a fellow being on matters of the heart and things that are important to you and to them. That every moment has an opportunity to make the most of it and to learn from another about the greater depths of our human world.  My heart was touched, and these conversations really meant a lot to me. 

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