So, there it was, a perfect chance to fill a glaring silence as my hairstylist and her colleagues snipped away at us customers. I sat in the salon chair thinking, Why yammer about the weather when I have something much more compelling to chew the rag about? So I began discussing a queer event I was going to that day. It was an activism training session, in fact.
Now, I'm no zealot for anything or anyone, and I don't go around gabbing unprovoked about LGBTQ stuff 24/7. But at the same time, when discretion is used, everyday spaces such as salons offer prime opportunities to initiate such chat to help sow the seeds of equality, justice and acceptance. I mean, who needs a stuffy legislative chamber or other government setting when you could be vocal on the front lines of everyday life?
One of the cool things about this approach, I think, is that there is more potential to transcend partisanship and other bias and connect through a common bond with the people around us, regardless of whether they're queer. Sometimes, it's the common bond of oppression. Other times, maybe it's just general humanity.
For instance, I went on to tell my stylist that I was the victim of repeated discrimination and prejudice because I was a queer. I told her that experiences like that, they change a girl for good. I then explained how much I had come to despise bigotry, and how I had grown outraged and frustrated because of my mistreatment. I told her I wanted to channel all that energy into something positive -- something that may improve my life and the lives of others like me. I told her about my ever-growing fire to fight for queer equality so I don't have to be a victim anymore.
Next thing I knew, the Hispanic women next to me who was getting her hair cut chimed in with experiences of her own -- instances of racial prejudice. Then my stylist joined in, citing a time when she herself was the victim of something similar. The conversation blossomed. Awareness was raised. A bond was formed. And the topic of queerness was de-stigmatized in the process.
But it isn't always about chit-chatting while being pampered at the salon. Sometimes it's about quite the opposite: going outside your comfort zone, as well as causing discomfort for others. Namely, sometimes it's about confrontation. Even at the expense of causing a scene. Not violent confrontation, mind you, but calling people out for things that they say and do that might be narrow-minded, abusive, discriminatory or prejudicial. And while I am much more selective about where and when I initiate conversation about LGBTQ rights, I will never, ever back away from a situation where someone needs to be challenged for saying or doing something that's essentially unacceptable.
I think too often, these instances go unaddressed, whether they occur in informal/everyday settings or even places like schools. In fact, two books I recently read (Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School; and Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School) cited research that pointed out frequent instances when teachers and administrators failed to intervene to put a stop to verbal abuse and discriminatory treatment against students at the hands of their peers -- or even other educators.
I personally think that as a trans person, I do not have the luxury of such apathy. Especially in my daily circle of existence. It's my very jurisdiction, after all. If I don't stand up and speak out within it, who will?