Guest Blogger

Anger Is One Letter Short of Danger

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 17, 2011 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Alan Bounville, Equality Walk, RV park

Editors' Note: Editors' Note: Guest blogger Alan L. Bounville is a full time graduate student studying theatre for social change at New York University and is one of the founding members of Queer Rising New York City, a direct action group fighting for queer equality. He is currently walking across country to highlight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

anger-danger.jpgThis morning Equality Cart and I are in the bathroom at an RV Park in Prineville, Oregon, where I camped last. I am at the sink finishing up getting ready for the day when a man comes out of one of the showers behind me, sees Equality Cart, scrunches his face a bit and asks me what the cart is for.

I share with him, as I do to several people each day that I am walking across the country for gender and sexual orientation equality. He shares with me that his niece "decided" she was gay and left her husband and children and in doing so created a lot of grief for the family. Now her children are being raised by her ex-husband and his new wife. He then opens the door and walks out of the restroom.

The only response I can say before the door shuts behind him is, "I'm not doing that."

Maybe he hears me as he takes off. Maybe not. Maybe him expressing himself is simply a reinforcement of his belief that people 'decide' to be gay, straight, bisexual or transgender.

Had this man given me just ten more seconds I would have asked him what bothered him more, that his niece left her family or that she were a lesbian. From there maybe we could have had a real conversation where we were both heard and respected. Instead, he walked away.

I find quite often when people are agitated they do just as this man did. The walk away before a conversation can take place. What good comes from walking away? How can we ever grow a stronger sense of community if we don't stay and talk with each other?

I found myself getting angry as he took off. Does he even know that one does not 'decide' to be gay just as one does not 'decide' to be straight? Is there anything about him that would help me understand his feelings on issues relating to gender identity or sexual orientation? I will never know. I was angry because I'm tired of people just walking away from the potential for a meaningful conversation. What is the real threat from talking? Really - what is it?

As I walked away from the RV park I continued to think about this brief encounter in the bathroom. And the anger stayed with me until I saw the above sign on the Prineville elementary school. "Anger is One Letter Short of Danger."

Is it? Anger is a powerful emotion. Anger can move people to action. Anger is often justified. And then I thought, while walking, what will anger lead to for me today?

It could lead to me ruminating over this encounter and not paying attention to the cars and trucks that whiz by inches from Equality Cart and myself. It would definitely take away from me being in the moment enjoying the beautiful Central Oregon scenery. In short, it would take away from my life instead of add to it. So in this instance, anger could lead to danger and act as a vortex as it sucks energy from me that I need for walking long distances each day.

In the end, I chose to process the anger from this interchange and let. it. go.

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Did you ever consider that his walking away could have been a good thing for your health? I mean seriously your standing in a bathroom area discussing gay rights. Whether the guy was prejudice or not he left the conversation at the last place he felt comfortable with it. To push people past their point of comfort is to ask for a violent reaction. Letting them walk away gives them the ability to reflect on it later without the anger of having been pushed to far.As your discussing Transgender rights I hope your being honest with people and explaining that not all Transsexuals and CD's are either LGBT or Transgender.

Alan, you say in your post simply that, "He shares with me ..." the recent happenings in this man's family ... but you do not let us in on the non-verbal cues you were getting about how he feels about this story. I get the impression that the man "shares" with you possibly with no small amount of anger or resentment or hurt in his voice. Actually, I would invite you to consider how open and trusting the man was with you when he "shared" something so personal with a total stranger. Even if he was resentful, even if he was working through some personal homophobia, human hurt is hurt, and it deserves compassion.

Furthermore, his walking away was not a hostile act that you should take personally. This man did not owe you a "meaningful conversation" and maybe he wasn't ready for one. Generally speaking, I would not want someone giving me a lecture, or even a "meaningful discussion," about giving my heart to Jesus in the middle of a men's shower room. Being willing to be "out there" is great, but there are times when it is proper for us to check our evangelism no matter what message we are pushing.

Alan, I commend you for ultimately deciding to "let. it. go." ... and I hope in time you can even find some admiration for this man's pain and struggle that is not all that different from yours and mine.

The man you encountered in the bathroom has needs.
He needs to be heard.
He needs to have his 'truth' acknowledged.
He needs to tell you that it's a choice.
He needs to believe that it's a choice.
He needs to be right, and defend that right against all the scientists and liberals (and liberal scientists) who try to steer innocents from his truth.
He needs to be heard.
Maybe you can listen and acknowledge his truth, and allow him to have it, knowing there's no way you can change his mind in a minute or an hour or a day or a month. Maybe in a year, if you have the resources.
Let them tell you their truth. Then move on.

Om Kalthoum | July 18, 2011 3:49 AM
He shares with me that his niece "decided" she was gay and left her husband and children and in doing so created a lot of grief for the family. Now her children are being raised by her ex-husband and his new wife. He then opens the door and walks out of the restroom.

What part of that made you angry? I think the first thing out of my mouth if a stranger had shared that with me would have been something like, "Gosh, that must have been really hard for everybody involved." And see how the conversation develops from there. If you're getting all on your high horse because he chose a word - decided - of which you disapprove, well, outsiders don't always get everything right, do they? And the stranger was correct about the big picture. Those situations DO cause a lot of grief for everyone involved.

california panda | July 18, 2011 8:32 PM

If there's one thing in life that I've learned. It's never to be direct with your answers initially when confronted by a stranger. It's better to answer a question with a question at the beginning of a conversation with someone you don't know. This give you a chance to assess their state of mind before proceeding. If they are obviously angry to begin with all you really can do is try to defuse the situation and move away. It is my personal belief that anyone today who has to ask what an "equality cart" is is just looking for an excuse to "dump".