Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Emotional Backlash from Proposition 8

I have felt weepy and over-reactive since my last blog post and every time I reread that post I feel even weepier. I'm not gay but I feel like this issue is mine! I thought it was time I gave it a deeper look.

Whenever we go to Gay Pride events, intending to offer our support to our gay neighbors and friends, I spend the day weeping. I feel so touched by the outpouring of love and mutual support around the issue of being oneself because this is something, growing up as an ostracized kid, I didn't experience very much.

I grew up feeling different. I was Jewish and lived in an Irish and Italian Catholic neighborhood. My mom taught me how to read when I was three years old. And I had a photographic memory— I could read a book once, go to class to take a test and not remember the answer, see the book in my mind, turn to the right page in my imagination and read the text off the page and get an "A" on the test anyway. I was also very shy and people in my school didn't like that combination very much.

You see, they thought the combination of me not talking to them and being "smart" meant I was "stuck up." I didn't think I was smart, by the way—I didn't know the answers to the questions on the tests any more than anyone else did! But my test scores told them a different story and that was all my classmates needed to decide to try to take me down a peg at every opportunity.

The first lesson I learned when I went to school was the importance of not standing out from the crowd. I distinctly remember the titters that happened when the other Jewish kid in my class read beautifully when it was his turn to read a few lines from Dick and Jane while the other children struggled to sound out the words one by one. No one tittered at the struggling. That was the norm. They made fun of the one who didn't struggle. When it was my turn I pretended I needed to read slowly and escaped being made fun of for awhile. But not for long. The teacher kept track of how many books each student read in her class and one day brought in a chart that showed me being miles ahead of everyone else. My cover was blown and that was the end of my anonymity from that point on.

Later I discovered that there were many differences that people got ostracized for in my school. Being fat, being poor, being Chinese, being the child of divorced parents—those were the difference-making attributes of the only kids I got to hang out with, the other ostracised kids in the class. And all the differences were things we didn't choose for ourselves. We just had to figure out how to live with it, or disguise it, or grow out of it, or—later —to embrace it.

Later I realized that psychic abilities were something I was expected to hide or, better yet, do without. I spent years of my life deliberately shutting my abilities down. When I came to a point in my life where these abilities came back, I first had to learn how to overcome my fears of having them. And now that Paul and I want to use those skills in addition to our education and experience to help other people our biggest emotional hurdle has been how to come out of hiding and be fully who we are.

Not surprisingly, the struggle to be oneself is at the heart of most, if not all of the sessions we do. What will the neighbors think if I do thus and so? What will my family do? How can I know my life purpose if I was taught all my life that my deepest heart's desires aren't "good enough"? What will I do if I tell the truth about how I really feel about my marriage, my career, my religion? And these issues don't just come up in the spiritual counseling and healing sessions we do.

Paul is a professional photographer and recently he and I have done a couple of portrait shoots with people who felt as if they didn't come across well in pictures. The truth of the matter is that they were both perfectly nice looking people but whenever Paul was about to take the shot, they would literally grimace. Oww! It was painful to watch. Both people were so convinced they were going to look ugly in their pictures that they actually scrunched up their faces and looked... I hate to say it..... ugly. That's when Paul called me in and I took on the job of being a distraction so they would let down their guard and Paul could catch them in the act of being themselves. Being themselves is when they looked the most beautiful, the most radiant, and the most wonderful to be with, too.

For me, and a lot of people like me, the struggle for gay people to have the right to marry has nothing to do with the institution of marriage. It's about people being able to be who they are and having the right to the same protections and benefits under the law everybody else has.

Paul put it to me plainly the other day. We shouldn't be able to legislate away anybody's constitutional rights—rights based on the stated basic premise that all men (people) are created equal and shall be treated as such under the law. To write into legislation that any group shall be discriminated against—that the difference of being gay is any different than the difference of being a different race, religion or gender—is antithetical to what this nation stands for.

You don't have to like gay people. You don't have to like Jews. You can think people who admit to having psychic skills are crazy if you want to. And you can make snide remarks at Obama for being "eloquent" and smart. But this way of being has hurt too many people for far too long.

It's time to change it now.


Britney Pieta said...

"I could read a book once, go to class to take a test and not remember the answer, see the book in my mind, turn to the right page in my imagination and read the text off the page and get an "A" on the test anyway."

I do the exact same thing to help me on tests! Like I picture where it was on the page or how the teacher's voice sounded!

Kala Pohl Studio said...

Very well put Sheryl, I love reading your posts. Makes me sit down and ponder about things:) The lack of tolerance in our society is scary sometimes. Amazing how people are so quick to judge anything or anyone not like them. Peace and love.