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.
This 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.