Learning to Be a Minority

April 2, 2015 at 2:48 am 2 comments

Being disabled, queer or a convert to a minority religion (Paganism in my case) means you typically do not have an upbringing that prepares you to live your life as a member of a minority group, the judgment of how to balance who you are with the broader society’s norms, when to hide for survival when possible and when to come out of the closet. In college, I began learning how to be a minority.

I know there are some mentoring programs for women and Black, Latino, Native American youth and young adults in both high school, college and professional settings. We need more of these programs as they are very key in the success of under-represented groups in various industries. I’d love to see more of such programs in disabled and queer communities. The difficulty is making this available at a younger age, when it is most needed. We have to deal with possible opposition from parents, and paranoia about gay/lesbian/bi/trans adults “corrupting youth”. The GLBT communities have often shied away from youth work for those reasons. But this is really important. We need to find a way. There are more of us in social work, teaching and other professions, though it’s still often tricky and considered “unprofessional” to talk about one’s own experiences. I feel like the requirements of privacy and confidentiality, while I understand and respect them being in place, all too often have the result of isolating a student or client’s experiences. They are merely a number, a file, not a human being. They are not welcomed into a community when they discover their identity, if it’s a disabled identity or a queer one, but often told to hide it. Or they are pressured to come out when they aren’t ready, sometimes to a community that does not serve their needs.

I found the most stable community for finding good inspiring role models to be in the queer & bisexual communities. I joined Queer and Straight in Unity at my college. Now, I didn’t necessarily find that my peers were the best role models- many of them struggled with relationships, drama, and substance abuse issues. But I did find it particularly in some of the first gay and lesbian ministers to be ordained by the ELCA- Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (my college is ELCA affiliated) Jay Wiesner and Anita Hill, and their partners. These were people who had worked thru their personal issues before realizing their calling, often taking an indirect route to the ministry as they struggled with their sexuality. That didn’t necessarily inspire me to become a minister, ELCA or otherwise, but it did make me think about all the things that this earlier generation had gone thru, often alone. What they had done to pave the way for the next generation. All the obstacles they faced, that they did not allow to stop them.

In both the Pagan and adult autistic communities I often encountered a defeatist attitude. An attitude of hopeless poverty and social ostracizing. There were certain bright sparks of hope, people who didn’t let the bastards grind them down. There were others that seemed to fear success and integration into the mainstream, even blocking or undercutting people who tried to break through self-imposed ghetto walls. I encountered some of these same attitudes among queer communities, but fortunately I knew they were wrong. We were winning, the tides of public opinion were turning in our favor. There is still a lot to do, especially with making sure young people, elderly people, disabled, trans people, bisexuals of all genders, and queer/trans people of color are truly included by our communities and their needs are addressed and their voices heard. But overall, I have gained a great sense of empowerment from my activist participation in the queer/bi communities, and I hope to share that empowerment with my other communities.

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Entry filed under: Autism/Asperger's, GLBT, Pagan Communities. Tags: , , .

The New Left is Dying Polytheist Groups on Facebook et al.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Christopher Blackwell  |  April 15, 2015 at 5:12 am

    Why to simply treat what you are as normal and act as though it is. I am a number of things that you mention and I have treated being those things as normal and refuse to play the victim. As a result, I am rarely treated badly because I am upfront about all the things I a including being gay, Wiccan, a disabled Marine Vietnam with health issues and of course being and old geezer. I don’t waste a lot of tie complaining, or feeling sorry about myself. I often will joke about my disabilities, health issues, and even the difficult things I have faced.

    As a result I often seem to have a healing affect on other people who are also going through difficult things. Life is difficult for mot people and they can’t talk about it as it is a taboo thing. So I will joke about my difficulties, and often people will tell me about their and I do my best to show them that they are dealing with it pretty much as others do. I show the some of tricks that I have learned over the years that has kept e cheerful in spite of it.

    Life does not have to end because you face difficulties, or illness, even getting old, or losing a partner. In the process I have become the story teller and turn the experiences into stories that get people to laugh about the very difficulties that they normally try to avoid thinking of.

    As to being a minority there are so ay different types of minorities. How about talking with some of the other minorities and learn how they handle it. There is a lot of wisdom out there if you can get yourself to cross to barriers and talk with other minorities. You might even make some new friends. Minorities working together can create and share power together. That is better than being a anyone’s victim.

    Reply
  • 2. caelesti  |  April 16, 2015 at 12:07 am

    I go by the saying “Normal is a setting on your washing machine” My sense of humor is one of my major coping techniques for life, it can be anywhere from zany to dry and sarcastic depending on my mood! Sometimes people appreciate my humor, some don’t understand. Oh well, I march to the rhythm of my own glockenspiel. I think there may be some mis-communication going on, because several of the points you made (like learning from other minority groups) were things that I said. Or maybe I’m mis-interpreting you!

    Reply

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