When We Fail

“Are you gay?”

The question is spat out with a venom that I can’t dare imagine. The “no” finds its way out of my mouth way too quickly. My mind has accounted for the dynamic of this fully male testosterone filled environment faster than my leftist self could stage defiance. Even my net clause “and even if I was all of you buggers are too ugly,” seems weak. Like a trying of sorts, like a cry for exclusion within my inclusion.

 I am seeing the world again.

I am seeing my straight male-ness allow me to navigate through worlds with a certain confidence. I’m seeing the person who has to answer yes. I’m holding places, and thoughts, in one light.  And it isn’t looking pretty.

I rank sentences. One of the most beautiful sentences I heard last year was a friend describing her relationship with her grandmother. She said “we lack the tools to navigate each other’s’ worlds.” I think about this situation, I find myself without the tools to navigate this situation. Life has moved on. The new guys are being asked to introduce themselves. Part of the introduction must include whether or not they have sisters. One guy has three sisters. The crowd goes wild.

I lack the tools to navigate this situation.

Eventually I begin to feel smaller, hypocritical, dumber. I begin to hate myself for my fear. I begin to wish that I had said something.

Silence is wrong. I have said this before.

But what happens when you don’t have the strength. Another friend reminds me that we must pick our battles. She says “Otherwise, we burn out, lead joyless lives, die young.” She said this about something else. I try to apply it to my situation.

I fail.

I promise myself that next time I will speak. It is a feeble promise, one said with the knowledge it will be broken. It becomes easier to put my politics aside in some situations. It becomes harder to live with myself. It becomes impossible to live with others. One thing rings true – it hurts.

later that night

i held an atlas in my lap

ran my fingers across the whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

it answered




–          Warsan Shire

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