On Being Uncomfortable
I suppose even people who aren’t interested in football (like me) have heard of Michael Sam. He’s a very, very brave man and I’m glad he’s taken this step. Whoever drafts him will be very lucky.
But he is not who I want to talk about. There are those (mostly men, but a few women) who say that being around gay people makes them uncomfortable. And I really don’t understand this notion at all.
First, let me reassure these people that someone who has just come out as gay after many years of hiding it excels at not revealing anything to the world that they don’t want the world to see. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves. Some people say what they mean and mean what they say. But, in general, those people aren’t in imminent danger of getting the shit kicked out of them if they say the wrong thing.
But more importantly, why would you be uncomfortable? There’s two possible results to having a gay man in the locker room. The first is that he finds you somewhat attractive. Personally, I’d be flattered. If (and that’s a big if), he asked me out, I’d tell him the same thing I would tell anyone who asked me out. Sorry, I’m married. But if you want to grab a beer or lunch sometime and just talk, that’s cool with me.
You see, I (and I think many people in this world) can handle having lunch or a drink with someone who they are sexually attracted to without going all fatal attraction. Now, we might not think that way from the news reports and some of the more extreme feminist groups. But I would like to think that the majority of people in our society are responsible adults and capable of acting as an adult instead of like a third grader laughing at fart jokes.
Yes, all of us see attractive people and admire them. That doesn’t imply rape. Talking to them doesn’t imply that there will be sex or anything else.
I work with two of the most beautiful women I have ever met. I talk with them frequently. We chat about work, about politics, about all kinds of things. I’ve gone to lunch with them and there was nothing to it. It wasn’t “a date”, it was two coworkers getting lunch… something I’ve also frequently done with a coworker who is gay.
To be perfectly honest, as gorgeous as they are, after many conversations, they really aren’t my type. I wouldn’t consider a long term relationship with either of them.
That’s a HUGE part of relationships (at least in adults who have real relationships). It’s much more than just physical attraction, there has to be mutual interests, activities, and concepts. A relationship is about sharing life with someone you like to spend time with. Sex is awesome, but it’s not all there is.
The second possible result, and one that I think more telling, is that the gay person ignores the person that is uncomfortable. I think that deep down, we all want to be liked and we all want to be found attractive, at least by one person. But what if that gay person doesn’t find us attractive, what they (gasp) ignore us? That would be tough for some people that I know. To think that someone is attracted to men and not be attracted to them would devastate their fragile little egos.
But beyond all that, consider that uncomfortable feeling is all internal. They gay person, the attractive coworker, the flirty waiter or waitress, unless they are acting inappropriately, then they aren’t the cause of that uncomfortable feeling.
You can’t expect them to change themselves to make you feel better. That’s not their job. They aren’t there to make someone uncomfortable, they are there to do a job. Whether that job is play football, write articles, deliver food, or run a company. If they do something beyond that job, then there may be an issue and it should be addressed, using proper procedures. But if the fact that someone is gay, black, one-legged, autistic, or atheist bothers you… the fault is not in that person. It’s in you.
Anyone who wants or encourages someone to lie about themselves in order to make someone else feel less uncomfortable is an ass.
I’ll also add, that it’s not our job to make other people feel uncomfortable. We may find someone attractive, stupid, annoying, or likable, but we shouldn’t make them uncomfortable if we can help it. There are a lot of issues here and it’s often difficult to tell who is at fault, if someone is at fault.
My guiding principle is that I try not to annoy people and I try not to be annoyed by others. If I am annoying them, then I hope that they tell me so and I’ll try not to be so bothersome. If I have to work with them, then I can keep it about work. If they are annoying me, then I’ll try to deflect them gently. We don’t have to be jerks. Fortunately, I work in a place with a lot of very intelligent, very perceptive people.
Note, if you are coming here to read this and find me annoying, that’s not my problem.