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Member since: Tue Sep 4, 2007, 06:36 AM
Number of posts: 7,804

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The Appearance and Actuality of Prejudice.

.... But if there isn't a mechanism in place to differentiate between the appearance of prejudice and the intent of prejudice the ability to accurately guage prejudice and, consequently, efforts to thwart it, are compromised by wilful misinterpretation on behalf of agencies seeking not to bring about positive change but to sharpen their own cognitive bias.

I am not in a position, as a gay man, to legitimately take offense at someone telling me I'm being a drama queen, even though it can be seen as homophobic, until I have satisfied at least myself that I'm not being a drama queen but in fact have some legitimate greivance. I could choose to behave as if the use of the term is insulting no matter when or how it used, but that becomes a communication block.

Prejudice is a logical fallacy. It isn't wrong to make assumptions about, for example, gay people because doing so makes them feel bad, it's wrong to make assumptions about gay people because it doesn't make any sense. The emotional reaction consequent to such assumptions proceeds from the fact that it doesn't make sense, and it's the making sense that has to happen to fix the problem, not the management of the symptomatic reaction.

So if someone says something to me that makes me feel bad it might be homophobic ir it might not. But unless there is some specific indication that they wouldn't have said it to me if I were straight, I cannot legitimately claim that it was homophobic even if I really, really, really think it was.

The Sheeple Wake Up II

Developments ensue...

Ladies and Gentleman... my very first cartoon!

Ummm. Well. It is my very first cartoon, after all...

GD's disappeared...!


First Meta, now GD....

Oooh dear. Who's next?

So, don't make assumptions about people based on your perception of categories they seem to fit.

I think that's what this whole "door" issue....hinges on.

Do you want to know what's sexist? THIS.

THIS is sexist.


"Finding difficulty using that iPad or Kindle? Don't worry, ladies. There's finally an easy-to-use tablet just for us.

It's called the ePad Femme, and the Middle East–based Eurostar Group, who developed the product, are describing it as the "world's first tablet made exclusively for women..."

Not sure whether I would regard it as "benevolent" although I'm sure the manufacturers think it is...

Are you fucking kidding me? I saw this exact idea parodied on a British TV show called "Look Around You" not more than 6 years ago....

"Benevolent homophobia". Or was it? Here's what happened...

Now seems a good time to tell this story, and before I go any further I should say that the only reason I use the word "homophobia" is because it's the only extant word describing treatment at the hands of heterosexuals based solely on one's sexual orientation. It's actually very difficult to say that the "perpetrators" were homophobic as none of them thought any less of me because I'm gay.

I worked for a while (3 yearsish) in a hospital office as a PA for a senior consultant at managerial level. The rest of the admin people in the department were all women. They were basically good sorts (well except the woman who shared my office who was *nearly* basically a good sort but had terrible self-confidence issues and had a nasty habit of picking subtle confrontations with everyone to make herself feel better. (All the other women noticed it, too) She was very nice underneath it all, but lacked the confidence to trust people with too much personal information).

I was "The Office Gay". This is not a position I would recommend to anyone, particularly. Whenever I was spoken to about something that wasn't about work it was, to begin with, largely about me being gay, but not to find out what *I* thought about being gay. It was pretty much entirely about what they thought about me being gay.

My position in the culture was laid out for me fairly clearly. I was to be ribbed jovially about being interested in ass-sex, assumed to be interested sexually or romantically in every man that walked through the door, denying my true self if I wasn't or clearly uncomfortable with discussing the subject and should "loosen up" and having special gay versions of ordinary human emotions that were distinct from ordinary human emotions that also needed to be explained.

The days would typically consist of small talk about work or the latest storm being caused by Donna (who hated black people and foreigners, and, everyone agreed, was never happy unless she was having some kind of long-standing feud with someone) or my roomie Florence's stubborn-ness and self-confidence issues and how it wasn't fair that she didn't have as much to do as everyone else or how crap Kelly was as a boss or how Ann, who had a terminally ill son who had an incredibly rare condition that was supported by a single relevant hospice hundreds of miles away, was in denial about something about her terminally ill son. Unless it wasn't about any of those things and instead was about me, in which case the conversations would mostly consist of "I saw the way you looked at that guy!" about some guy that was of no interest to me beyond being some guy that I had, in some context or other, looked at, or "you need to do X", where X was some gay thing that, of course, gay people always did that I needed to do also in order to be fulfilled or "Blah blah blah ASSES, sibelian, LOL" in which some joke would be made about someone's ass or my ass which was a funny joke that, being gay, I would find hilarious. Also, anything any of them did that was annoying that might result in my complaining about it was (despite the same thing being unnacceptable to their work-colleagues) entirely normal when done to me and any complaints from me that it was annoying resulted from my being a "queen".

I cooperated with this culture. Why?

Well, it was the "you're a queen", thing. It made it really difficult to complain. There's no point complaining if you're in a culture where your complaint actually supports the continuation of the culture that pisses you off... Also, telling people that constantly making gay jokes in my presence about how fabulously gay I am with a barely concealed subtext of how fabulous THEY were for seeing how fabulous I was and wasn't it fabulous that they were so open and accepting of me in my fabulousness and wasn't everything else they did therefore fabulous... in lieu of any actual jokes about other stuff, or actual conversation including me as I actually am would have resulted in a constant stream of "oh, lighten up". (Complex explanations of why anything that was expected of me in that job were annoying would be simply dismissed as "Feeing a little self-absorbed, today, darling?" or "...bad hair day. We get it, sibelian".)

There's another reason I cooperated, and this is an important one.

It was FUNNY. YES! I actually enjoyed it sometimes. Sometimes it was truly hilarious. Many of these women had excellent senses of humour. And it wasn't as if it was malicious, it was their way of showing me that they accepted me and wanted to welcome me into their office. They didn't really know anything about gay people beyond stuff they'd seen on television and assumed that I was one of the exciting, gay TV people.

I suppose I just wish that instead of showing that they wanted to accept me they just accepted me. Or even left out the "acceptance" altogether and just worked with me and spoke to me and cooperated with me in the same ordinary way that non-"special" human beings get to without endless references to the categories they belong to.

So, things went on like this for some time and I got really fed up with it. In particular I got really fed up with roomie Florence who just would not damn well shut up about how funny it was that I was gay. "Yes, sometimes gay people do funny things, Florence," I would think to myself, through metaphorical gritted teeth." "Yes, we can be tremendously entertaining and witty but that doesn't mean that my boyfriend having an asthma attack in the middle of the night requiring hospitalisation is a special gay kind of asthma attack requiring an anal exam that he would enjoy because gay people love asses so much that they can't stop themselves asking for rectal exams even though they can barely speak. I suppose the idea of gay people being in hospital might mean that they have to have a rectal exams but not always. And, you know, while we're on the subject, maybe sometimes gay people needing rectal exams in hospitals just wouldn't be funny, cos, you know, they're in hospital. Which might not be nice for them. It doesn't seem to be funny whenever you or any of the girls here need examined, does it? I wonder why not."

(He got better. He didn't need a rectal exam.)

Another person who enjoyed all the fun and games was Helen the Charge Nurse. She was, perhaps, the most enthusiastic of my "fans". She would walk in and sit beside Florence and start talking about her job and how ridiculous it was (which was true, some of the things she had to cope with were ridiculous, low staff, patients that shouldn't have been in hospital in the first place, consultants that weren't doing their bit...). She used to refer to the patients by their bed number.

"Proctoscopy for seventeen today," she would say. Then her voice would go up ten decibels - "NOT THAT YOU'D MIND THAT, WOULD YOU, SIBELIAN?". Pause. "Christ, the fuss she made..." Or - "not a single colorectal for months, that ward needs some work to do, lazy bastards. HEY SIBELIAN, MAYBE WE COULD SEND YOU?"

What would my response be? In the middle of managing 40+ meetings a week, 4 or 5 new major organisational projects a month, 100+ patient records to process accurately a week, and just generally unbelievable levels of support that my colossally over-achieving boss needed to stoke his ludicrous ego (his previous PA ended up in a relationship with him after having pursued him tenaciously for years by working ludicrously long hours, sometimes 8:00am to 9:00pm, to prove she was really interested in him and she had to give up the job because she was NOT going to be his PA and his girlfriend, sensible girl (she was the one that got me the job) so he was used to someone working something like an 80 hour week and was trying to get me, who worked 37.5, to do the same amount of work)... what would I do? Did I have time to go through the endless explanations of why Helen's demand for my attention was incredibly off-pissing, particularly in light of the fact that it wasn't really my attention she wanted but the attention of her imaginary gay friend that I was standing in for?

No. I didn't. Quick, quick, quick, think of something gay and witty. Fuck, uhhhhh...

"Helen... have you seen the male nurses on that ward...?"

Raucous cackles. Delighted laughter.

Total lie. I'd never even BEEN to colorectal.

I got more and more fed up.

Florence complained about me to Kelly. I forget exactly what about. (She did that a lot. There was one time where she didn't like the position in which I'd put my mail trays on my desk. She didn't like the way I organised the mugs next to the kettle and complained about that once, too.)

So, I had to have a conversation with Kelly about whatever my transgression was, and I think it must have been something I said to Florence that she didn't like because the subject of how we conduct ourselves vocally became the subject of the conversation. Kelly wasn't particularly "against" me on the issue and we got into a heart-to-heart about how crazy the office was (Kelly was loud and sometimes obnoxious but she was never a "fan" of my "gayness", also nobody liked her so she had no dog in this particular Florence fight (Florence also had her fair share of fights)) and I mentioned that it was kind of weird that Florence was complaining about the way I spoke to her given that she had on one occasion called me a "wanker" to my face and anyway what about all this endless "tee hee you're gay" stuff, which wasn't really homophobic but it did get irritating how frequent it was... Didn't we have the kind of office culture where we poked fun at each other jovially? I certainly didn't mean anything nasty by anything I said to Florence and I didn't like that she was upset.

"Oh, by the way, please don't TELL anyone I mentioned this "tee hee you're gay" stuff to you, Kelly, because it really just isn't worth it, it peeves me sometimes but, you know... a lot of the time it's genuinely funny and I don't want to be humourless jerk..." Etc.

"Fair enough, sibelian fair enough, I'll keep this confidential," says Kelly.

It was Thursday and I had the Friday off.

Came back in on Monday. Ooooooooh. The silence. The thick, palpable silence all over the office.

Kelly, of course, had told nobody in the office but had told pretty much EVERYONE all over the rest of the fucking hospital that I thought Florence and Co were homophobic and everyone in the hospital had told Florence and Co.

So the thick silence carries on for a few days until Ann bursts out with "I NEVER EVER SAID THERE WAS ANYTHING WRONG WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU'RE GAY!" and leaves the office. Various people in the office then open up all at once and take various issues at varying levels of intensity with me calling them homophobic and how it's a slap in the face and stab in the back and I'm basically an asshole.


"Well, that's what Kelly says, sibelian."

And that goes on for a while.

Eventually I manage to isolate Florence, who, during the silence, had been just the most patient, composed, misunderstood and above GRACIOUS non-homophobe, entirely innocent and very very unjustly maligned by a silly drama queen.

"Uhhhh. Look Florence, I think we need to talk. Do you want to go for a coffee or something?"

"No. Not really."

"We can't really keep doing this, Florence-"

"You can't join in and not join in at the same time, sibelian. You can't have it both ways."

"What do you think I said to Kelly?"

"I don't see any reason to get into it, sibelian, and frankly-"

I've had enough. She gets the Sibelian Stare.

"I did NOT accuse you of being a homophobe. Do you understand me?"

She stares at me back with a fairly intense Florence Stare.

"What did you say then?"


So I explain what I really did say to Kelly and why and the context within which my actual comments were made. Florence relaxes visibly.

"It's Kelly. It was Kelly..."


We have a very long conversation about how we relate to each other and how we've been making each other feel. I've been getting irritable with my workload and talking to her about it animatedly assuming that her support for me is unqualified (she typically presents it as such) and she reveals that my endless compaining about it has been stressing her out. She's been trying to lighten my mood, trying help by being playful and doesn't like it that I've just been going along with the way she's been doing it while secretly being pissed off. Well, it's not like complaining about that was going to make much difference, Florence! And I know it's not malicious, I know you guys don't mean to piss me off, it's just the relentlessness of it... No, sibelian, either we're allowed to do it or we're not, we're not telepathic!

"Fair enough, then Florence. No more gay jokes, OK? That'll have to be my rule, won't it? I don't like it because gay guys do it and it seems wrong that you shouldn't be able to.... I'll miss them a bit, I think, possibly... er... some of them..."

"Hm. Well, that's the way it is then."

"I didn't realise I was stressing you out. I'll keep a lid on it from now on."

"Alright then. Helen doesn't know about all this, incidentally, and she's going to be gutted. She really likes you.

"Well I'm not going to say anything to her, as far as I'm concerned all this talk of me thinking you're all homophobic has nothing to do with me. If somebody wants to tell Helen and Donna and Ann and Jessie and Joanna and Morag and X and Y and Z and P and Q and W.... do you see how many heart to hearts I have to do now...? What's my alternative? Making a public announcement? Holding a seminar?"

We talk more and she starts to see that if I go along with it nobody ever talks to me about anything EXCEPT "IT" and if I don't I go from "Good Office Gay to "Bad Office Gay". Everyone's going to gang up on Kelly now, also, which pisses me off. I know none of the rest of them like her, and God knows I shouldn't, but I do.

So Florence offers to talk to Helen. The discussion ends.

Florence clearly talks to everyone else because the gay jokes disappear and are replaced with conversations. Helen drops it, without a hint of disturbance.

For some months the conversations are sliiiiightly stilted. Then, as individuals, they realise that there are interesting things about me other than what I do with my dick in my spare time and everything gets a lot better.

There are several things I want to highlight about this story.

I really mean it when I say I don't think they were homophobic. Helen, for example, is a lovely person and we talked lots about gardening and my and her experiences elsewhere in the Health Service. She has some gay friends, largely of the "queen" type. She tells me later she was mostly going along with the tsunami of ass jokes because Florence did and had presumably established that they were OK.

The whole "Sibelian as the Office Gay" culture was only present when there was more than one of them in the room. On a one to one basis it never happened. Ever. I don't understand this at all.

It really was just that office. I've worked in dozens of all-female-except-me offices and it didn't happen anywhere except there.

Some months after it all changed one of Ann's other sons came out as gay. We shared a moment outside with a cigarette one afternoon and she listened attentively as I explained what my own life had been like and what things he might have to be careful of in gay culture, particularly on the "scene", some of which is just horribly toxic. She was very grateful. We got onto the subject of the whole "Sibelian is No Longer the Office Gay" fiasco, which she tells me is still rumbling on in some conversations out of my earshot. So be it, I say to her, there's nothing I can do about that. It was never really the jokes themselves that pissed me off (welll... some of them were really a bit too much, I didn't much like the AIDS jokes) a lot of the time they were funny! But, you know... no joke is funny ALL THE TIME....

Her expression changes slowly as she finally gets it....

Guess who never joined in all these fun and games? Racist Donna! She got it from the beginning.

So. Do you think they were homophobic?

Would you like to come through this door...?

After YOU!

And good morning!

So if you hold a door open for an invisible person in a forest...

whilst clapping with one hand....

Um, I'm losing the plot here.

This is my NICE, SPECIAL PERSONAL thread and none of you are allowed to mess it up.

Nice things for me:

Things you're not allowed to do:

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