Columns — 08 August 2017

Published: August 2, 2017

BY RHONDA BECKMAN

It was 1992, sitting in a bar called The Pyramid, talking with my friend Bill. In my ignorance and naivety, I directly asked him why he was gay. I’ll never, ever forget his answer for as long as I live. It went something like this, “Do you think I chose to be a minority? Do you think I willingly decided I wanted to be hated, and potentially bashed or even killed? I was born this way. This is what I have been given and I have to accept that.” It took a good minute, or maybe a good week for that to sink into my red neck head. I had no clue. I didn’t understand the biological factors behind homosexuality and that was the first time I had been given that perspective. I was born with brown hair and toe thumbs. It’s just what I have been given and I have to accept that.

Over the years as a high school teacher, I have watched and helped students that floundered and struggled with not understanding their own sexuality. We muddled through the confusion together at times, worrying whether they were going to be mistreated, wondering whether they’d get the support they needed at home, and just making sure they felt safe to be who they wanted to be in the art room. Sometimes it wasn’t until well after high school when they left this town and got lost in the city life and exposure to new and different lifestyle choices that they’d come back to visit me and proclaim that they were gay after all and really ok with that. There were always hugs and sometimes tears as we reflected on how hard their high school years were. I really can’t imagine. I remember as a high school student myself, one guy always called me a “dyke” because I used to like wearing my dad’s ties and vests. I thought they were cool but to him, I was crossing the line between what was appropriate for women to wear.  I was the kid with the tear stained face for my Grade 1 school pictures because I had to wear a dress to school that day and I really didn’t want to wear a dress. I just liked to dress more masculine. I still do. I wear army pants almost every single day because they have big pockets that hold everything from garbage that I pick up while I am out walking, to keys, to pinecones! My clothing does not define my sexuality, but some people are so caught up in the old school stereotypes that are entrenched in their philosophies of what makes someone a boy and someone a girl, that seeing me with a tie on just sends their ideals over the line. It’s just a tie, man. Chill out.

I got into a bit of an argument with the photographer when I was getting my Grad photos taken when finishing my education degree. He wanted me to wear a big, massive, itchy, lacey collar under my grad gown. No thanks. I liked the bow tie. He said I couldn’t wear the bow tie, because it was for men. I basically said that I am paying for these bleeping pictures and I’ll wear the bow tie if I bleeping want to. My face is a bit strained in that picture. I love that there is an anti-bullying day every year where everyone is asked to wear a pink shirt to school. The story goes that a boy was being teased for being gay because he wore a pink shirt to school, so his friends stood up for him and all wore a pink shirt to school the next day. Talk about knocking down a stereotype. Pink after all, is just red and white mixed together. It’s just a colour. It does not define someone’s sexuality or identity in any way.

And that’s just it. Our sexuality does not completely define who we are, while still acknowledging that it is a part of who we are. When I walk up to someone, I don’t say, “Hello, my name is Rhonda Beckman and I am heterosexual.” It is a part of who I am but it’s not all I am. So when you do meet someone who is LGBTQ 2 SPIRITED, should that be your deciding factor as to whether you want to get to know them better or not? What about their favourite books, or childhood memories, or places of travel or hobbies, their political perspectives or places they volunteer, or their heritage or absolutely anything else that makes this person a human being that is worth getting to know? Does that all get dismissed? What a shame if that is all it comes down to, because I know a lot of heterosexual jerks.

So I am super excited to see all of my friends at Red Lake’s first Pride Festival. It is such a phenomenal progressive move forward to creating a more open, accepting community that has open arms for everyone. I remember listening to a young gay man speak at an educational conference and he said, “Life isn’t easy. It’s just fantastic.” It’s all in your perspective. #loveallwaysandlovealways

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Jennifer Parsons

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