Seismic Shift: Can I Get a Witness?


I was working at the local coffee shop this morning (I reserve half-days on Monday and Wednesday for music work, yeah!) and when Liz came to pick me up for lunch, we noticed an acquaintance from her high school was sitting at the table next to me. As soon as he saw her he lit up.

Anonymous Acquaintance: “Hey Liz! How’s it going?!?! Good to see you! How’ve you been??” You know the drill. Big smiles, inexplicable, hypnotic, involuntary nod.

LIZ: “Great! How’ve you been? No, that was my sister. Working at my parents’ law firm and coaching soccer. Oh yeah! And I’m in a rock band with my partner Lilli.” Points in my direction.

AA: “Wow. Cool. So Lilli you play drums?”

ME: Thinking “Guess this guy has selective hearing ’cause drummer doesn’t really sound anything like partner” Speaking “No, I play keys and sing.” Smile. Nod.

LIZ: Thinking “Did this guy find Jesus or something ’cause I remember him being a bit of a jocky douche in high school.” Speaking “So what are you up to these days?”

AA: “Oh. Consulting. You know…” Spots her ring. “So are you married?”

LIZ: “Yes. Lilli’s my partner. We’ve been together for about five years.”

Anonymous Acquaintance goes gray. Ends the conversation abruptly. Liz and I leave for a lunch of turkey and avocado sandwiches.

And scene.

Queer readers, have you been there? Can I get a witness?

Non-queer readers, I’ll fill you in. This moment is a cliché. At best it can be awkward and weird, at worst it can be life-threatening. It cost Liz a job a little over a year ago, but today something shifted for me. Oh yes. Today I touched something life-altering. It’s been there right under my nose all this time and I finally went cross-eyed long enough to see it.

My friends, today I experienced this moment as nothing short of HI-larious.

Believe it or not, I got the joke when I put myself in his hypothetical shoes for once. Let’s say he did find Jesus after his high school football glory days ended with a pregnant girlfriend, a shotgun wedding, and a life of enslavement to the man. After all, where does that guy go to find purpose and meaning? He goes to church.

He goes to that community institution that’s so good at revealing the basic goodness present in all situations, especially when you “give it to God.” His church is where he finds redemption for past sins, prospects for future business, and validation for his present assumptions about day to day living. He takes his questions to church and there he finds his answers, along with a well earned ounce of comfort and a constant companion.

Don’t get me wrong. I mean no disrespect towards the transcendental power of the church experience that manifests as life-changing (sometimes life-saving) for so many. After all, for the average over-worked, under paid, tired, distracted, gluttonous, fearful American (and I do include myself in this descriptive), church is the only place where one gets even a glimpse into the great mystery: the super-string, the “tiny strand of everything” that binds us in this cosmic event referred to as life. This is big stuff people, the real deal that lives beyond the illusory display, and it can make the humblest of us all feel quite invincible.

Moreover, church is the only place where many of us experience the gift of all gifts known as grace. I don’t know if I have the right words to describe what I mean in particular when I say “grace,” but I do feel in my heart of hearts that grace is an invaluable, infinitesimal moment where humility is revealed and any hope at healing begins. It is therefore as powerful a force in my universe as gravity and electro-magnetism.

So yes, go to that place and find Jesus or God or Allah or even dharma – whoever/whatever gives you access to mystery and grace. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t need or deserve it. But it does beg the question of the various anonymous acquaintances out there, is church not where many of us are learning to fear each other?

You can believe me when I tell you the anonymous acquaintance we met in the coffee shop today looked like he felt like he was going to burn in hell when he realized he had inadvertently greeted a couple of lesbians with a smile and a general sense of good will. I don’t know if it was the element of surprise that rendered him speechless, or some bad milk that sullied his coloration and otherwise shiny disposition, but the shift was both clear and pathetically familiar.

Now I’m not usually the biggest fan of Schadenfreude, but today I became genuinely tickled when I thought of the sick feeling this guy had to sit with in his belly during the business meeting that prevented him from going home and showering after this dirty little encounter with a local lesbos. I wondered with impish delight if it would have made him feel better if we had given him an opportunity to offer his approval for our lascivious union.

US: (In the manner of a condescending phone salesperson) “Yes, we’re lesbians. Is that going to work for you? No? Ok, well then…we’ll just be on our way and leave you to the self-perpetuated, white-male-privileged paradigm already in progress. Ok. Great. Have a nice day…”

Or, maybe he hasn’t yet reached even that wrung of evolution; you know, the one of the well-meaning, liberal-minded relative who thinks they’ve arrived because they can hate the sin but still love the sinner, or the next wrung of the socially-conscious, straight-privileged friend who thinks they’re evolved beings because they’ve heard the word “hetero-centric” and actually registered that the term could in fact apply to them.

To remove the tongue from my cheek for just a moment, I honestly don’t think I was actually laughing at him. I think I was more relieved to finally experience “that moment” as passé and, well, funny. Funny? Yes!

I can report from this day in the field that it was so much more fun to laugh at this little scenario than the humiliation I felt last month when the attendant at the Food Bank demanded through a nervous stutter that I list my partner as my “friend” on the eligibility application, or the sense of frustration I felt when I filled out my 2010 census and couldn’t answer the first question without having to be reminded that I am still invisible even when I am being officially counted by government order. (Incidentally, my census-worker aunt later informed me that they were granted official approval to allow gay couples to select a marital status of “married” if they felt so inclined. Since I never needed their approval, I’m telling myself that means the US Census Bureau thinks gay marriage will be universally legalized the by the time they come around to count us again.)

For once, I didn’t have to make someone else’s problem with all things homosexual my problem. Today I took another important step out of the muck of victim-hood, and had a hearty laugh to boot. Perhaps there’s hope for me yet! (I can’t know about that other guy…)

And scene.

Related Songs:
Not Your Baby Girl from The ShizOpus Deux
Tumble from The ShizOpus Deux
Pretty Ebony from Castles of Her Crystalline

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3 comments to “Seismic Shift: Can I Get a Witness?”

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  1. Emily - April 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm Reply

    smiles to you two…. i'm glad you were able to come to a different understanding today. definitely something i struggle with constantly!
    emily white

  2. zoe - April 27, 2010 at 8:18 pm Reply

    hey, i'm happy you had that moment, but i have to say that i usually find the discomfort of others (in situations like that, anyway)to be a good sign about whatever i'm doing 😀
    wasn't that a class in music school?

  3. BigGayLilli - April 27, 2010 at 8:52 pm Reply

    @ emily – thanks! it sometimes amazes how much of a struggle it is… i'm sure we struggle with it more than they do and there's something not quite right about that!

    @ zoe – that's a great point! maybe that'll be my next breakthrough! i certainly wish i'd taken that class in music school. imagine that: a music class may have actually proven useful….

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