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6:35 p.m.

Lana feelsThe current mood of xengirl at www.imood.com

I always had this picture of homophobia as a very black-and-white sort of thing. All the phobias and isms, really. Sexism, racism, homophobia. Either you're a homophobe, a racist, a sexist, or you're not. It always seemed that those fears would be easier to fight if that's how they were, because you could convince people that they were wrong to fear any given group simply because of how they're portrayed by the media, or because of our cultural conditioning.

We all learn in school these days, at least in the official lesson plans, that people of all skin tones are equal in the eyes of the law and of the ostensibly unmentionable but somehow often mentioned God. Sexism isn't discussed as much, but we have Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and t-shirts worn by such people as my mother saying "By shortchanging girls we shortchange America." And we cover the feminist movement and we all rejoice that women can vote and go to work. Of course, in that rejoicing there is an inherent message that now everything's all right and we're all equal and that anybody who says otherwise must be a crazy leftist radical who should be shunned by all the nice boys and girls. But the message is attempted.

Homosexuality was not something we discussed when I was in elementary school. We had African-American history month, and women's history month, but there was no mention of the Stonewall riots, and when our history books talked about the San Francisco streetcars it didn't talk about the gay community, and when Ellen came out you could hear the silence echoing through the halls. Of course, when Ellen came out I was in fifth grade, in public school in a conservative suburb, but the fact remains that I had never heard of homosexuality, never mind homophobia, until the whispers started circulating through our classroom. I don't know why it was so fascinating - our bunch of fifth graders was completely unaffected by it. I suppose it was just that it was taboo, and some of the parents were probably having conniptions. I was not the most perceptive of children when it came to what my peers were talking about, mostly because I didn't like them and they didn't like me, but eventually that year even I discovered that Ellen Degeneres, who I had never heard of, was gay, which was a concept of which I was completely unaware. It took me another year or so to figure out what it meant to be "gay." It took me even longer to realize that there were people who were seriously upset about the whole thing, about gayness (or, as I later learned to call it, homosexuality) in general and about the idea of a well-liked public figure having the nerve to come out on television, of all things, in particular.

I didn't understand the entire significance of the whole Ellen thing until years after it happened, but even in fifth grade I knew somehow, on some intuitive childish level, that I should pay attention to this. I knew on some level, though I didn't know what it was to be gay and hence didn't know that it was supposedly wrong, that when I said I wanted to grow up and spend my whole life with my best friend, I had better qualify that statement with "and our husbands" or I would be subject to even further ostracization. I had no idea why, but I knew that it was so.

Later on, as I grew up and discovered more about the world, I learned what it meant to be gay and I learned that and a little bit about why people fear it so much. I learned more about racism and sexism too. It just wasn't until I came to CRMS that I learned just how many layers things like that have. It's not simple. Becky would probably never describe herself as homophobic, but the fact remains that Shannon gets in trouble for telling me about her personal life and Pekay doesn't, even though he's much, much closer to us than she is. I find myself wondering what that's going to mean for me as I grow up and go out in the world and try to forge my way, a woman who is openly queer in every sense of the word. I can deal with homophobia and sexism as evidenced by people like Steven Davis, but how much will the more subtle, but in the end more harmful fears and prejudices of people like Becky get in the way? People who are essentially good and kind, but who have certain behaviors and thoughts ingrained from childhood, to the point where they would never see their actions as stemming from those prejudices. Becky would say, if asked about it, that she didn't get mad at Shannon 'cause she's a lesbian, she got mad because she crossed the unspoken student-staff line of topics that can and cannot be talked about. And she'd be offended to be asked.

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