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What’s up with MEN?

07 Dec Posted by in • Jewelle Gomez | Comments Off on What’s up with MEN?
What’s up with MEN?

“Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.” Albert Einstein

I’m a Lesbian Feminist, which means—to me—that I’m mindful of male privilege in our culture and believe it my social responsibility to educate and be an activist around the harm that patriarchal privilege creates and sustains.  War, rape, bullying, stock market manipulation…things like that should not be the status quo.  That doesn’t mean I don’t like men, just that I can be wary.  What aware woman doesn’t look over her shoulder when she’s walking down a lonely street alone at night?  And we are not usually anxious that a pack of lesbians is going to sneak up on us.

Even with the desperate reality of abuse of women locally and globally I don’t think male culture is incapable of being reshaped and refocused.  It has already take eons to get this far (men only give women the right to vote in the US 1920) and will take eons more.  And I think it will also take generations for women to understand the necessity of our individual roles in liberation and how crucial it is to all of our culture that we (and allies) take on that responsibility for the long haul.

That said I want to talk about times when men make me smile.  Often they are unexpected moments, sometimes with strangers sometimes with men I know:

Coming up in my office elevator today two middle aged, white men had a discussion about how to put on their shirts with the cufflinks already in them.  When they got off at their floor I laughed with the middle aged white guy beside me, who looked like he wouldn’t be caught dead in a cufflink.  We both noted how interesting it was to see what appeared to be straight men giving each other dressing tips at 8 AM.

About 25 years ago I was riding a very crowded subway train in New York City; the kind where you can’t tell where you end and the next passenger begins so you just don’t try to touch anything but the pole you’re hanging on to.  I looked over and a 20ish Latino guy was standing between the cars, trying to tie his tie as he gripped his newspaper and lunch between his knees and the water from his shower dripped from his curls.  He looked like someone’s son and they would be proud.

When my brother hopped up on the table of the Mexican restaurant at my wedding dinner to toast my spouse, Diane and me I had a moment of trepidation.  I wasn’t sure exactly where he was going; he’s from a small town and a small life so his experiences with ‘the gays’ isn’t that extensive.  When I look at the pictures of that room full of about 100 queer people looking up at him on the table top I feel so proud.  I don’t remember what his toast was exactly but my friend’s faces tell me he came through.

My cousin, Allan, who was gay and HIV positive, once came to a speech I was giving at a Queer political conference in Boston, our home town.  He’d never been to one of my political speeches or even a reading.  He arrived in a fabulous dashiki with three of your younger cousins clinging to him.  He was suddenly in his element having never done anything queer other than go to a bar.  The world opened up for him and I wanted him to live in that glow of recognition forever.

Diane and I were in Alaska and wanted to take a picture of the Native painting on the side of the shed where the parking lot attendant worked.  When she asked permission of the Inuit attendant he said yes; then he revealed with a burst of pride that he’d painted it.  His face was like the sun.

The first time I saw two men walking through the Castro holding hands I knew I was at home.

The face of Walter, the very queenly nurse who was on my father’s ward when he was dying in 1970 has never left my memory.  The compassionate look whenever he’d check in on the family was worth any visit from the doctor

And there are many more clarifying moments like that in my 62 years of life.  Even when I can barely suppress my rage at the danger male culture can be to women and children I know I will still see some sign of humanity.

If I didn’t know that women are able to take on the mantle of revolutionizing how our culture is dominated by patriarchy or if didn’t believe that men have a role in that revolution I couldn’t get up in the morning.  It’s a reason to be a lesbian feminist.

Jewelle Gomez is the author of 7 books including the lesbian vampire classic novel, The Gilda Stories.  Her new play about James Baldwin will be produced in September 2011. Follow her on Twitter: VampyreVamp.  Or her website:

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