A straight white guy.

Not the usual person to stand up for feminism or gay rights. Not even the kind of person wanted in such movements, it often seems.

What am I doing even thinking about such “special interest” issues?

"Wir laufen andersrum"

“Wir laufen andersrum”

On April 6, I ran the Linz marathon – and following a call of the Upper Austrian Green party’s “Andersrum” (“other way round”) team, which stands for LGBTQ equality, I ran it as part of their group. Because of things like this:

Just recently, I went back out of the supermarket to my bike. Two kids there, maybe 8 or 10 years old, were getting on their bicycles as I walked by. As they were doing so, one explained to the other how “That is just so gay. It looks so girly.”

You can be sure those boys didn’t know anything much about their sexual orientations yet, but their thinking and language already got shaped in all the usual ways. Now, if those usual ways included an understanding that there are gender differences and different sexual orientations, but also that we are all individuals worthy of respect, it would be okay. But it’s not that.

Rather, it will be the usual restriction of roles into certain schemas and the usual language that is unthinkingly hurtful, contributing to our already-great tendency to judge people within microseconds, by their supposed belonging to certain groups, and with little desire to ever question those snap judgments, problematic as they tend to be.

Sure, there seems to be so much talk about LGBTQ rights, there are so many statistics about single mothers and absentee fathers and divorce rates, there is such a trend towards single households, wanting to stay together as a monogamous male-female couple – what my wife and I are aiming for – can feel reactionary.

Then again, be single, and you are one of those irresponsible, egotistical, lonely by necessity, many. But try to get into a recognized relationship if you are not heterosexual, and you are presented as wrong yet again.

Lesbians may be seen as somehow sexy, at least(?), but a woman cannot express more than a “girl crush” for fear of being seen as “one of those.” God beware, a straight man admits to finding another man attractive, let alone sexy. He would be seen as gay, and that’s still a word used as an insult.

“Be yourself!,” we are exhorted. But don’t be.

Actually, that might really scare some enemies...

Actually, that might really scare some enemies…

A woman in a headdress is oppressed by patriarchy. A woman showing too much bare skin is a slut.

A man in tights must be gay. A man in just about any other clothing is alright, though maybe one of ’em stupid hipsters or a differently crazy redneck – until he shows the “wrong” emotions.

Show your strength or intelligence as a woman, chances are you’ll be looked at askance – if only that. Bossy harlot, you. Show a “weak” and caring emotional side as a man, and if it’s not while holding your own child (or maybe celebrating your sports team’s victory – go figure), your masculinity will be questioned.

When there was all that outcry over the Barilla CEO stating that there would never be advertisements for their products featuring homosexual couples because they were all about “the traditional family,” I honestly didn’t care.

Just let him talk.

Male-female couples with child(ren) are the majority, after all – and happy couples a very beat-up old trope, anyways – and it seems hard to overstate just how much of a joke these high-gloss images of standard couples have become in a world of single mothers, apparently unreal men (or why ask them to “be a man”?), conservatives spouting off about the values of tradition (and fidelity?) while they are in their third marriage, and “celibate” priests giving marriage instructions while one wonders what porn stashes are hidden in their closets…

We have got bigger problems.

Living however we want in a world that’s (not so) slowly changing thanks to our living however we want rather than fitting into its functioning is one of the big causes of our trouble, so I’d rather we got to more consensus on how to live better. In practical matters, where it matters.

It doesn’t matter much, environmentally-thinking, what our sexual orientations and living arrangements are, though. Or rather, it may matter deeply when it comes to their practical effects such as resource use and population numbers, but that’s a very different issue from those usually on our minds when we feel attracted to someone.

Even from that perspective, there’s more.

In environmentalist circles, there’s often the fear that we will only ever change, in our awareness and our behavior, when we are faced with catastrophe – but the progress in LGBTQ rights shows that we can also just come to accept things because it makes sense to do so and because they are as they are.

There’s also where these things are more simply – as if these things were ever simple… – about making ourselves at home.

Reality is that we are a sexually reproducing species which, as so many, needs a male and a female (or at least, their gametes) for reproduction.

Reality is also that our (by and large, but not entirely, seen biologically) two sexes show a dimorphism where males and females look and act and probably think differently, but with a great range of overlaps between the sexes and a great range of divergence/variety within them.

Reality is also that sexual orientations and practices are at least as wide a playground as sexual and gender identities, or as fashions, no matter how much societies try to shape them to their liking. Even family constructions and child-rearing responsibilities, and even the very view of who’s considered the father of a child, come in various forms. Cultural traditions play a major role for them, as do individual choices and societal freedoms – and genetic dispositions which make them something much deeper than fashions and choices.

What remains constant in all of that is only that we are all human, each of us an individual.

We are all, therefore, similar within a range of differences – or different within a range of similarities, if you prefer putting it that way. But as long as our likings and choices are our own – even as relationships always include elements of compromise and consensus, of course, given that they are with others – and do not truly impact negatively on others, other than perhaps making another person feel uncomfortable because they see a difference as discomfiting, they should be respected.

Yes, there needs to be respect for another person’s desires and borders. Unwanted advances, when shown to be unwanted, need to be stopped – but that apparently applies to men coming on to women rather more than to supposedly less normal interests…

So, I’m a heterosexual male. I’ve finally found the woman with whom I will live the rest of our lives, and monogamously so or I’d not consider myself as good a man as I want to be (and she’d have my balls).

I aim to take good care of myself and ‘mine’, be strong for us and a decent protector – especially because I know that I am, as we all are, in many respects weak and vulnerable. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, and there are strong ways in which I’m expected to be a man (thanks to Chinese culture playing a strong role for us – and what that means is still somewhat uncertain).

Being human not only means being a man or being a woman, especially not as a caricature of those sexes, anyways. I want to be strong – or perhaps vulnerable and exposed – enough to admit that things like the Life Ball aren’t my scene at all, but to treat the people whose scene it is as equals equally worthy of respect. As a man, I want to aim for the strength and character often associated with men – and also the strength to show and admit to emotions. I’m human, after all.

We are all complex and insecure, all in a struggle with our desires and rationality, reality and wishes, all deeply vulnerable as well as strong; no need to have a person’s very worth put into question because of the sexual orientations they have, the color of their skin, their birth and heritage, or the styles of clothing they want to dress (up) in. No need to let the snap judgments that occur naturally, based on merely a blink, be the only interpretation of other people.