The other day I was thinking about a conversation I had months ago with a friend and student. I was contemplating blogging about it, but then my hubby got home (YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and I didn’t.
Then this morning I woke up to a news article about some people going after a print ad that included the president of the company chilling with her son by painting his nails pink (his favorite color). And it just…grr! It upsets me that people would make a big deal about this!
And so, while not really related, it did remind me of this conversation that has been percolating in the back of my mind
I teach a by-invitation-only group class that is for long-term students. It started with one of my first students in an advanced class who just kept coming back! She was the only one who signed up, so we just kept going, her and me. She is great with her dog, and is a total dog-person, fully embracing positive training, which makes her a lot of fun to work with. Several months later she invited another woman she met elsewhere to join the class. This woman is also a total dog-person and was working with her new border collie to and exercise his formidable brain. She is an upbeat, positive, fun woman who is great with her dog, and she was a great addition to the class!
She also happens to be gay, which came up several weeks in when she mentioned her partner. Neither the first student nor I batted an eye. Because really, who cares? No matter her sexual orientation, she is still an upbeat, positive, fun woman who is great with her dog, and those are the only aspects of her that are going to affect me. Why on earth would I care about who she chooses to make a life with? It is just a non-consideration!
In a past life I would have. When I was younger and the world was more black-and-white (and I was a good Catholic) I would have cared. Since I’ve realized how much it so doesn’t matter, I’ve stopped really thinking about it. People who feel otherwise just aren’t worth my time.
And because I’m not gay myself, I have the luxury of being able to just ignore them.
Several months after this second woman joined our class, I had a woman in a basics class who I loved working with. Another total dog-person who was really positive and happy and awesome with her dog. She got positive training, and I invited her to join this long-term advanced class (even if she didn’t want to stay long-term) because she and her dog worked well together and I knew her dog-loving personality and dog-smarts would fit-in.
The week she was going to start (one week after her basics class ended) also happened to be the first time that the second woman was bringing her partner to class. She had told us her partner was coming ahead of time and we were looking forward to meeting her. The new student seemed very easy-going (from the little I knew of her in class) and I didn’t think to go out of my way to warn her about the second woman’s partner. It didn’t even occur to me. She seemed like the type who would be fine with it, and if she wasn’t, screw her.
You see, I had the luxury of thinking that way, because if she wasn’t accepting it wouldn’t be any kind of personal attack on me.
I told my current students that a new student would be joining us this week. The second woman asked if I had “warned her” about her partner being there.
And my heart broke.
Because I realized in my desire to avoid conflict and the minor discomfort for me inherent in any conversation like that, I had set up a friend and long-term student to potentially take a fairly major blow if this woman ended up not being accepting.
How awful to have to worry about how a stranger may react when you bring your spouse to a class of friends. To even have to consider it. I barely gave it a passing thought. I knew if she wasn’t accepting, I’d just deal with her (by not inviting her back). No skin off my nose. So I didn’t really think about it.
Which means I also didn’t think about how her being not-accepting might be quite painful and awkward to my second student.
I sent out an innocuous e-mail to the new woman under the pretense of letting her know class would be quite full her first week in order to mention that the second student’s partner, including both their very female names, would be in class. I got no response back other than a quick, OK, looking forward to it. I let my second student know I had warned the newbie.
And I hoped to god the newbie wouldn’t do anything to wreck the enjoyment of class my second student had on this first night she was sharing it with her partner (also a dog-lover).
Luckily, all went well. The newbie didn’t bat an eye. All the students in this class are now friends, despite different places in life. The dogs of those two are actually besties, and often spend half an hour or more after class wrestling all the energy out while the humans talk. We all meet up at dog parks semi-regularly to chat and get our dogs some exercise. Happy ending.
But the fact that this woman even had to ask, the fact that acceptance is such an everyday consideration for her, kills me.
And this situation really made it hit home for me the luxuries I have by being a heterosexual adult. Luxuries I take for granted. Little things like being able to talk about my partner without fear of censure or losing friends. Or being able to bring him with me to agility without worrying it will change how the people there interact with me. Little things. But things that are a part of every day and every interaction.
I hope one day we can all take those little every-day luxuries for granted.