Thinking back to way back, when I was a young teen and didn’t know of people’s differences, I thought I’d play along until another of my kind would come.
Now it’s settled into my head that I haven’t settled in, now it’s clear it’s still unclear why you were made in a way that doesn’t accept my kind.
I don’t hurt you. I don’t cost you a penny of public accommodation. Yet you’d mock or shame me if I was out.
You want to talk straight? I grew as straight as you—from my center out. I am straight in my direction. Look at the analogous photo of us, the photo of the green tree and blue building that’s associated with this writing. My kind is the lone potted fern growing on a massive city patio. My branches are surrounded by your windows and frames. Can you say your support is more functional than mine?
From your rectangular vantage point your cheerful voice calls to me: “Come in from the wind and rain!” And I say: “Well, I cannot do that.” Can you accept I am out in the elements? You cannot do that, either.
You say that maybe it would be best if my kind moved to a forest, because if we’re so different, perhaps being there would help me. My answer is no, because that is not my home. That location is not my choice. Do I want you to move to a place you don’t want to be? I do not.
You and I are not trees and we’re not steel—the analogy only goes so far. The tree stands out and my kind, that is, people of my kind, tremble at the thought of standing out. Your people and mine are harmonious in many ways, save for one basic fact. My kind functions, appears, or feels in ways that you would mock if you knew.
If one of my kind happened to feel ashamed, it would be because your overwhelming numbers made him feel that way. This is as true as I can make plain.
You say: “Wouldn’t you like to see the day when hiding or disguising yourself is a thing of the past?” And we say no, thank you. Because outing and shouting is a Your Kind value. You have no damned idea of who we are. And that’s a good thing.
You say that you’re sure you would sympathize with my difference if I confided in you. Why would your sympathy be something I’d seek?
You are convinced you’re a nice person and an understanding person, and you are neither of those things to whom you are unkind to, and to that which you do not understand.
You proudly publish your greatness by using words like inclusiveness and diversity, yet you have no problem not including those who diverge.
You say I am not normal, and I agree. Yet my kind will always be a component of every normal population. There is a good life in the rarified air that exists outside three standard deviations from the mean.
My kind are not lawbreakers, murderers, sociopaths or molesters. But we do happen to be store clerks, bankers, writers and watchmakers.
Let’s say a man had a big patch of long red hair that grew out of his hand. To fit in with your kind, he would shave. Happily. Or he’d cover up. Your kind, if you knew of him, would ask him to show as he is. But your kind doesn’t need to know about his abnormality. Because my kind are abnormal. We are outliers.
Hairy Harry’s choice to be out would cause him embarrassment, so his social survival is to cover up and pretend. He would beg me to let this drop and not make a fuss, because he would not wish to stand out, or make a stand.
He wouldn’t want me to write this story. He just wants to pass.
I want him to pass too. I’m passing.
The fiber of my kind can never change, and will never be compatible with the majority. My tree doesn’t fit through your doorway. We reveal when we choose, but not with flags or parades. Sure, we can come to your parties and pretend we belong, yet all we’re doing is holding a mask that looks like you.
Eventually, we’ll have to tell some of you. As we live, we act on our nature. We’ll rely on goodwill and show selected men or women who we are, maybe even to just one of you. The gal who can only be sexually aroused by being bitten will find the right mate, from your kind. The hairy-hand man will find one of your gals who loves that about him. In their own private space.
To a small group of people, we’ll confide. Their understanding is the baker’s bread of humanity. I cherish those of your kind.
Chances are, one of my kind lives or works among you. She won’t articulate what races through her blood and fires her senses. She can be quiet or she can be boisterous, but she’s terrified of being outed. She’ll live her life with the fear that someone will tell her she isn’t right. That her deviance, her difference, is to be laughed at.
She is, and forever will be, my kind.
Ara Hagopian’s new book is out now: http://www.LeavesOfYouthTheBook.com