Thinking back to way back, when I didn’t know of people’s differences—differences essentially born to us—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. My kind is the lone potted tree growing on a massive city patio. My green and brown branches are surrounded by your tons of hard blue and silver. Can you say you’re straighter than I?
From your rectangular vantage point your cheerful voice calls to me: “Come in from the wind and rain!” And I think: /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 trembles at the thought. Our two respective parties are people, 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 I happen to feel ashamed, it’s because your overwhelming numbers make me 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’re sure you would sympathize with my difference if I confided in you? Why would your sympathy be acceptable to me?
You are convinced you’re kind and understanding, 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.
What if 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. He’d cover up; wear gloves. 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 is abnormal. We are outliers. I’ve never said otherwise.
Hairy Harry’s choice to be out would cause him embarrassment, so his survival is to cover up and pretend. He begs me to let this drop and not make a fuss, because he does not wish to stand out, or make a stand.
He doesn’t want me to write this story. Doesn’t need clever words to reveal an injustice. 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 you, the majority. My people don’t fit through your doorways. We don’t have 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 tend act on our nature. We’ll rely on the goodwill of a few and we’ll give it up, we’ll 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 precious people, we confide. Their understanding is the baker’s bread of humanity. I cherish that minority.
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.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER- Ara Hagopian’s debut book “What Happened to Vicky Lee? A Collection of Stories” is out now: http://vickyleethebook.com/