I found myself engaged in conversation with a colleague in the presence of several other coworkers where the topic of a former member of our team and his lifestyle arose. I had written about this young military officer a few years ago and how I was impressed with his and his wife embracing an open lifestyle. Now, in this conversation, those details were coming to light.
For my own moral growth, I’ve made it my mission to avoid any situation where I’m hypocritically taking a negative view on others in order to hide my own actions. I regret years in the military of hiding my bi side and my marital arrangements by “playing along” with the general view that gays were not supposed to be in the military, or all marriages were strictly monogamous (unless, you know, what goes TDY...).
To be clear, I defended gay people and even openly supported political efforts to allow gays to serve, but what I never did was step up and use myself as an example of a different sexual orientation getting along fine in the military or participating in a marriage that was not strictly monogamous.
In recent years, I’ve vowed not to giggle with the group when topics like this come up. I’m usually that guy who is quick to defend the person or group being persecuted so to speak, and I’m proud of that shift.
So when I could see the conversation going in the direction that it was bound to go, I started mentally wondering if this would be the day that I said “me too” without the hashtag.
Thankfully, the guy talking was respectful in the way he was about to share the former co-worker's situation. Yes, technically gossip but it was germane to the conversation explaining what has happened in trying to stay in touch. The guy being talked about has since left the military and many of us have tried to remain in touch both professionally and socially.
I learned a new term today. Apparently this former colleague is in a polyamorous constellation. I’ll Google it for clarification.
I noticed the guy talking in this case, a very smart engineer that I have great respect for, kept looking at me for non-verbal clues as to gauge my feelings. Meanwhile the other people in the area, all older men were making comments like you’d expect. Mostly shock and horror over the idea of an alternative lifestyle. But I maintained a very neutral face. I wasn’t shocked because I already knew and I certainly wasn’t shocked by this lifestyle. What I considered was that this engineer had heard of my situation and he was perhaps looking for me to pipe in and say, me too.
If it were he and I talking alone, I may have been more open to that but I simply acknowledged that I knew about this former colleague’s marriage arrangement and I wasn’t phased by it.
I want to approach this thought from two directions. First, there was a recent episode of John Oliver’s show where he had the topic of Internet shaming. His point was that if a politician or a public person is caught being hypocritical, you know, anti-gay senator hiring a gay escort, then shaming is fine. But the Internet shaming of some random person who became part of some viral meme when the facts aren’t even accurate is just wrong.
He gave the example of a woman who was forced to sue her nephew, and this was with the full consent of the parents and the nephew. The mischaracterization of what happened, Worst Aunt Ever, got so bad that this lady had to actually change her identity so she could get a job interview.
When we don’t know the full details about a person’s chosen lifestyle yet we make these casual judgments about it, it can end up being potentially devastating to that person’s reputation and livelihood. With that in mind, I’m really working on myself and my friends not to make those blanket judgments.
The second part is, dismissing people for a sexual choice you don’t understand or agree with. I’m bi. I was having a conversation with a reader here about the bias against bi people at sex clubs. I should better state, against bi men because let’s be honest, a bi woman is acceptable universally!
I’m fairly anonymous as a bi guy. Those who I share with are usually well vetted and plus, I don’t really put myself in situations where sexual orientation is a factor. But yes, even I have had some stumbling in early MFM threesomes where the other male partner didn’t want any contact, incidental or planned. That is a very acceptable demand that needs to be stated up front. I don’t want to suck your dick if it would gross you out. (But I bet if you shut your eyes and let it happen, you’d be happy afterwards). Just saying.
Either way, to tie this back around to the conversation about this former colleague and his constellation of sex partners, I want to be more proactive in standing up for people when they aren’t there to defend themselves or they are there and they need someone else to support them.
We can all be better at this. We just need to have the balls to do it.