I just finished doing a quick read through my Facebook account. I was reading what other are posting, and was especially drawn into the delicate conversation about the choice of words used by various widows and widowers in describing their experience. It's funny how some of us take so much of what other's say as personal, while others of us kind of just throw our thoughts out there and let them land where they may. I think many of us feel battered and torn, so we might be a bit sensitive about certain areas in our journey.
As I was reading through the comments I considered participating in the discussion, but my usual apprehension got the best of me. Now I'm aware that I will be beating a dead horse here, as this is not the first, or second, time I have spoken of this topic. Some may think, "can't he just move on?" or "I don't think people really feel that way anymore." Can you guess where I'm going?
Being somewhat of an entity here in the Widowed Blogsphere, I quite often feel like the 'odd widow out.' I'm not the only male widowed blogger, but one of only a few active male bloggers who regularly address these topics. Where I am the odd man out is in being a gay widowed blogger. Like being widowed, unless you have experienced the deep pain and challenging journey that comes with this identity, you can't really say you completely understand what it is like. It is a very unique experience when you grow up as a minority, and experience prejudice and discrimination based how people perceive you. Fortunately, most minority people come from a family who shares in their identity, and thus share in their experience. Growing up gay, I had to fear prejudice and discrimination from within my own family. I had to hide this very important part of who I was for fear of rejection.
That fear of rejection never really goes away. As a gay Latino man I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about tolerance. I have had to tolerate the beliefs and opinions about who I was from strangers, friends and family. Whenever I meet someone new, there is always going to be that decisive moment when I come out to them, and then try to read the reaction I receive. If they are put off, or back away, then I have to understand. I can't hate them, or even dislike them, for they just don't know better. Not everyone has had the opportunity to learn tolerance like I have, so I should feel empathy for them. I usually just try to just make the other person more comfortable by showing them our similarities rather than have them just feel our differences.
This has obviously become quite a sensitive subject for me. Now if you are here reading this, you are obviously not among those who are uncomfortable with who or what I am, and I thank you for being here. But I often think about those that are not here. At times I will visit other blogs that are similar to mine, and realize that there are a lot of people that participate in the other blogs, but not mine. I sometimes wonder at what point do people opt out of reading what I have to say. Is it in the sub-heading that sits under the title of my blog, "One gay man's journey through love, life and grief?" Or do they not notice the phrase, as it is purposefully presented in a more muted hue. Or maybe it's when they glance to the right hand column, and see that there is a photo of two men in a somewhat intimate pose. Perhaps they don't notice this at all, but get thrown off when they read my words describing my deceased husband, then quickly glance back to the name of the blog, "Dan, in real time."
Whatever the case may be, I get a lot of drive bys. People who stumble upon my blog, but exit rather quickly. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit that it bothers me. I know we can't be everything for everybody, but it would be nice to think that who I loved, and who I lost, didn't matter to all the others who have loved and lost in a similar manner.
Some time back I did add a comment in one of those Facebook discussions, and my comment went unrecognized. I checked back several times to see if perhaps I just overlooked someones response, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. It is one thing to be standing in front of a person, and having to experience the cold shoulder, or nervous response, but it is very different in this world of words. As was the discussion on Facebook, when we read someones words alone, we don't have the benefit of hearing their inflections, or seeing their facial expression. We are only able to read what they write, or read into what they don't.
So there I was, reading this discussion about the choice of words, or another discussion regarding the use of the label widow or widower, and hesitating whether or not my entering the discussion would be welcomed. There I was wondering if by my speaking of losing my husband, I might disrupt the flow of the conversation, because I may not be seen as similar enough.
So let me say this. I will continue to speak from my very personal experience. In my discourse of loss, I don't ever try to water down that I am a man who loved and lost a man. And to those of you who have been here throughout my journey, you have never blinked an eye, or made me feel the need to explain myself. I have really appreciated this, because as you may have noticed, there appears to be a bit of a shortage of gay or lesbian widowed people hanging around the block. In some ways, my existence here can be very comfortable, as long as I don't venture out too far. And, as many of us have shared, I too am planning on attending Camp Widow in August. If it hadn't been for all of you wonderful ladies urging me to do so, I would never have thought to place myself there. It would have been too awkward not knowing how I would be received. And, as the Facebook discussion so clearly exhibited, we are all going through very sensitive times, and our vulnerability is at an all time high. I'm sure there are people, many of you in fact, that also feel vulnerable in various groups, for various reasons. In this way, we are all very similar.