As I was driving the other day to pet/house sit for my new clients Arlene and Patti. I was in deep thought on how God is / has been moving in my ministry. My new house sitting clients are a lesbian couple I recently met through a mutual acquaintance and my ministry is about bridging the gaps betweeen the conservative Christian church and the Gay community. As I thought about the importance of building relationships in order to share the Love of Christ Jesus, suddenly my GPS, a Tom-Tom, brought me out of this deep thought, which is not the greatest thing to be doing while driving mind you!
“GO STRAIGHT! GO STRAIGHT!” the female voice coming from the GPS said to me.
I cracked up laughing as I could not help but remember how back in 1978 I would not have taken so kindly to this command. “Go straight indeed” is what I probably would have replied to this GPS unit. I probably would have thought: “How could they even program this machine to say something like that, how insensitive!” There is a good chance this would have set me off to writing a letter to the company who manufactures the GPS or perhaps even calling them to give them a piece of my mind.
You see from 1978 to 1995 I identified myself as a lesbian, a self-proclaimed ‘butch’.
Also I know I would have found a different voice who said “Go Straight” in a more politically correct way, though I do not know if that was an issue back in the late 70’s. Was it? I probably would have switched my GPS to the Australian Air Traffic Controller who would say in his cute accent: “Proceed forward at your discretion” The Australian’s voice is very calming and gentle and does not use the word “Straight” It would have made me more comfortable and less reactive.
Of course as far as I know there were no GPS devices back then but one thing for sure I can see that I have not really changed that much. When something upsets me I usually take immediate action, when I see or hear something that I think is an injustice I will react. Though I do not see this GPS as intentionally meaning to be offensive, it was just doing what it was programmed to do.
I could go in several directions here and for some of you, well I would imagine you already see what I am meaning but for those of you who do not see it let me unpack this just a bit further.
Back in 1978 gay folks, and as I wrote above, I was one of them, would speak in code or double talk or between the lines, however you might want to word it. I was in the United States Air Force and although I was quite a bold lesbian airman i would cautiously have said to a person giving me direction that I would prefer to go forward rather than proceed straight. If the person was gay they would give me a smile and tell me they liked my wording better and then we both would know the other was gay.
All of this is merely a reminder to myself that all of us might want to consider the words we use in speaking to those who are not of our same mind set.
I can remember being a new Christan, my mentor, Ruth, slid into the seat next to me. As she did I was shocked at the words out of her mouth: “S.O.B.!” “Ruth” I said, “Why are you using that kind of language?” I had her full attention, she smiled and asked what I meant. I told her that when I heard someone say “S.O.B.!” I automactically thought she meant “Son of a Bitch” (please excuse my language) Again, she smiled, her eyes so wide and kind, “Charlene” Ruth said, “When I exclaim ‘S.O.B.’ I mean ‘Scoot Over Baby”
As I communicate today in my blogs and on facebook and twitter I am always asking folks to “define” their words for me. I do not want to assume a person is saying one thing when they mean something totally different.
Let us not allow misperceptions of what people mean by the words they use to cause us to get mad at each other and call each other hurtful names. Hurtful in that there is separation and conversations stop. You see the language and the words we use today hold even more power than they have in the past.
So let us not call my GPS “homophobic” when it is not.