Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do. Yesterday, as I waited for the light on 15th Ave. to turn green, I spotted a pigeon on the road.
“Get going,” I said. “You’re gonna get run over.”
The pigeon tried to move quickly, but its wing was damaged, and the bird couldn’t fly. It continued to walk around the cars and big trucks. I opened my car door hoping it would walk past, but it didn’t. I planned to take it home, and then to our extraordinary vet, Dr. Brandon Cox at Gentle Care Animal Clinic. But, the light turned green, I was at the head of the line, and there was nothing I could do for the disabled pigeon.
Returning an hour later from my meeting at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, I waited in traffic on 15th Ave. heading east. On the corner I watched a skeleton of a grisly man in a wheelchair trying to reach down and get the coins a guy on a bike gave him. It was heartbreaking. When I saw him turn his chair to cross the intersection, I pulled out a $20 hoping that he’d come close enough so that we’d see each other. I don’t know where he went, but, the light turned green. There was nothing I could do.
This morning, in the grocery store parking lot, I was politely asked by the woman in the car next to me, “Can you help get my car started? Do you have cables?”
“Yes and yes,” I said happily, as I love to be of good service to others. I went to the trunk with full confidence that Ray would have the cables there.
The woman smiled with delight as I instructed her to raise the hood, while I did the same. But, I couldn’t find the hood release. I looked outside on the grill and inside along the dash. My anxiety and self-consciousness started to rise. We’ve had the car since 1995. How could I not know how to release the hood? I didn’t know because Ray wasn’t there. For 46 years I’ve counted on him to know how to do everything except cook, design, or decorate.
“I am so sorry,” I said. “I can’t figure out how to raise the hood.”
“That’s okay,” she said.
“No, it’s not okay,” I replied with frustration.
Just then, a car pulled in on the other side of her. The really nice woman asked the man who got out of the car if he would give her a jump. “Here, use my cables,” I said, hoping not to appear useless. He tried using my cables, and the jump didn’t work. He pulled out his big, manly cables and I put my gay cables back into the cloth bag that kept them looking unused.
It took a while to get her car started, but he did. She needed a new battery. I asked her if she had AAA. She looked quizzical. “It’s a roadside service you call when you’re in trouble,” I explained.
“I’m not a citizen of this country yet,” she said. “Do I have to be American?”
“No, no,” I said, “you can sign up, pay their membership dues, and never worry about breaking down again.”
I guessed from their accents that the woman I tried to help, and the man who actually got her car started, were both from an island nation, perhaps Jamaica. But that didn’t come up, nor did it need to. Once the car was started, the other man and I both told her not to turn off the car until she got home, and then call a friend to help her buy a new battery.
“I’m so embarrassed,” I said.
“Don’t be,” she replied. “You tried.”
“First thing I’ll do when I get home is ask Ray to show me how to open the hood.”
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do, but try.
These are really challenging times for me personally, as a gay man, living in a state whose governor, soon to be a candidate for president, is signing legislation right and left to limit access to information about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, non-binary, or other.
What do you do? You do what you can, keep doing what you’re doing, and be aware that not achieving your goal is not failure.
What the governor of Florida doesn’t realize, though, is that his behavior is promoting straight and cis-gender people to ask questions so they can understand what’s going on, and help.
“Help me with the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’,” a good friend asked while we were playing cards on Sunday. “Is non-binary the same as bisexual?”
“That’s a great question,” I said. “No, non-binary, and the use of personal pronouns such as ‘them’ is about a person’s gender. ‘Bisexual’ is about a person’s sexual attractions. They’re totally different. You have ‘gender’ over here, and ‘sexual attraction’ over here."
“Oh, wow, that’s helpful," she said.
I continued on for a few more minutes, helping my friend understand why a person prefers the pronouns “they” and “them.” We talked about being “sexually fluid,” and she laughed. “Sexually fluid,” and “bisexual” are the same.
It took courage to ask for an explanation of “non-binary,” revealing late in age that there are still many unanswered questions about one’s sexuality and gender identity, and it felt so good to be able to help because I may not be able to get the car’s hood open, but I can sure lift the lid on sex and gender and charge your battery.
Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do, and sometimes you’re the perfect person to do what you can.
Brian McNaught has been a leading educator on LGBTQ issues globally since 1974. He has made his many books and DVDs available for free at Brian-McNaught.com. The New York Times named him “The Godfather of gay diversity training.” Brian has a weekly YouTube/FaceBook podcast called, “Are You Happy Without the Movie?” and McNaught's latest book, “On Being Gay and Gray: Our Stories, Gifts, and the Meaning of Our Lives” is available now on Amazon for $14.99.