How To Not be a Bottomless PitA Lesson from the Feminine and 26 Million Rainbow Profiles
I read a few outraged articles today around Facebook’s “26 million rainbow profile pictures”—but not outraged in the way that we might imagine. These article-writers weren’t critical of rainbow profiles because they’re anti-gay bloggers—these writers were irate about Facebook’s colorful onslaught because the writers themselves were gay.
Now before we get up in arms about gay people being upset about rainbow profile pictures, I want us to take a step back—actually two steps.
The first step back is to acknowledge that the lived experience of being gay or transgender in America is in no way similar to changing our profile pictures to a rainbow (especially once it becomes trendy). Of course. Of course, living in fear and shame around our sexuality and identity, being openly threatened, and feeling suicidal because of repeated persecution are experiences queer people have uniquely endured. This is heart-breaking, unjust, and needs to stop.
The next step back I want us to take is one of understanding, because who among us hasn’t had a seeming show off support come our way—and still been pissed off regardless? Put it in terms of a hypothetical relationships.
Let’s say I’m with a man, and he’s been being a dick all month. Let’s say one night, he comes home and apologizes for his dickish behavior, laden with flowers and true sincerity. As I write this, I could pretend that I would show graciousness and forgive him.
But I am a woman, and I have experience with this dilemma and been in this situation. Have I shown such generosity of spirit in such times? Hell no, I haven’t. Because one of the fundamental gifts and, er, inconveniences of the feminine is that nothing is EVER good enough. EVER.
(When I talk about the feminine, FYI, I’m not talking about a particular gender—just the feminine end of the spectrum that I believe we experience all parts of, to various degrees.)
No matter how flower-laden and sincere my man may be, he’s still a dick. And he needs to PAY for it. Flowers are sweet, but really—no foot rub? Where’s the chocolate? And are we going to actually TALK about what happened or just pretend it’s better now?? Anyway, how could flowers make up for him IGNORING me for the last month? I suffered real emotional pain and he’s going to hear about it until I’m done!
To those of us who ever been in such a situation and to the writers of these articles—I want to affirm that your pain is real, valid, and true. Shitty treatment has happened and there is no excuse or single action that can explain it away.
That being said, we now have partners and/or much of a nation who would like very much to show us their devotion, care, and solidarity. They might not understand what we have been through—they probably never will because they haven’t lived it, like we have—but they love us enough to try and to take a stand.
If endless not-good-enoughness is one of the traps of the feminine, then one of the superpowers is the ability to elicit exceptional service and devotion from others. Really, it’s like magic: we want things, and people want to give them to us. I know—shocking!! But true.
So here is a tip to begin exercising that super power: don’t be a bottomless pit.
Let’s go back to the man who offered his partner the flowers. We can all agree, flowers might not be enough to repair the damage that has been done. Clearly, rainbow profile pictures don’t undo centuries of bigotry—but it’s at least a start. We want to nurture that start so it becomes full blown reconciliation, harmony and joy. Therefore, killing and criticizing the initial offering is just not in our best interests.
It takes real and determined skill to receive the good that is being offered us in a way that inspires others to give us even more of what we want. This is sweaty stuff and no small artform. I mean it with sincerity when I say it is much more difficult and takes more discipline to acknowledge the good in our lives than to complain about what’s not working. (Take note of your own speaking habits for a week to investigate this phenomenon.)
Having what we want—financial freedom, pleasure, love, equality—takes real work. Not just the work to lay the foundation for our desires and goals to occur, but the work and endurance to digest, receive, and accept our desires once the payoff comes. But when we acknowledge the good and express our appreciation for even the small steps others are offering, it shows our supporters that we are not bottomless pits of need that can never be filled. It communicates instead our joy at what’s being offered—and points towards how our even deeper joy can be delivered.
Try it next time someone makes a sincere gesture of reconciliation or support towards you: first, acknowledge and appreciate what is being offered. Then ask them for what you want next or for what would feel even better. It gives those who genuinely want to support you a chance to show their care even more support.
Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling how I felt after reading these articles, and how the man standing at the door with the flowers might feel when his partner proceeds to yell at him about everything he’s done wrong. What—26 MILLION Facebook users and the White House done up in rainbow isn’t enough?!?! What else do you WANT?!?!
If we don’t acknowledge a good, we don’t even have a chance to answer that important second question. Rainbow profile pictures aren’t enough. But they are a gorgeous, glorious start. What do you want next? Let’s make it happen.