For many years I played the role of a victim. For a decade I coped by hiding in the closet. Then I tentatively started to come out to a few people, but I still was afraid and lacked self-confidence. I avoided any risk so I compromised my career and avoided any situation that might be a threat. I lived life on the fringes - not really engaged.
Slowly I realized that my WASP privilege shielded me from many of the problems that people of color face in this country every day. I came to understand that I was only one of many who are marginalized by society by racism, homophobia, greed, and class distinction. We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can choose our responses.
I even found a partner, but again the pressures of society made it difficult to maintain that relationship. I could not even imagine the opportunity of getting married and living a normal life.
I found a steady job and settled down in a small community and got by - getting along and keeping a low profile. I wasn’t living up to my potential, but again I was afraid of taking the risk of stepping outside my comfort zone.
Then I became a LGBT activist. It was very tentative at first, but then more openly as I joined those trying to reform the United Methodist Church and to help it live up to its motto: “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” We face another critical moment in the life of this denomination when it again faces the question of homophobia at a special called General Conference in February. No one knows what may happen, but at least the debate is serious this time.
I got more involved locally, not only with the Reconciling movement, but also with the local LGBT center in Raleigh. I joined the group of seniors called SAGE. We have reached out to the organizations that serve the aging. By doing so we improved the profile of the needs of LGBT aging adults so that we don’t have to go back in the closet again as we require more care.
The victim is overpowered by a sense of hopelessness and thus become passive and accepts whatever happens without challenging it. A good example, is the corporate takeover of the national electoral system with the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court. They were able to spend unlimited amounts of money in controlling elections, and they did. But then we remembered that there are more of us than they are of them, and we challenged their power with small donations via the Internet. We were able to gain real political clout simply by joining together to challenge the status quo.
There are still real victims of natural disasters, residents of countries that practice genocide, and people who suffer from mental illness. These people largely are still helpless and hopeless, but at least we can contribute through organizations and participate in groups that alleviate their suffering.
We have some great examples, such as the young people who survived the Parkland school shooting and took on the NRA and the gun manufacturers with their courageous appearances in the media. At the recent meeting of world leaders in Poland to discuss global warning, a young Swedish girl chastised them for only talking and not taking action. She reminded them she was not only speaking for the current generation but also the next generation that would suffer even more dire consequences without dramatic changes in fossil fuels emissions.
We each can do our part. Let’s help make 2019 an epoch that will lead us out of the current chaos.