Friday, May 25, 2007

Through The Glass

A few weeks ago the executive director at the Pacific Center sent a couple of us facilitators an email saying that he had received a request from a college student "to sit in [our] group and observe."

I sent my response back to him and cc'd all of the facilitators so everyone could be in the discussion if she wished. I'm particularly exhausted on Fridays after the food bank so perhaps my email could have been more diplomatic, but I said NO in capital letters. Some time ago another student came to the meeting and announced at the beginning (fortunately) that while she is not bi, she was interested in doing some research and her professor told her to find and attend a meeting of bi people, to which my friend privately responded later, "What kind of professor doesn't say, 'Go read a book'?".

It made me feel like she was an anthropologist and we were some weird tribe, the "other." Or Jane Goodall and the gorillas. I expressed that at the time and another woman said she was also uncomfortable with this person being there to observe, and the student left the meeting. She hung around until it ended and came with us when we went out for a drink afterward. She "interviewed" people individually while we drank our beers. Even I talked to her. And then she disappeared.

So when we were asked if we would be open to this person observing, my answer was unequivocally no. I did offer to meet with her one-on-one, if she would settle for that. There is very little research out there on lesbian women and even less on bi women, so if it's research subjects she's after, I don't have a problem with that. She went through appropriate channels, by asking first.

I wasn't the only facilitator who rejected the idea of being observed, I was just the first (and that was because I look at my email all the time when I'm home). I am protective of the group as an entity and of the individual members. Recently we have had several new people coming to the meetings and I already feel like I'm working hard to make them comfortable and feel safe. I do not think allowing someone else to "observe" would make that mission any easier for me. I know that if a straight person attended one of the first queer meetings I went to (shortly after I came out as a lesbian) I would have wondered whether this was where I belonged.

I keep coming back to the idea of others thinking we are members of some odd tribe, as if we are not like anyone else. I heard recently that the majority of people in the LGBT community identify as bi, which of course fits right into the Kinsey Scale. If there are seven points people can land on, and only two of them are "one or the other," well, that makes sense, doesn't it? But we are invisible most of the time (for example, I wear a wedding ring so most people who don't know me, but pay attention to the left hand, will assume I'm straight), so it doesn't seem like there are that many of us.

I'm not really sure how I want to end this, because it's part of a larger, ongoing conversation in my head. But the fact is that it is creeping toward midnight and I'm tired from adjusting to the new hours and I want to go to bed. Tune in next time...

No comments: