I felt it immediately. The ‘scarlet letter’, Chris Parks called it. When I first traded my yellow v-neck on Tuesday for a pink ‘How Will You Be a Bridge’ shirt, it was as if I had traded in my privilege as a heterosexual-enough-looking male for my new assumed identity as ‘one of them’.
As a bisexual, biracial individual, I’ve had a lifetime of experience trying to find intersections between two camps and negotiating my identity in that space. Some perceive my ability to identify with multiple contexts a privilege; to myself though, it has always felt like a curse that affected my capacity to feel as if I truly belonged anywhere.
Wearing pink, then, was just another experiment in ‘switching camps’.
“I’m praying for you,” said a middle-aged gentleman, in a ‘I’m praying for your soul’ kind of way, not an ‘I’m sending good energy towards you’ kind of way. Only the day before, he had smiled at me in a we’re-so-happy-to-have-different-skin-colored-people-that-can-speak-English-and-act-white way.
More hurtful than the occasional glares or careless remarks directed towards the pink, though, is the silence. The averted eyes, the deliberate ignoring of my lovely smiles, and the loud and impromptu conversations that are struck up on the spot to avoid having to say ‘hi’ seem minuscule at first. With time, the passive-aggression began to wear me out emotionally.
Is it too much to ask to acknowledge I’m human? To smile?
“You need to change shirts,” said Scott Hartman on Wednesday, enforcing a sudden decision that volunteers were not allowed to wear the color pink on their torso, “Volunteers’ shirts can’t be political in nature.”
‘Politics’ was a copout, I think. The diligence of the powers that be in preserving the hetero-normative face of convention staff reinforces misinformation about Pink Menno that implies its members only try to ‘haunt’ others instead of helping out in meaningful ways.
When I’m not volunteering, I continue to wear pink. And it’s not always a life-force drain — the smiles from unexpected places, the hastily whispered ‘I like your shirt’ comments from one careful not to be overheard by her companions, and the moment of connection when seeing another also wearing pink are little reservoirs of hope that make it all worthwhile.
And, by way of response to one gentleman’s insensitive diatribe in last night’s conversation room on sexual orientation, there are indeed people of color at convention wearing pink.
I am one, and will continue to do so.