It’s been a long time since i posted something likely to be incendiary, but that doesn’t mean i haven’t been pondering. Oh, i ponder like nobody’s business on a slow day. The plan is to come back later today and post a snippet, but until then here are my thoughts on something i’ve been hearing/talking/thinking a lot about lately. These thoughts are purely my own, so you know who to blame if they’re incomprehensible, offensive, or both.
To Mainstream or not to Mainstream, that is the question?
As someone who started grade school in the 1970s the word “mainstreaming” has a very specific meaning. When I was in first grade it had just become trendy to send kids who weren’t “perfect” to school with everyone else. During my time on the little kids’ side of the playground my classmates were deaf, legally blind, and some of them had cerebral palsy or Down syndrome. They were also every color of the rainbow: Asian, Latino, black, Pacific Islander, Native American (and I have a feeling I’ve forgotten someone so I apologize; that was a long time ago!).
Mainstreaming 1970s style was met with some strenuous opposition from some corners of society but for the most part the kids on the playground couldn’t have cared less about someone’s disability. All we cared about was who was nice and who wasn’t.
You can probably see where I’m going with this.
The latest push for mainstreaming is surrounding the LGBTQ community. There are good things to be said for fitting in and becoming an active part of the larger community of humans we all live in. However, there’s a big difference between a nice stew and paté. A nice hearty stew can contain dozens of flavors, each morsel retaining the qualities that make it special—you won’t mistake a bite of carrot for a whole clove of garlic, even if the garlic has been deliciously mellowed by its exposure to the mixture as a whole.
On the other hand, once an ingredient goes into a paté it loses its unique characteristics in order to contribute fully to the overall experience. The onion in a paté doesn’t resemble the onion in a stew.
Sorry if it grosses anyone out to liken humans to food products but hopefully at least the metaphor is clear.
I don’t want to live in paté.
If someone else does, fine, but the push to create a society where the rainbow brigade is indistinguishable from our straight white middle class neighbors just makes me sad. I have this attitude in part because I’m not straight or middle class, but mostly because I’m afraid the push toward mainstreaming will result in homogeneity—and since the overwhelming majority of people are straight, I can only guess what that would end up looking like.
I enjoyed growing up with people from all over the world, people who were differently-abled or didn’t speak English at home or who were just plain unique in their own way. My feeling about the mainstreaming of the rainbow is that it’s less about becoming fully accepted than it is about fitting in. It feels like the difference between being tolerated (gee, thanks for allowing me to continue to live), and being genuinely accepted as fellow humans. And that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.