How Are We Talking Today?

What topics do you like to discuss?

I will discuss anything, but it’s different in person and in letters. I weight my letters because it’s the easiest way to go deep without expecting the immediacy of a response. I would even snail mail people if it were a viable option, because I don’t think printing out an e-mail is worth it. Plus, the strength in my hand to write with a pen is all but gone and my handwriting always reminds me of both the person who taught me to write and the person I’m currently thinking about, because I’m picturing the letter they wrote me and matching style…. for instance, Meag always used block letters and I thought it looked cool, so I’d waffle between block letters and the flowy, left-handed scrawl of the woman who emotionally abused me, because we were writing those letters to each other when I was learning to write in the first place. That part is permanent, and another reason not to put out the energy to hand write something. Giving people time to sit with what I’ve said without putting them on the spot is the most important thing if you really have something to say. It is my belief that if you have the ability to sit in the cognitive dissonance of waiting, use it. Seeing everyone’s first reaction when it could be anger is something I avoid… and yet, I don’t run away from problems, either. I want you to know what they are, but in a way that is non-threatening because I am not expecting you to have the answer today, right this minute. I learned that because I don’t even trust my first reaction to something. I react, and then I think about what I think.

I’d rather have the knee jerk reaction on my own, then give you a weighted response to show that I am taking you seriously; I have thought through all the implications of what you said and can see how my first reaction was wrong because of three things I wasn’t thinking about.

In person, I have learned that the best way to get close to people is just to let them talk about themselves. It’s what they know. I’m not trying to rope people in, I just have that personality where people want to spill things to me, because my personality dictates that I can help them. Most INFJs end up in social work of some kind or another.

In order to meet someone, I look around for the person I feel is most dressed like me…. has one item that stands out, like wearing solid black and having tye-dyed shoes or red glasses. Then, I go over to them and compliment them on that one item that stands out, asking where they got it. If they’re excited to start talking, I recognize that energy. If they’re not, I walk away. I think I mentioned this- that I met the chairman of the National Black Journalism Association because I ended up next to him at a bar and said I liked his shoes.

Whether the person is Joe Nobody or Joe Scarborough, it doesn’t matter. I say the same things. That’s because I can’t be offensive if I am only complimenting them on where they got something and not trying to broadcast “I know who you are and I care.” It doesn’t make the other person want to open up to me, and what is communication without a two-way street? I’ve never been impressed by anyone in terms of them having a much bigger life than me, a much bigger platform. This is because I know that people knowing who you are is not the flex you think it is. What’s important is what you did to achieve recognition. I like standing next to greatness, not to soak up fame, but to see brilliant people do what they do best.

I choke up with pride when I really think about the work my sister is doing. She’s one of the most powerful people I know, and yet my favorite thing about her is an energy she’s had since childhood. She’s a leader. People have wanted to follow her into the ocean since she was born. She has a charisma that is literally magnetic. She can do in person the kind of things I only write down. Watching the way she negotiates with the world without letting it get to her publicly and listening to her privately is astounding, because she makes everything look effortless even when it’s not.

It was a long time before I realized that I could lead people as easily as she could, I just wasn’t emotionally capable. I didn’t have the stomach for feeling rejected in person… which is why when I’m given power, I can be trusted, because I don’t want it. She feels exactly the same way in terms of not wanting to be powerful, she just is. Her physical appearance disarms people, which also goes into the way the world reacts differently to each of us, because our barriers to entry aren’t even close. She’s so self-aware and so compassionate because of it… probably the reason she works in queer issues today. Here’s what I want her patient population to know, and know it well. She will fight for you like a three-headed dog, because no one has ever been able to pick on her big sister, either.

Where I start to lose the plot in a discussion is when I think you just want to emotionally vampire me, because I’ll say something and you’ll go on forever about yourself without realizing that you haven’t even acknowledged what I’ve said. I get uncomfortable always fading into the woodwork, because I don’t have a God complex, but I would like to feel included. It makes me feel like a ghost when the only thing that matters is the other person feeling important. Our relationship should coexist, because the more I feel lonely even though we’re talking, the less I’ll show up at all.

I would rather spend time by myself if every time we get together, it turns into your therapy session and not ours. Meaning, I will listen to anything and everything you say, but I expect that you will, too. The most exhausted I get is when people say “we’ll circle back to it” and funny how that doesn’t seem to ever happen.

That’s generally when I resort to letters. It’s not easy for either party to feel put on the spot, so I’m taking care of me, too. Yes, I am an INFJ. I am built for doing exactly what you need me to do- listen. However, just because I can be that for everyone else doesn’t mean I don’t need someone as well. I’m already as introverted as I can possibly be to protect myself from having to be constantly drained. I need friends that give me energy, not take it.

So, basically I’m using the least intrusive means of telling you what I think no matter what. I calculate my responses in terms of whether I’m letting people in closer whether I’m in person or writing, dependent upon how open they are to hearing. I sense changes in energies very quickly, because the same things that work with feeling like you’re losing a crowd work in a conversation. Although, you work a crowd. You don’t work a person. You can just feel that shift and know you need to regroup…. like knowing it’s okay to come out to someone by getting their opinions on a few other topics, first. I feel similarly to Roy Wood, Jr. that we shouldn’t get rid of the Confederate flag so we can tell which white people are all right…. because where prejudice against skin color goes, so does their view of me. I hate walking into traps, and I’ll do anything to avoid it because I don’t like who I am when I feel caged.

Therefore, protesters at Pride parades never phased me. I knew they weren’t the right white people. I have never, ever seen black people protesting against Pride marches. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, that’s just my experience. I know that discrimination against queer people is rampant in the black church, but there’s a line drawn there. I would like to think it is sympathy for the struggle, that there are big differences… and too many similarities to count. For instance, we have both struggled with law enforcement. If you were caught in any homosexual behavior, the newspaper could absolutely ruin your life, because the news would be out publicly, both that you were arrested and why.

Getting your name published in the paper went away, but not the stigma. On a very basic level, humans are taught that sex is gross, but their particular brand of sex is right and good while someone else’s is bad and wrong. When you teach 80% of the population that they are right and good, what is the other 20% supposed to feel?

This is still happening today in classrooms across America, kids getting indoctrinated that those who don’t struggle with problems due to race, gender, sexual orientation, and/or religion matter so much more than the others…. that their lives are worth more because they were born “perfect.” This system reached ungodly levels of insanity during the Holocaust, where I never forget that Anne Frank and I are the same person. If I had been there, I would be dead…. she in her yellow star, me in my pink triangle.

If you’ve never had to carry that burden, you don’t have empathy for it and minimize it until it doesn’t exist. The best we can hope for is “I don’t see color,” which means that you’re okay as long as you don’t seem any different from them and understand completely when they’ve misgendered you or misnamed you for the 50th time that day… White, straight, cis people have no idea just how relentless it is… how much work it takes not to feel that pain all the time. How much we can’t laugh off your forgetfulness.

And if I feel this way, someone with browner skin than mine feels this phobia about themselves in a way they can’t hide from anyone else… same with trans people. They are physically different from me, so their differences get noticed quicker than mine…. but it’s all the same struggle. There are many, many basketball courts in that one gym.

When I’m really turned on in a conversation, it’s generally about issues like this, that affect more than just me. I can talk for hours about how I owe everything to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bayard Rustin. I have often pictured what their conversations look like back at the hotel.

Mostly because I’m a Bayard, constantly seeking their Martin.


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