Thursday, March 21, 2013

Challenging Normal

Anna Bellerive
            “First Practice” by Gary Gildner, “Directions for Resisting the SAT” by Richard Hague, “A Father” by Bharati Mukherjee, and “Serving up Hope” by Stephanie Shapiro, all have the common theme of challenging the norm, just as the event “What it means to be an Ally” encourages support of these differences.  The challenges that the LGBTQ community faces in being a sexual orientation minority, mirror the challenges that the ex-drug addicts and cons as well as the family face in “Serving up Hope,” and “A Father.” The courage that this community possesses to speak up against sexual orientation discrimination is also mirrored in the works that were read like the courage needed to resist the structured system in “Directions for Resisting the SAT.”
            In the article “Serving up Hope,” Chef Galen Sampson provides recovering drug-addicts and ex-cons a means of transitioning back into society by teaching them culinary skills, which can be used to acquire a steady job in the culinary arts. Bridget and Galen Sampson started the Dogwood Café in an effort to give back to and promote social justice for a community that our society deems worthless. In their efforts to help these people adjust back into normal life, they are giving them the opportunity to achieve things in life and challenge the stigma that they won’t amount to anything of importance. As Tyrone Lewis puts it, “They made me see that what I think does matter. It makes a world of difference.” By attending the event “what it means to be an ally” I gained a glimpse of what the LGBTQ community struggles through. Just like the ex-cons and drug users, they are discriminated against and made to feel inferior for their sexual orientations. Yet, just like the ex-cons and drug users, they draw upon an inward courage to fight against the stigma’s and speak up for what is right; with the support of allies, who help shoulder the burden of speaking up against this discrimination.
            I learned yesterday that allies pride themselves on speaking up against the discrimination when no-one else will. By doing this, not only are they showing their outward opposition of hateful language and/or actions; but are also exemplifying that you don’t need to be gay in order to stand up for what is right. Speaking up against a system that demeans individuals is also what “Directions for Resisting the SAT” represents. This poem encourages the breaking of rules that support conformity, just as the LGBTQ community shows us it’s okay to break free from the classic mold of sexual orientation.
            Along with other challenges the LGBTQ community faces, one of the major problems is outright hatred or discrimination. Even something that appears innocent, such as the insistence of your heterosexuality, can have hurtful emotional consequences. In “First Practice” the coach challenges and intimidates his team, and later instigates fighting amongst them.  Similarly to the fight many wage between “gay vs. straight,” he arranges his team into two sides and urges them to physically display their hatred to the opposing side, while inconspicuously inflicting damage. He comes to represent the discrimination that the LGBTQ community faces in their day-to-day lives.
            Other challenges involve the inability for other to understand what it means to identify as LGBTQ. Many people are opposed to change, and aren’t willing to accept someone who is openly gay, often because they don’t understand. These feelings are shared by the family in “A Father.” The father is incapable of completely adjusting to the American way of life, and struggles between the western mentality and his traditional Indian Beliefs. His wife on the other hand, is far more accepting of American culture, which can be seen in her attempts to cook and the use of self-help books. Yet both these adults are unable to compromise their traditional Indian values when it comes to their daughter, who fits seamlessly into the American standard. Her father struggles to come to terms with her pregnancy, and when the secret is finally out, he snaps under pressure and assaults her with a rolling pin for “shaming the family.”
            All of these works share in the courage and challenges that the LGBTQ community faces. The messages range from encouraging the resistance of a “heterosexual only” society, to the positive outcomes that can be gained from having a support system in the form of an ally. 

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