Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “discrimination”

Being Gay – Rhondajo Boomington

As a former fundamentalist, who grew up continually hearing – from the pulpit at church – that “homosexuals make God vomit,” I have a true appreciation for Pride Weekend – and for living in my beloved Berkeley.

Here, people are more likely to judge me for being overweight or for not being independently wealthy than because I am a lesbian. That’s a huge relief.

Yes, of course, there’s still tons of homophobia here in the Bay Area. But at least the norm is not to express it openly.

When I go to North Carolina, people stare at me a lot. When I walk into a restaurant, heads turn, people glance at each other, staring disapprovingly. My hair is too short. I’m not wearing make-up. I’m not dressed in frilly clothes. And I’m not bashing my eye lashes at anyone. Often when I order, the wait staff will say “you’re not from around here – are you?”

My brother has warned me that when I visit, I need to stay within about a 20 mile radius of their town. Else “you won’t be safe if you go any further out.”

I came out to my Mom about eleven years ago, and left it up to her to share – or not share – that information with people in her world.

When I flew home, alone, five years ago on a red-eye,  my brother and my Mom picked me up at the airport. We went directly to my favorite restaurant for breakfast. I almost choked on my country ham when my brother said “well – Daddy told me ‘go pick her up at the airport. If she’s alone – bring her back here. But if she’s got anybody with her, she’s not coming under my roof.'” My Mom’s eyes got big – but she remained silent.

I  took a deep breath. Practiced all that fancy breathing I learned at those Buddhist retreats in Berkeley. I announced that would be staying with my friends, 60 miles away, rather than with my parents. I could see the pain in my Mom’s eyes.

My brother – honestly being earnest said “Now Rhondajo, just calm down. You’re getting worked up over nothing. You know how Daddy is with his dog. He loves that dog. More than anything. But that dog is an outdoor dog – and he is never coming into Daddy’s house.”

I was livid. I did more of that breathing – and practicing non-attachment.  I had flown 3,000 miles to see my family, and didn’t know when – or if – I would be back. By the end of the meal, I told my brother “while I am here, we’re talking about two things. And two things only. Country music and food.” And he took me to my parents’ house.

Given that having a gay child is the ultimate shame, I was more surprised that someone had told my father that I was gay – than I was with his reaction.

So – here in the Bay Area, we will be inundated by Gay Pride this weekend. But, remember, there’s still a lot of prejudice out there. Right now.

When you hear a homophobic  joke, please don’t just pretend you didn’t hear it.

If you have a gay person in your life, give her or him an extra big, warm hug this weekend.

And if you don’t have a gay person in your personal circle of friends – it’s a great time to embrace a bit more diversity.

Happy Pride Weekend!

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RhondaJo Boomington is a Southern transplant from North Carolina. She landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and never plans to leave. Formerly a fundamentalist who voted for Jesse Helms many times, she now relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area and is frustrated that Obama is not liberal enough. She has earned a J.D. and a Masters of Divinity, and  enjoys performing in the Bay Area as a stand up comedian and solo performance artist. Contact her at rhondajoboomington@yahoo.com

Living Without a Car in Berkeley – RhondaJo Boomington

Since moving to the Bay Area, for the first time in my life, I am living car-free. I love riding BART though I don’t particularly love AC transit and MUNI. I feel deeply grateful to live in an area that makes car free living relatively painless much of the time.

Car free (from vancitybuzz.com)

And bless the hearts of my friends, with cars, who help out occasionally with some of the heavy things I can’t negotiate without a vehicle.

In Berkeley, however, I have become accustomed to a certain degree of discrimination when people learn that I don’t have a car. Often there’s a certain look that comes across their face. A judgment.

And, incredibly, it’s often the most vocal environmentalists who seem to have this reaction.

Last year, I was at a well attended meeting at a church that I had attended regularly.  A very middle class, “oh so environmentally friendly,” progressive church who “welcomes diversity.”  A drenching rainstorm began.

I had injured my ankle that afternoon, and for the first time ever,  I asked if there was anyone who may be able to give me a ride home. I lived about a mile away.

There was absolute dead silence.

I was very wet by the time I limped home in the torrential rain.

Drenching wet (from cbsnews.com)

Maybe their disdain was simply because of my Southern accent, the fact that I’m not slim, not hip and am happily frumpy?

But now, I have witnessed similar reactions in various places – to others who live a car free life.

And, right before it went out of business , I was in the beloved Elephant Pharmacy, and my worst fears were confirmed.

While buying my monthly AC transit pass, the guy working behind the counter asked if I had a car. I said “no.” He went on a pained, quiet tirade about the discrimination he experienced in Berkeley because he didn’t own a car. And the most blatant slights seemed to be from the most fervent environmentalists.

Hmm. And – he had no accent, was quite young and slim and hip and styled perfectly for Berkeley.

I wonder why (from info.gtilite.com)

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RhondaJo Boomington is a Southern transplant from North Carolina. She landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and never plans to leave. Formerly a fundamentalist who voted for Jesse Helms many times, she now relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area. She has earned a J.D. and a Masters of Divinity, and  enjoys performing in the Bay Area as a stand up comedian and solo performance artist.

Smart Girls are at a Disadvantage

I am male and a manger. When I am not writing the next New York Times bestseller, I am running a non profit in which part of my job is to hire, train, coach and evaluate my staff. I take this very seriously and put a lot of thought into each staff member’s professional journey and how I can empower and help them to reach their full potential.

The nature of the non-profit world means that I am often working with young people who are in their first full-time position. They will most likely stay a few years as they learn skills and garner experience that will help them leverage a better paid job. To do all this while working in a nurturing and ideological environment is an attractive initial proposition. After a while, however, they are seduced by either higher salaries or more responsibilities.

Our national organization, Hillel FJCL, prides itself on equal opportunities, with zero tolerance for a situation whereby anyone experiences discrimination because of their religious beliefs, sexual preference, or gender. Recently, one of my female employees shared her concerns about being able to advance in the non-profit world because she is a woman.

Is the Milennial woman still held back at work?

She shared an article by Heidi Grant Halvorson, the author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. The article itself appeared in the Huffington Post.

Succeed: How We Can Achieve Our Goals

While the article talks of the messages transferred to a girl in the home and classroom, Dr. Grant Halvorson also suggests that women might hold themselves to a higher standard than men, that they are more self- critical than their male counterparts.

Quoting studies from the 1980’s by psychologist Carol Dweck (author of “Mindset“) she suggested that girls are less likely at the 5th Grade level to believe they can improve themselves. Couple this with the other well-known factors – teachers give boys more time, turn to boys to answer questions first etc., then the image projected is that boys experience a more empowering environment at school, university and in the workplace.

Girls are more likely to let a boy answer a question, even if she knows the answer

I am not sure that the millennial, brought up on a mega dose of entitlement necessarily falls into this hole, but there are definitely those who are not seeking the higher status (and high compensation) professions, even though they have the ability. There are still far more young women who are prepared to make compromises and sacrifices to follow their partner than their male counterparts.

Whatever is holding the millennial female back from challenging for equality in the classroom and the workplace troubles me. I cannot influence them growing up at home or in the lecture hall. I can only offer the best possible nurturing working environment.

But whenever one of these young women leave, whether for a new experience, more money, or professional advancement, I can’t help feeling a wave of protectiveness. It doesn’t happen to me with the fine young men who pass through our organization, so there must be something there.

Are woman still held back in the workplace? Please share your views, experiences, and solutions.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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