Friday, December 5, 2008

Coming Home

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Jaime here...

I just had an incredible week at my new job. I had a few epiphanies this morning about the last few years. My last job was great in a lot of respects, and my former coworkers are very dear to me and I'm still in touch. However, for the last 2 years it's felt a bit like I've been a visitor from another planet in a lot of ways culturally. I realized how much so after the conference this weekend.

I was at "Smokefree California" which was a conference for all the people in the state involved in Tobacco Control. These are all public health/social justice oriented people. I sat in the room the first day and almost teared up looking around- there were people of color everywhere I looked and identifiably queer folks. At one point on the last day, a not so great speaker from a Landlord group tried to draw a parallel about tenants and smoking with illegal immigration. She kept using the term "illegal immigrants" and there was a buzz in the room. Afterwards, someone at my table was talking about it and saying how upset she was that the woman even used the example and that she wished the woman hadn't said "illegal immigrant" but rather "undocumented person". Again, I almost cried. To a lot of people, it just seems like semantics, but to me and a lot of others, the difference in those words speaks volumes. I haven't heard that term "undocumented person" in a workplace setting since graduate school and it was MUSIC to my ears.

At this conference, there were at least 10 identifiably queer people out of a few hundred. I just left an agency that had thousands of employees and in 2 years, never met anyone who was "out" until I came out to them. I had conversations with a few who talked about needing to stay in the closet because it wasn't culturally acceptable there. Everyone was cool with me and always really supportive of Laura and Simon and I, but it's really different to work with people who are "of" your people rather than "support" your people. I love allies- I totally appreciate all the love and support I got and validation of my relationship with Laura AND there's nothing like being around people who you know "get" you and your family in the way someone who is living it does.

Today I realized I've felt like I've been living in a foreign country. I spoke the language and could really function and be an active pariticpant. But this last week has felt like I was finally around English speakers. I experienced this when I lived in Paraguay for a summer- I didn't realize how much extra energy it took to be "other" in a foreign culture until I was with other Americans or English speakers. Then I felt an incredible sense of relief and sort of dropping away of a cloak. I felt like that this week.

I learned about 6 months worth of information in 3 days but I didn't feel overwhelmed at any point because everyone was speaking the same language I know (public health/social justice). I was just learning new strategies, not a new culture. I hadn't realized how much I was trying to learn a completely new culture the past 2 years- really business and sales, which I actually wasn't much interested in. It was exhausting and hard to be/feel successful. This was such a good move.

Also, Simon had his first poop in the bathtub and his first poop in the potty. I knew this day was coming. I mostly just laughed at the beginning and held him over the toilet for the rest of it. Such a big boy :-)

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