Buying Visibility, One Quarter At A Time
I am sitting in the laundromat down the street, waiting for my triple-washer to finish its spin cycle. The owner has asked me to hang out and talk with him today. “I feel a sermon coming on,” he says.
Father Peter is an evangelical Christian. He’s a priest at a nearby church, as well as the owner of my neighborhood laundromat. He hangs photos of Jesus in the laundromat and says “praise the Lord” a lot. He thinks the only options for Christian sexuality (read: legitimate sexuality) are celibacy or as part of church-sanctioned marriage.
And yet, I continue pumping quarters into his washers and dryers.
I wish I could find a laundromat that was queer-owned. (Better, I wish I could own my own washer and dryer, but that’s a post for another time.) But as much as I believe in supporting queer-owned businesses, I also firmly believe in integrating myself into my community. And this laundromat is just down the street from my apartment, in a neighborhood that is about as diverse as Maine gets.
Apart from the convenience of using the closest laundromat, I actually really enjoy my conversations with Father Peter. Yes, we disagree on many political issues. And yes, he thinks I’m a sinner. But he also acknowledges that he’s a sinner too. And while I think he’s wrong on many, many things, I also know that he’s fairly well-read, and a pretty smart guy.
As I’m sitting in the laundromat, another customer walks in, and Peter introduces us. “This is Maxine,” he says, “she’s a member of the ACLU.”
I introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Jan. I’m a godless lesbian bent on destroying America.”
She laughs and shakes my hand, but looks shocked. “You told him that you’re gay?”
Of course I did. And I do. And I will continue to. I have nothing to fear from Father Peter. He and I vehemently disagree on gay rights, women’s rights, abortion rights, social welfare, immigrant rights, and many other issues. But by patronizing my neighborhood laundromat, I have an opportunity to make my politics visible.
I get a chance to talk with him about the importance of workplace equality, social equality, and why it’s so important for my relationship to be legally recognized. Peter and I can have a reasoned, productive debate on gay marriage while my underwear goes through the spin cycle.
And I love it! I love being visible in my community. I love the power that comes with being unafraid. And if it means I have to support my local non-queer owned laundromat, I’m okay with that.
Money may lead to power, but I’m not about to seclude myself in a gay ghetto while homophobes wish me good riddance. I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m doing my laundry.