Skydivers, Flaming Gays, Riding Bitch and Fake Tolerance

As many of you know, Chris was an abuse survivor. He was molested by his dad for several years, and this is consequential. Over the course of our marriage, he was part of a marvelous therapy group in Denver that was dedicated to providing services to men and women who had this in their past. (If we’ve talked about this before, forgive me, I get blonder the farther along I go)

Lots of people mistakenly think this is a repeatable cycle.  Actually, the majority of abuse survivors don’t abuse.  They often end up self-medicating addicts or in a state of hypervigilance, and that described Chris to a ‘T’. Evergreen Academy was a product of that hypervigilance, and if you think about it, it makes sense. Nothing bad was ever going to happen to a kid on his watch.

Chris met a lot of interesting characters on this healing journey. For whatever reason, many of his fellow abuse survivors were gay. I remember one I had the pleasure of meeting. “Jerry” had a button down, jacket-on job during the day. After hours, “Jerry” would love to glam it up with his partner. Purple satin shirts, feather boas, he would even stir his (homemade) salad dressing with his pinky up.

“Jerry,” Chris would marvel, “you are the stereotypical gay man!”

“No! I am a ‘Flaming Gay Man,'” “Jerry” would correct him.

I remember laughing when Chris told me this.

“Is that the same thing as a ‘raging queen?’ ” Popular vernacular was always a hot topic around our house.

“Duh! Certainly not! ‘Flaming Gay’  is only OK because Jerry said I could say it.”

“Oh, like how ‘nigga’ is only ok when black folks say at to each other as a sort of greeting, or one black dude to another when both are totally blinged out?”

“Right. ”

Word conversations were a lot of fun with Chris.

I tell all this to you because I have decided to go back to competitive ballroom dance. Some of you know that Chris and I used to do that before the kids came along, and just loved it. It helped that we were good.

I was casting around for a partner, and happened to mention to one of my skydiver friends that many of the coaches were ‘flaming’. It never dawned on me that a straight man without this background would be offended.

He looked startled, and objected to my intolerance. He hasn’t spoken to me much since, and it got me to thinking.

Isn’t it funny how much people like to segregate? As much as we profess to be one inclusive family, and skydivers in particular love to lay claim to this, we just can’t seem to help seeking out people that are just like us.

A gay coach, in principal, makes not a whit of difference to me. I can’t change what’s in people’s hearts.  I don’t care to try. But during a performance, as I discovered with Chris, it helps to genuinely enjoy the company of the person you are with. One of the reasons why Chris and I would clear the floor is because we had that unmistakable charge between us, and you can’t get that with a gay coach.

As it turns out, it’s a moot point. Since I have been gone from the sport, a “Same Sex”  competitive division has emerged, and a lot of the gay coaches don’t even bother with the opposite gender anymore.

I found myself in another similiar predicament not too long ago. One of my co-workers loves to ride Harleys with her husband. There is a yearly gathering in a South Dakota town called Sturgis every year. Thousands of Harleys and other big bikes descend on Sturgis, and it sounds like jets on the ground all day, and all night long.

I asked my friend if she and her husband were going to go.

“Yes, and I’m going to ride bitch the whole way.” I nearly gagged on my chai tea.

Ride Bitch? Surely not. I had heard the phrase before, but generally from scruffy, dirt-poor biker wannabes.  Not from grandmotherly, churchgoing, cookie-making preschool teachers.

Jane giggled at my discomfort. Jane is over sixty.

“Yes, Riiide Biiitch.” Jane has great enunciation. I started to crack up.

“Ok, ok, I get it. You mean you and Ted are going to ride up to Sturgis, and you are going to be the passenger the whole trip.”

“Good girl. Now go practice. Riiiide Biiitch.” I laughed all the way back to my office.

What to learn from all this linguistic merry-making? Be careful, I guess. It’s hard to know what will tick some people off, and what will make others laugh.

And to keep it real. It’s been interesting to me to get to know the skydiving community a bit.  It started out to be something completely foreign to me-a group of charming adrenaline junkies dedicated to doing something completely random like jumping out of planes.

It’s a bit of a downer, but oddly reassuring, to realize that skydivers are like any other group of people.  We are all quick to judge and often self-deceiving,  and everyone likes to believe we are all part of a special group, when really we are all in this boat together.

Much authentic love,



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