The other day I was at work talking to a customer about the weather (this was the day where it was reported that a tornado had touched down in my parents town, and I was slightly worried about them), and I said to her that this year seemed particularly erratic, my exact words being, 'Yeah the weather is being really gay.' A saying that over the last few years I've adopted into my repertoire, same as when we used to say 'as if,' 'far-out' and 'dude.' I'd never really thought about it much before, until on this day, another client over heard me and was offended. She asked one of my associates for Head Office's phone number (insinuating a complaint), refusing to approach me in person, as my associate suggested. "She's really friendly and didn't mean anything by it...it won't turn ugly," my associate said.
Once my associate made me aware that I'd offended her, I was deeply sorry and wanted to apologize, but she'd already left the store.
So I took it upon myself to track her down in another store, walked up to her and apologized in person. I explained to her that I meant nothing by it, that is was simply a saying that unfortunately I'd adopted from hearing it so often. "It's in the air, part of pop-culture, I meant no offense and I'm so sorry it offended you. Please when you're done here come back to the store and I'll be more than happy to give you a gift card." At this point the customer bursts into tears.
Not sure what else to do I return to the store, knowing she wouldn't come back, got her a gift card and returned to give it to her, apologizing again.
With that being said, I have to say that for the last couple days I was upset that I'd upset her. But I was also upset that she thought it appropriate to call in a complaint against me, as I'd never even talked to her during her visit (I'd just return from break when she was leaving) and the remark was not directed at her or anyone else. It wasn't even in reference to another person, but the weather. (Now, be patient, I am going somewhere with this.) I felt that even though deep down I know that this is a derogatory term, meaning to degrade a person's sexuality as well as who they are, and I'm aware that even though the comment was not in reference to anyone, the fact that it was said at all was inflaming. It is something I'm working on to nix from my vocabulary, just as some people try not to swear in front of children. But sometimes you slip. I honestly felt that a complaint to make me look bad in front of my staff, my supervisor and head office was way out of line considering the circumstances. I kept saying to myself over and over, that something must of happened in her past to make her oversensitive to the statement.
Now, a couple days later, And (through the universe speaking to me) it dawned on me. Something in her past DID happen to make her react this way. She was born!
In my morning meditation today (yes, I meditate) the phrase, "Your words and thoughts have physical power," appeared. (This is where I pictured her crying.) Then on Twitter I read the @deepakchopra tweet, " To see the world from others' perspective is to take on their emotional footprint. To comprehend the world through them #spiritualsuperheroes," and in that moment it REALLY dawned on me. She wasn't being oversensitive. She was simply asking for the respect that I NEVER have to ask for. It's automatically given. I'm never judged or ridiculed for being straight. I'm not stalked or beaten or killed for being straight. And I don't have derogatory sayings made up in order to belittle me and my sexuality, and make me feel like nothing. And now...I get it.
Respect and understanding, compassion towards another should never have to be explained or demanded. It should simply be!