It’s been like 5 days since I arrived in New York and I’ve seen how wonderfully diverse the city is and how well its residents embrace that diversity. It’s different from Southern California. It’s very diverse there also but people roll in cars there and there’s no functional public transportation system, so there’s not much interpersonal discourse which would ultimately lead to the understanding and acceptance of each other.
Relating to being in touch with diversity, I’ve started to wonder why liberal arts schools are usually set in small towns. They are supposed to teach a multitude of disciplines to the students who are graduating there, and this means the students are supposed to be able to deal with lots of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds, all walks of life. And yet they are in small towns where there’s nothing of that sort. The townspeople either work for/at the college and local schools or in a nearby city or in the farms that surround the town. At the Met, this little old white usher lady found out I’m from Burma and she starts talking about Rangoon in comparison to New York. I told this black lady on the subway that I’m from Burma and she knows Obama was there not too long ago. Where I go to school, nobody really knows or cares where I come from. Even when I’m applying for transfer admission, other schools (in similar towns) don’t know or care that my current school exists and vice versa. It doesn’t make sense!
What I learnt from my previous sociology class is that small towns in the middle of the United States (far from the coasts and far from the borders) were founded by early settlers to escape from the influx of multicultural/multiracial immigrants. These new immigrants had different cultural and religious values from those of the early settlers (the colonists). As they moved further inland, some kinda succeeded in blocking out the newcomers – becoming the red states strongly anti-immigrant, intolerant of diversity and clinging onto their religious fundamentalist values. In other places, they founded these little institutes – originally affiliated to a church – that teaches everything and anything with the goal of producing graduates who are better than the new arrivals at whatever they do. So the states where these institutions are successful became the blue or swing states. But their liberalism is a only an ideology, standards they live by, a product of good education, not a practice achieved through exposure to diversity – because there is still not much diversity in the area. I’ve had a friend from a blue state from the East Coast complain about how the swing state we go to school in is not liberal enough – even though the campus as a whole appears to be so. I think my assumptions here are a solution to his complaint. Solution – kinda, coz it’s not like something we can change! But, just so you know, these are only my musings. They are not necessarily correct, as much as I’d like to think so. And the College Democrats at my school is run (mainly) by 2 girls from swing states, 1 from a red and 1 guy from a blue state, so …
Back to the main subject: New York is an exciting city and I got here during “the most wonderful time of the year” – which is not true for me, coz I think spring is the truly wonderful time of the year. Diversity blooms here and it propels the culture unique to New York to thrive. It’s one of those snow-ball effect things and I love it. So here are the lovely gay memories that I’ve made so far in the city …
[Hold it! I am NOT running around the city crawling into the blankets of the random hotties I meet. Yes, I’m a ho but no sexual experiences whatever (yet … muahahahaha) here! Just some things that make me smile …]
- The night of my first opera, I walked around the Lincoln Centre in search of food. A gay couple enjoyed a late night date at the table next to mine at the fancy little Thai restaurant in Manhattan. They sang along to every single pop song that played on the radio – which was a tad bit annoying because I just heard a Verdi masterpiece in the best opera house in the US and they had to sing along to Nicki Minaj. Come on! But they had no way of knowing and I like Nicki Minaj and most pop music myself, so they’re excused. They were very flamboyantly complained about life and their first world problems and gossiped openly about their friends. No problem whatsoever about being gay was on their list – which is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing, because they are very comfortably enjoying their relationship in a pubic space, and a bad thing, because there was nothing political in their conversation, which could imply that they don’t know or care how hard some queer folks have in other corners of the world or even in other states in their own country. They were fabulously dressed, as one would expect openly gay New Yorkers to be. (But, seriously, almost everybody manages to dress well here.) One of them complimented on my jacket before they left. When I finally exited the restaurant, they were still kissing on the street corner. B-E-A-utiful!
- On the Metro the same night, on my way back, I sat next to a lesbian couple hugging and leaning against each other and trying to nap before they reach their destination. They must’ve been out drinking, dancing or something. That’s all the observation I could make coz they were napping and I was pretty tired myself.
- Last night and today, I hung out with some Burmese folks of New York. They didn’t flinch at all at the sight of my hairdo or my nail paint – something I’d never expected of any Burmese folk. They even complimented on my nails, ooh! We talked for hours and hours about our faraway home and our bittersweet lives in the US. We shared yummy home-cooked Burmese food and conversed over drinks and ice-cream. There was a little toddler boy and I got to play with him. But heteronormality still reigns the Burmese mindset or Burmese tradition (traditional thought). Parents tend to talk of arranged marriage for their prepubescent kids just for the sake of conversation – in this case, their toddlers, newborns and yet-to-be-borns – and they automatically assume their children would be straight. It’s like, “Hey, if my baby’s a girl, I’m gonna be better friends with you coz you have a son. But if I have a boy, I’m hanging out with this other person more coz they have a daughter.” During those conversations, a little voice in my head curses them to have gay children.
- At Macy’s last night, several salesgirls helped me out picking the perfect closed-toe heels. None of them seem surprised about me looking for heels for myself – until I mentioned I wear them on campus. You know it’s awkward enough being a (gay) man looking for heels for himself in the largest Macy’s in America, and it gets tougher when you want something specific and are very picky. This sassy black girl was especially helpful. When I told her how I’d never looked for/bought heels in malls and department stores coz I feel uncomfortable (insecure) trying them on, she said, “It’s a new age. You gotta do what you gotta do.” Then she put me in a somewhat inconspicuous corner and told me stories of men in business suits looking for heels. Well, she certainly got Macy’s a happy customer during the holiday season.