And then I remembered – I’m an engineer! I can totally get away with “scientifically detached” and “unemotional”! So I should just start writing and see where it goes.
What I decided to write about is the idea of entrainment. In fluid mechanics, the term entrainment describes how otherwise non-moving fluid is compelled to move by virtue of the motion of the fluid around it and the connectivity among the molecules. The Dyson Air Multiplier fan is an example – high velocity air coming out of the “blade” pulls along the previously-still air in the room and makes it move. The net effect is that a greater number of molecules end up traveling together to a new location.There is a cost of course – the high velocity air exiting the blade loses some of its energy in bringing the rest of the air along with it – but the important thing is that matter which otherwise would have been perfectly happy to sit still was motivated along some new path by its energetic comrades.
From a personal perspective, the process of entrainment ends up being a very good description of how I got here. It models what some of my students and friends, and this blog, and the Center for LGBT Life have done for my mindset and motivation. The people who have been willing to share their experiences and emotions in this venue and others have done much to change me from a person who otherwise would have been perfectly happy to sit still to a person compelled to get going along a different path. I have been the beneficiary of others’ willingness to connect and to share, and I feel myself being moved accordingly.
Within society, however, I recognize that the costs of human entrainment are similar to those in a fluid system. I can only imagine the physical, emotional, and – for those who believe the term has relevance – spiritual toll of the work done by Janie, and Jess, and all the students, faculty, and staff. I marvel at the effort that is put forth by those who are working towards the expansion and protection of human rights and towards the recognition of equality and preservation of dignity for people all over the gender and sexuality spectra. Not to mention (only because I don’t have the words for it) what it takes to fulfill all the different roles of counselor, friend, parent, leader, listener, advocate, and so many others for so many people.
As examples, I have learned from reading a number of coming-out posts that, even when there are generally positive reactions from family and friends, there is still a great deal of anguish and doubt. There is additional effort that must be expended to maintain (or repair) relationships. I have talked to people who still fear that who they love or how they present will somehow have an impact on their employment prospects. And I see in our own state that a sad majority of our elected “leaders” want to codify discrimination and put civil rights to a vote.
Given that, I think it becomes the job of an ally, once entrained, to figure out a way to add energy to the community rather than be a drag on it. We still need to be led – and taught, and corrected, and sometimes even forgiven – but we also need to be willing to take up the banner and use our voices and our privilege to promote understanding and acceptance.
As noted during ally training, we need to make a personal commitment to:
- Knowing more about the LGBT Community
- Recognizing what holds us back as individuals and as a society from being supportive and affirming
- Speaking up in our everyday interactions to combat homophobia and heterosexism, and
- Acting to make the lives of LGBT individuals better by working for change and continuing to engage in the community.
I hope that any of you reading this who celebrate Thanksgiving will have a wonderful holiday from whatever it is that you do day-to-day and get a chance to reflect on and revel in those things for which you are thankful. For me, that includes my family, my friends, my colleagues at work, the opportunities I have been given to work with the next generations of leaders, and the gift to learn from all of you who participate on this blog and in the life of the Center for LGBT Life. Thank you for bringing me along!