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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Covering

The Indianapolis Star included a review of Kenji Yoshino's semi-memoir Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. Yoshino defines covering as "ton(ing) down a disfavored identity to fit into the mainstream." Despite the title, this reviewer doesn't see it as one-sided.

The Booklist review doesn't sound like it agrees with that assessment:

Yoshino, an Asian American law professor at Yale, whose gay status informs this work, explores the struggle for equality of gays in America from the broader perspective of the civil-rights movement. He argues that society resists allowing full equality for gays by instead advocating conversion, passing as straight, and covering homosexuality, tactics similarly imposed on racial and other minorities. Passing is reflected in the military's current "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Covering occurs when a gay is "out" but avoids offending the larger society by "covering." By favoring passing and covering, self--perceived liberal nongays, Yoshino argues, are in fact denying gays full rights. Yoshino considers "covering," the demand that gays not flaunt their orientation, to be the civil-rights issue of today. Yoshino views the "accommodation" model applied in law to religious and disabled minorities as a bright spot but recognizes its restricted application to gays. While accommodation could be more readily applied to traditionally protected groups, he is not optimistic about this course with America's increasing pluralism. An insightful read.

I have a confession to make: I'm covering, too.

I play games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, and German board games. I enjoy playing these games a lot. I attend conventions to play these games with people who share this interest, in particular as part of a worldwide D&D organized play group. When with friends who share these interests, we may talk about the best ways to design characters, reminisce about past games, or bemoan the current state of the game. (That's in addition to going out to dinner, sharing drinks, and talking about sports and current events, in case you're wondering.)

Yet in the course of a typical day, I cover up this avocation. I don't talk about it at the office or with the teller at the bank. I might wear a T-shirt with the name of a game convention, but I don't go telling people about it.

Wikipedia cites an estimate that 20 million people worldwide play Dungeons & Dragons, but the membership of the smaller group I'm in is probably in the low five figures. But consider that 20 million figure. It is one-third of one percent of the world's population. Now, estimates of gay population vary considerably, depending on the definition one uses, but the low estimate says 1.5% percent of people are homosexual. Clearly, I'm in a much smaller minority.

What's that you say? You're not born a player of D&D?

I ask you this: what foods do you like? Now, why do you like those foods?

Now, think of an activity you enjoy. Why do you enjoy it?

It's hard to describe, isn't it?

I think the fact that I enjoy playing these games more than playing a pickup game of basketball or tending to a garden is as much inborn as my preference for the flavor of peach over the flavor of banana. I really can't say why I enjoy these activities, but I do. (I admit that as of the present day, no one has found the "gay gene," nor the "D&D gene." Give science time!)

Everyone covers every day. I don't say, "Hi, I'm Greg. Roll for initiative!" I may have a fantasy about a tall, strong man (who wields a wicked axe and fights a demon army). You may have a fantasy about a tall, strong man (for rather different reasons). If that's the only thing you talk about, it gets in the way of finding common ground as human beings.

Covering is the civil thing to do. If we didn't, we'd be at each others' throats. If you're strongly anti-tobacco, you don't get in the face of the smokers. If you love cats, you don't try to convert everyone into a cat lover. And if you think homosexuality is a sin, you don't send protesters to a gay man's funeral.

(A few people don't follow these standards of decency. We call them "assholes.")

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2 Comments:

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Marina said...

What an interesting concept! In my office, it is all women, and of course, the question always comes up: "What did you do this weekend?" I will never forget the response I got when I actually told them the truth: That I had gone to a MtG draft tournament and taken third.

"You do what?"
"Wow, you're a freak."
"You're one of those D&D geeks, aren't you?"


I had been so proud of my accomplishment, and yet as soon as they made these comments, I blushed and became very quiet. I don't talk about my passion for MtG anymore at work unless someone specifically asks me about it. I cover myself, and I think there are tons of MtG players out in the world who are doing this daily as well.

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Wow, what a bunch of putzes.

The minimum polite response is to smile and offer congratulations.

The more polite response is to express an interest in this unusual hobby, asking a few questions to learn the basics.

While I might not be interested in watching a dog show, I would listen to a brief description of a co-worker's participation.

 

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