This is an update to a previous post, which can be seen here, in which I was subject to a homophobic rant at my office.
When I woke up on the morning after this incident, I thought I was fine. I got the kids ready for school, ran a few errands, and went into the office. As I got closer to the university, I realized that things were not as 'fine' as I had previously thought, but I still wasn't prepared for the knot of anxiety that I felt in the pit of my stomach as I approached the office door. I was also not prepared for the sound of my keys bouncing off each other as I tried to open the door with a trembling hand, afraid that he would be on the other side. He wasn't.
Still, as I got ready to begin work, just as I do every morning, I realized that something was different and I am not sure that it will ever be quite the same again. My office is a place where I had always felt safe. I had found a little niche where I could exist as I am without having to hide or conform, without having to pretend to be something I am not without having to worry about being judged or discriminated against. The place I could let my guard down and not have to worry about the anxieties that I often feel while dealing with people in the "real" world outside of this bubble.
And I am confused because he never touched me, he never made me feel as if I was in any kind of physical danger, never so much as raised his voice. Maybe that is why it didn't hit me until I really started thinking about the words that he used. If he had yelled or made me feel physically threatened, then I would have really seen the words for what they were from the beginning. But his tone was almost pleasant, conversational... in the context of words that were so full of not-quite-hidden hatred, or at very least ignorance, it made the entire situation seem even more surreal.
And the part that frustrates me most is that I can't get over being mad at myself. I am angry that I didn't tell him off or at least really explicitly tell him that it was inappropriate and that I wanted him to shut his mouth right then and there. I wasn't entirely quiet... at first, I tried to argue with him, but then just tried to ignore him in the hopes that he would stop talking, but he didn't, so I left the room. Either way, rationally I know that I am not to blame and that putting any blame on myself for his words is unhealthy and part of the victim blaming trend that I have written about so often (although I don't like that term... and I am definitely not thinking about myself as a victim in the context of this incident).
When I talk about it, people seem surprised that I didn't fight back. I am known for being argumentative when I want to be and for not backing down from an argument or debate, so it makes sense that those who know me are shocked that I didn't say or do anything. Still, acting shocked that I didn't say or do anything makes me feel as though I was wrong, and that isn't helping me right now.
Another friend just told me that although he doesn't condone that behavior, it is probably because the person was attracted to me. Then said something about how guys are jerks and it can be hard for them to behave properly around attractive women. So, basically what I got from that conversation was that it is my fault because I fit into a specific box of what could be defined as attractive by some people's standards (despite the fact that I don't wear makeup and rarely wear "figure flattering" clothing). Is the solution, then, to make even less effort with my appearance or should I excuse him for just being male?
And to make matters worse, I just received a non-apology letter, saying things like I'm sorry if you were offended by our openly intellectual conversation... you should have told me to stop... sorry if you thought i was rude or offensive. NOT sorry for being rude and offensive, but just apologizing if I interpreted it that way, because he is clearly open-minded about sexual orientation (he said as much in his letter), and I am the one with the problem for not seeing that. That letter should never have been allowed to be sent as an apology.
So, now I am sitting at home, not wanting to be alone, but not wanting to go on campus either. I am dreading tomorrow because it is the one morning that I know he will be there and I am pretty sure that he is angry with me for not seeing our 'conversation' as intellectual/academic. And the way that this is being handled is making me as angry, or possibly moreso, than the original rant... and I thought things were being handled so well up until late last night.