Editors Note: All names have been changed to protect anonymity.
The year was 2013. Same-sex marriage was legal in about 15 states. I was not in one of them.
I was done with my Master’s degree, and I was a job-attached park ranger, waiting for the summer season to start again. In the spring, I got hired for an arch tech job in CRM. It was the first time I was in the field for the almost seven years. To refresh my memory, the principle investigator paired me up with a co-worker. I was unsure of myself. And, I was the only female archaeologist on the project.
Day 1, I spend almost my entire time screening. My back was killing me. I did not want to seem weak or incompetent, so I didn’t say anything.
Day 2, I’m paired up with someone named Elijah. We dig in, so to speak. We go over filling out bags, looking for nuances in the soil, and the best ways to set up a unit. Everything seems fine. We talk about life a bit. It turns out we’re both in our 20s. I’m from the Southwest; he’s from the Midwest.
And then, lunch happens.
I bring up a common theme of Disney movies: dead parents. Every Disney movie I’d seen growing up had a main character that was missing at least on parent. “Why is that?” I ask.
“It’s because they’re supposed to overcome a challenge,” another 20-some year-old co-worker says.
“When is Disney going to make a movie about overcoming the *choice* to be gay?” asks Elijah. The principle investigator was talking with the backhoe operator, and does not hear the question. Someone asked for clarification. Elijah goes on about how Disney will someday make a movie about being gay as something to overcome.
My ears burn. My heart races. I want to run away, as fast as I can, and lock myself in the port-a-john. I want to be hidden; safe. I go over the scenario in my head. It just won’t work out. I would seem like a crazy person, and the port-a-john isn’t even that close. Plus, staying in a port-a-john isn’t exactly an escape plan.
“I don’t think it’s a choice,” counters Tom, one of the older, more experienced arch techs on the project.
They went back and forth for a while. It wasn’t a heated argument, but it was really uncomfortable for me. I believe that Tom came out ahead. To this day, I’m grateful to Tom for defending people like me when I didn’t feel strong enough to defend myself.
And, I’m glad that I didn’t lock myself in the port-a-john.