My friend Majed and I were on the road again a couple of Saturdays ago and as he took me on the scenic, off-highway tour of Massachusetts’ North Shore, we spent a lot of time talking about the oftentimes difficult nature of human relationships. We weren’t just discussing family and friends though. As educators, we consider our ties with our students and colleagues to be of special importance.
Each of us has had occasion to work with students who needed support and encouragement. Some need extra help with their class work. Others have pressing personal issues-including illness in the family, divorce, childcare and work-that impinge on their academics. Majed and I-like our colleagues-have worked with students to find solutions that make finishing their degrees possible because we consider the process part and parcel of the vocation of the teacher.
Majed, though, expresses his sentiments more directly and powerfully. While we were having a coffee stop, Majed described how he faced one particular student in difficulty. After having heard the student’s story, his words were, “Your problem is my problem.” It’s a good thing I had finished my coffee because I’m sure I would have spilled the cup on myself. I don’t think I’ve heard solidarity expressed so clearly and poignantly in quite a while.
In very much the same way, I feel that when it comes to the bisexual community-especially bi men and my fellow Italian Americans-“Your problem is my problem.” I can’t very well exhort people to come out or explore their bisexuality if I’m not going to be there in some way. I can’t complain about the lack of visible bisexual men if I don’t step up to the plate. That is why I made a conscious decision to go online. I know how lonely and isolated I used to feel as a bisexual man-as a bisexual Italian American man to be absolutely precise. I could either spend my time feeling bad or I could take action. I also realize that I have opportunities to speak out and be out that others don’t.
The more bisexual voices out there, the better it will be until we can all feel safe, supported and free to be ourselves. The important thing to remember is that we bisexuals are not alone. We have a community that we are continuing to strengthen. It is too easy to feel isolated and separate in this age and in our society. We must remember that we do not live alone and that in some way or another we have opportunities to reach out to each other. As a columnist, I always hope that my stories will comfort, encourage and challenge you. Those of us who can lend a helping hand should do so. If you need help, ask for it. Our joys and pains are community property. In Majed’s wise words, your problem is my problem.