Someone from my old school did something incredibly brave a couple of days ago, and it’s been covered by most media outlets – they came out as non-binary to President Obama. This post isn’t about what they did directly, but has been inspired by it – if you’re interested in their story, however, they here’s a link to one of the many articles they’ve been featured in: read here on The Guardian.
Of course my whole timeline on Facebook became filled with this story with people sharing their support, various videos of what happened, and the mentioned articles. I was unable to watch it live, so I went to look at one of the videos posted but ended up in the comments section. As expected, there were the usual disgusting comments of people being unkind, insensitive, and all the rest. However, there was one that stood to me for all the wrong reasons. It was a perfectly polite comment, saying something along the lines of ‘I understand being transgender, but not non-binary as I’m not exactly sure what it means’. This is me paraphrasing of course as I can’t remember the original comment, so forgive me.
It wasn’t this comment that got to me, but the responses to it. All of a sudden, just because someone commented that they didn’t understand, they were called racist, homophobic, sexist, and a whole bunch of ugly names. They hadn’t been rude in their comment, in actual fact they’d been polite and weren’t unkind towards the subject matter at all. They expressed not understanding, and it seems that in a lot of cases these days that is just unacceptable – and, as usual, I’m just talking from my experience.
I’m afraid of talking about, discussing, or even stating what I think on subjects such as feminism, racism, discrimination, gender, oppression, sexuality, and more, mainly because I’m afraid of the backlash. Of course there are the usual arguments, such as how because of the colour of my skin/gender/class, I’m not allowed to have opinions on certain patters. That, however, isn’t what I want to talk about today. What really puts me off is that I’m scared of getting something wrong, of causing offence, of being unintentionally rude. It’s not that I’m planning on going out and saying something controversial in a take-no-prisoners manner; it’s being afraid of being targeted for simply not knowing something.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it difficult not just to discuss these matters but even asking about them, all because of the standard attack I’ve grown to anticipate. Let me try to say this in a clearer way – for me, it’s like saying that I’m scared of maths. You’d probably laugh and say that we’re all scared of maths. What I’m actually trying to say is that I’m scared of learning maths, and that seems far more ridiculous. Why should you be scared of learning about something? Why is learning scary? Why is educating yourself something to be afraid of? Well, from where I stand, it seems that if you say something wrong you don’t simply just get corrected, but you get flayed and strung up for all to see, ostracised for simply not knowing something. Again, and I reiterate this because I want to make sure you understand, I’m not talking about people being intentionally offensive. I’m not excusing people who are so hurtful and rude that they seriously plan to hurt someone’s feelings or put them down. I’m thinking more along the lines of being openly honest and curious yet still polite in trying to say what you think and what you don’t understand in order to then learn.
With arguments and conversations, it should be a clear discussion with formulated opinions and justifications, not just attacking the other person. I kind of think of it like a discussion on books. Person A says ‘I prefer fantasy to history because I love the imaginations and creations of different worlds’, only for Person B to respond ‘my god you’re stupid and ugly and fat, go back from where you came from’. It doesn’t work. Reading comments on these posts about this person from my old school just made me upset and depressed that this is how some people think. Instead of stating that they just don’t understand, they attacked a person and mocked their opinions without even providing a justified opinion of their own. One person said ‘I don’t understand this generation’ and all I could think was ‘I don’t understand yours’. We should all want to join in on the train of progression and go along with it, not dig in our heels and try to hold it back. We should jump on board and want to learn and stay on that track to a better, and hopefully more understanding and open place.
I think for now that’s all I want to say until more comes to me, and no it’s not just because I don’t think I can continue this train metaphor for much longer. I hope I’ve articulated myself somewhat clearly and I’d love to hear what you think – this may just be the rambles from some white female student, but it’s what I feel and, whether or not you think what I believe matters, my thoughts are here for you to read and respond to.
As always, thanks for reading, and I think the next post I write is going to be on a topic that’s a little less heavy. I’ll need something lighter to help carry me through essay and exam season.