Today's lesson, Racism. If you see something written here that you’ve said or done, use it as an opportunity. Take it as a wake up call and make the decision to grow, change and be conscious of your own privilege. Remember, I am not a speaker for the entirety of a people.
TW: Cissexism & Trans* phobia
Many things that I write about being an ally come from my personal life. Things that I wish someone had told me as well as things I wish I could tell other people. I have been debating on writing this story for a while now. I am ashamed of it.
This is my “Ally” story.
I thought I was a “Good person.” I could call myself an ally because I didn’t actively work against the LGBTQP community. I mean, that’s all it takes, right? Should they be allowed to marry? Yes, of course. Should they have all the same rights afforded to straight and/or cis people? Yep. That’s it. That was the extent.
Sure, I stood with my friends at the Pride parade and I signed the petitions. I did…things. However, calling myself an ally to such a big community when my focus was so specifically on the “Gay” portion, was barely the issue. I lived very comfortably in the lie that I told myself. The lie of not hating being equal to understanding or even being decent. It isn’t.
It started with a comment made on a post that went around. People were making fun of Terrence Howard’s penis size. I have since deleted my post (Although, now I wish I hadn’t) so this next part may not be word for word. I said something along the lines of “It looks like a giant vagina trying to escape his body.” That night, nothing was said. The next day however, someone felt that need to put me in my place. My reaction was the exact wrong one. You see, the issue was that…wait for it…this person wasn’t talking to me in a way I felt they should. Yes, THAT was my issue. Not that I’d done some wrong. Of course, that was secondary.
At the time, I felt targeted and like I was being attacked for no good reason. I was angry and defensive. Not “Defending myself,” defensive. Being mad that someone was “Being mean to me,” defensive. At the time, I thought it was the former. This “Attack” went on for maybe, ten minutes. I was pissed. How dare someone act like I’ve done something wrong. I couldn’t have. I am a good person. I would never do anything to hurt someone else. Why didn’t that person KNOW that?
Then, someone else told me to get on chat so they could talk to me. This person made it clear that not only was my initial comment wrong but my reaction to being told it was wrong was as well. In an instant, I realized that I had done every single thing I tell others not to do. In an instant, I realized that not only was the reaction I received warranted, I probably got off easy. I was disgusted with myself. Here’s the problem, in that moment, I made a point to apologize to those I may have hurt with my sick comment but it took me more than three weeks to thank the person who called me out on it. My ego was still in the way.
On the day this happened, I spent a lot of time wondering what else I’d done and said that was cissesexist. I wondered what else I’d done and said that hurt people. I wonder how many people I’d hurt that never said anything. I spent the day being nauseous and wanting to delete my page altogether. Who was I to give advice on how to be an ally?
It was all about me. Poor me. What had I done? Who had been hurt by me. Poor, poor pitiful me. Aren’t I sweet to care about other people? I lived in this self indulgent place for a few days. Yes, I was completely disgusted that I could do anything to hurt someone else BUT I somehow made that about how I felt about the situation, not how they might have felt.
An interesting thing happening though. While I was feeling sorry for myself, I kept reading. I started seeing cissexism EVERYWHERE. How could people say this shit and not realize? Oh wait…
How could I?
I didn’t know. That’s how. Some of them don’t know. The only problem is, as soon as I LOOKED, I found. I didn’t know because…I made NO EFFORT to know. How is that someone else’s fault that I was to lazy to learn? How is it someone else’s responsibility not to be hurt by me but it’s not my responsibility to NOT hurt them in the first place? This doesn’t even make sense. Still, that is the exact world that I blissfully lived in.
The next few weeks were pretty disgusting. It was filled with a combination of remembering all the things I’ve said and seeing the amount of cissexism in others. It was EVERYWHERE. It was everywhere like air is everywhere. How are people walking around with this amount of ignorance? How was I? It. Is. Every. Damn. Where.
I’m still not there. I still have so far to go. I still say things not realizing how they sound or who I’m leaving out. I have so much more to learn. Even though, at the moment, I feel that I am hyper aware, I still don’t know how to phrase things. I feel like, I’ll just not say anything instead of saying something wrong. Which honestly, I think is the right thing to do. I am not even yet to a place I feel that I can ask questions. I haven’t learned enough on my own. I haven’t gotten to the place where I know the language enough to speak freely on the topic.
I tell you all this for two reasons. First, I want you to know that it may seem like I am being to hard on allies at times but I know what you’re going through. I understand where you are, how you feel and why it’s frustrating at times. Second, I want you to see why I am such an advocate of NOT being nice when calling someone out.
You see, after sitting down and thinking about how I’ve acted, how I saw the world through a very specific and narrow view. I realized that it was the SHOCK of the way I was called out that threw me into the much needed learning space. I have had conversations with racists where they’ll say something like “He wasn’t even mad. If I said something wrong, he would have been upset about it.” This is not true. There are PLENTY of reasons that someone you’ve hurt didn’t call you out. It wasn’t a Trans* person who called me out. It was an ALLY to the Trans* community. Trans* people HAVE to pick their battles. Otherwise, they’d be fighting all day, every day. That is what Allies are for. That is our ACTUAL job description. That is our purpose.
When a person is “Nice” to you, you can easily dismiss it. I mean, if what you’d said or done was REALLY bad, they would have been mad, right? This is something you always have to keep in mind. Your anger is important. My anger is important. We NEED to be angry about any injustice. We MUST.
I am so thankful to the person that was angry with me. I am thankful that she did what she did. Mostly, I am thankful that she did it the WAY that she did. Had she been “Nice” I don’t think I would have ever stopped to reevaluate my thinking.
Thank you G.
Now, my focus is to be a good “ALLY” to the entirety of the LGBTQP community. Eventually, I’d like to be able to remove those quote marks. Until then, I’ll keep just be happy that someone cared enough to call me an asshole.