Saturday, January 14, 2017

"What You're Saying is Not Okay..."

Many of you probably have this issue in your day to day lives. From family members, co-workers, your partners, your friends, and even the passer-by, someone somewhere spouts some hurtful and ignorant comments that you know yourself isn't right but you feel perplexed at how to confront them about it or if you even should.

You may think the following in your head (perhaps if you're like me):

"Wow, what they are saying is really mean/misinformed/ridiculous/hurtful..."

"I really don't agree, should I say something?"

"But if I do, what would they think of me? Will they be upset?"

"Will this effect my day-to-day with these people? Will they treat me differently?"

For me particularly, it can be a daily struggle. Some days are better than others, but there are times when it just really gets to you. I try to tune it out, give them the benefit of the doubt, but then I wonder on the other hand if I'm being an enabler?

Some really tricky subjects do come up from time to time, such as body shaming (specifically fat-shaming most often in my case), transphobia and alienation of transgender people (disrespecting of pronouns and how they self-identify), as well as general homophobia and intolerance or ignorance in regards to LGBTQ+ lifestyles, slut-shaming, putting people down for their appearance, and more.

First off, yes we all have to understand that people are going to disagree with you. People are going to judge you, and it's not always going to be positive. Everyone has the right to their personal opinions, but in that same vein you personally have the right to call people out when they say things that are directly hurtful or unnecessarily mean. Or also, when they are terribly misinformed and are furthering the passing on of false information, usually on issues that they have no business passing judgement upon.

I'm also not right all the time. I can be judgmental myself too, but I learn every day that I have to check myself (before I wreck myself, quite seriously), but then that being said, should I be checking others?

It's a tough personal dilemma for me, but for a lot of people, we are most concerned about how we are perceived by those around us. There are some that could care less, but I'm sure we all have some sort of concern about it. Sometimes the way we are perceived can even cause personal harm.

But when you have people going on about how for example, that they find fat people unattractive and could not see themselves ever being with someone who was fat, sure you might say "well that's their personal preference", but when is the line crossed into full on shaming of bodies and a callous disregard of feelings? Something should be said, no?

(Also note that I'm using the term 'fat', because trying to dance around it by using words like plus-sized, chubby, and the like can also be seen as negative in some respects and by some people, but I am not one to make the statement about what words are more acceptable because I am someone of what society considers to be "average" weight, therefore I have no real authority on that. Feel free to disagree with the use of 'fat', but it is not used here in a way of negativity or "othering". I speak only for myself here.)

Let's get a tiny bit personal. I have no problem dating people of all body types. Not that it matters whether or not, but I'm with a person who isn't particularly "skinny", who based on societal "norms", would be considered to be outside of what people would call an ideal weight. Not to be pandering by saying that, but I feel that it should be mentioned. Not as a means of justification of my statements, but simply as a fact of the matter. I do take offense when their weight is directly insulted because I know it's hurtful to them, simple. I will defend them and denounce those who speak ill of them directly or indirectly if and when they are okay with that (sometimes they aren't and I have to respect that too.)

Okay yes, people have the right to their preferences, but I would never completely write someone off for their weight outright without even getting to know them. 

Same for friendship, I don't deny someones friendship because they are of a certain weight. And I do take offense when someone directly insults them in the same way if I know it hurts them. Not being hurt for them, but empathizing with their feelings even though it's not my own. 

And being respectful at least. At the very least. 

Even if you may not agree with their lifestyle choices, everyone deserves a certain level of respect when they aren't hurting anyone with their actions. 

I have people surrounding me who have made some of the most cringe worthy comments about fat people. They outright blame that person for the way they look, as though that person is doing them a personal disservice by existing on the earth in that body. Comments are made, the usual⎯ 

"Well that fat person would be attractive maybe if they lost some weight..."

"They are so fat and unhealthy, they should go on a diet and stop eating so much!"

"Not to be mean but, I can't be seen with people like that, what would I look like?"

Hey guess what? That isn't always easy for some people. Some people have health complications that cause them to gain weight. Some people have eating disorders. Some people do not have access to healthy food options due to their socioeconomic status. Some people are going through things in their life that impact their ability to maintain what society believes to be a "normal weight", ever think of that? Are they really so disturbed by that person that they can be so judgmental about them to the point where they would deny that person a relationship or even friendship because of it? 

Also, what if that person is in the process of losing weight? Are you are going to discredit all their personal achievements because they aren't adhering to your personal preferences about the way they should look in the present moment? 

And some people are just bigger than others and that's their life, live and let live. Plain and simple. Why are you wasting energy dictating how others should look if it does not personally effect you? Why does it bother you so much that it has to be brought up constantly? 

Oh and also the glorification of being skinny, because the only way to exist is if you are "thin and beautiful" by their standards, and while we are at it, the shaming of thin people on the other hand. All of it, is plain old wrong. More examples of comments I've heard⎯

"I should just be anorexic, you know? Then I'll finally look the way I want, I bet! Let's all just become anorexic."

"Yea you can eat whatever you want because you're skinny, I wish I could be as thin as you! I'm so jealous..."

"She's too skinny, she should eat a cheeseburger! Real women have curves!"

Yep, that first one was actually said. Can you believe it? And they believe that saying things like that is completely okay. Mind you, the person saying this isn't even remotely overweight, but I know a lot of it comes from a personal place and I also don't know what they are struggling with on a deeper level. 

The second one is said to me sometimes, that weird way of complimenting your figure while somehow leaving a bad taste in your mouth when you say in response, "Thanks, I guess..."

And third, well basically it looks like you can't please everyone so who cares about anyone's opinion right? Too fat or too skinny, you can't win. Sometimes I just say, to be frank, screw them.

It is however personally exhausting to have to mediate these kinds of comments, but I sometimes feel like I have no real authority to take a stand because I'm not the one that is being directly shamed, and if I am (if you can even call it that honestly), it's packed as something I should be proud of?

How confusing.

At least in this respect. There have been times which I have been part of the group thats being shamed quite directly. 

For example, through homophobic and LGBTQ+ ignorant comments. Those come up too. 

I'm not a straight person, I personally identify as queer/pansexual, and those whom I'm in a relationship with is besides that and frankly that's my personal business. I am generally open about this fact to most people, but not to everyone directly for my own personal reasons, and for those that may not know that about me, certain comments are made in my presence that can be extremely off-putting. It happens and it's to be expected sadly.

On the outside, I'm "categorized" as a straight person. It's held as an inalienable truth due to certain personal knowledge that they may know about my life and my outward appearance. But I know it's far from true.  

It's sad because they have no idea they are hurting someone in the room with them, and I don't currently have the personal courage to tell them to their faces. If they happen to find out indirectly, I won't personally be in serious danger (I know quite well that many of us in the LGBTQ+ do not have this privilege), but I am sure that their perceptions of me will be altered, and that can either work in my favor or against me. In one respect, perhaps they will think twice before they say things like⎯

"I don't understand bisexuals, are they just confused? They have to choose what they want eventually. They are just gay and they should stop playing games!"

"I'm usually not comfortable around lesbians, what if they try to come onto me? I don't want to deal with that, it's creepy. They can be so aggressive!" 

"I don't know what I would do if my child said they were gay, I would be devastated because I did not raise them that way! I guess I would have to be accepting but it would be so hard!"

And though I'm not transgender, in the same vein things are said such as⎯

"I couldn't see myself with someone who is trans. If a man was really born a woman and I'm attracted to them, I would feel deceived, plus that would make me a lesbian right? That's just wrong!"

"I mean I've seen some good trannies, you can't even tell what they were! He's actually pretty, prettier than some real women! I feel bad that he looks better than I do, what's up with that? Haha..."

Right now, I'm not going to go and unpack every one of the statements made above as that would be an entire post in of itself. Just know I've had these things said within earshot and they really get to me. Using incorrect pronouns and slurs, calling bisexual people "confused" and their feelings illegitimate, labeling lesbians as predatory, and this is only some of the things I hear day to day. It's some real toxic stuff. 

I know that people around me who say these things just may not know better, or are still learning, but again it hurts a little when sweeping generalizations or insensitive comments are made around you almost constantly or more than a few times without any remorse. 

For me, my unwillingness to be open about myself to them by personal choice, can make it more difficult to stomach but also easier in some ways because I don't run the risk of them treating me differently. 

But for how long? And why do I care so much what they think of me?

I'm beginning to feel repressed. But I know many others do too with more serious circumstances held against them (people have lost entire families over their sexuality, their jobs and livelihoods, their relationships both romantic and platonic, their lives, it's no light issue.)

The argument can be made again that the quoted statements above are their personal opinion, but where do you draw the line? You really begin to wonder if those people would change their tune if they really knew you, or if they were close to someone else who fit into the category of the people they are speaking ill about. 

Some people won't though, and that's that. No use wasting your energy on changing certain people, but I myself would give it the old college try. 

I hope that they get a wake up call. Perhaps I may be the one to give them one if it really got to that point, trust me it's pretty close. When you have to sit and listen to things like this constantly and grit your teeth in silence because you cannot justify further alienating yourself, it's so exhausting. What I mentioned isn't even everything that is said either, but we will be here forever if I mentioned it all.

Sometimes when I'm silent, and I wonder then if I'm doing some sort of disservice to society. Do I just let people be awful? When do you speak up? Always? Never? Sometimes? I'm still seeking the answer to that, but it will ultimately be my own decision what I decide. 

I have to be ready to speak out on stances I don't agree with and be okay with people not liking what I have to say. 

As a Black Queer Woman, thats a lot of things. 

This will be the climate of things now more than ever before. Call me the "PC police" or a "Social Justice Warrior" I'll gladly take the titles with honor and pride. 

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