Friday, February 22, 2013

Once you see it, there's no going back

One of the conversations I often find myself having with my queer friends is one surrounding a failed “calling out” of sorts. Some of my closest friends and I are extremely privileged to have the opportunity to get a college education. A great one, I might add, at a university full of resources for queer students. Although we still have a long way to go being in a place with a Multicultural Engagement Center and Gender and Sexuality Center is revolutionary to many students who come from smaller towns where the word “queer” is heard more often from the mouths of ignorant people intending to cause harm than not.

Even so, many students do not know these resources exist, are too afraid to utilize them, or do not take advantage of the many wonderful things that come from them. So where does that leave us? The few of us who saw these as opportunities to further educate ourselves and be the best possible allies and queer friends that we could be? Between a rock and a hard place.

A wise person once told me that once you see the world through a social justice lense (or have that “aha!” moment) there is no turning back. Things you might have found humorous in the past you now see as what they are - racist, ageist, heterosexist, sexist, cissexist, ableist, etc. But what’s worse, is often you hear these things from the mouths of people you consider friends. Friends who might not have had the same opportunities to educate themselves that you have had. So what do you do when someone says something and you find yourself going 

You have a choice. And often, it’s easier to not say anything than to pull a Neville Longbottom and stand up to your friends. But we have to learn to have these difficult conversations and help educate people. That’s not to say that it will be easy or that every person we try to initiate these dialogues with will be willing - but if we truly want to see society change, we have to try and start by leading by example. Keeping in mind that it’s okay to agree to disagree and making sure to hear everyone out. People are not born with these horrible “isms” ingrained as part of their DNA - these things are learned; and it takes time and patience to be able to get some to understand.

That being said, these conversations can only really be successful if both parties are willing to have a conversation about these issues as opposed to an argument. After all, it is not the responsibility of the oppressed to educate the agents of their oppression. So don’t feel bad if sometimes you just can’t bring yourself to have a conversation. But every now and then, it’s more than worth it to try. Just remember to breathe.

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