Monday, May 30, 2016

"But it's the truth!"

[TW for bigoted statements against women, LGBTQ+, and POC.]

I've had many a conversation with people who claim the cruelty of their commentary is justified by how "true" their statements are.

Purportedly motivated by this dedication to accuracy and logic, some of these folks will aggressively invalidate people who are vulnerable, and appear to delight in the distress it causes.

~I'm sorry but it's scientifically proven that women aren't as productive in the workplace, so when they're paid less, it's appropriate!

~I'm sorry but no matter what kind of surgery that person had to mutilate their genitals, it's their chromosomes that say what their gender is!

~I'm sorry but black people are less successful because they're inherently violent and less intelligent, which you'd understand if you'd just look how they act in their communities instead of blaming it on racism!

~I'm sorry but being gay isn't natural because we were designed for procreation--why can't people stop being so PC and accept that they don't deserve to get married?

And of course, as an asexual woman I've had tons of this directed at me to invalidate my sexual orientation, and a really shocking amount of it comes from people who believe they are confronting me with the hard truth. They believe their position is the scientific one; they believe their position is the rational one; they believe they are exposing my denial and my inability to examine myself and my hypocrisy.

And yet, they tend to be so gleeful about it. So emotional, honestly. For people who talk up the importance of unbiased examination and objective reasoning, they sure do get aggressive and sarcastic when their position isn't considered (you know, because their position is one that's been presented inelegantly to me a hundred times). 

"My main objection to this is linguistic. Homo- and Hetero- are prefixes. A- is also a prefix. The history of the meanings of these prefixes in the scientific community has a history that goes WAY back. Like long before the IDENTITY of 'asexuality' arrived. This new identity has very little to do with traditional definitions of asexuality. I'm talking about centuries of science here, not a fad for Oprah's show."

(Sure man, it's obvious this is a linguistic argument. People who are upset about the terminology we're using totally need to take a dig at us for having a fake fad-driven identity that deserves sensationalistic attention on a talk show.)

Here is what I would like people to consider before wading into potentially sensitive conversations intending to drop a so-called "truth bomb."

First, you should consider very seriously why you believe your truth is the truth. Are you actually basing your opinion of the situation on established facts, or are you going by something you believe is established but is actually what you think is common sense? 

For instance, suppose you believe "Nope, XX or XY determines boy or girl, there is no in between or switching it; therefore trans people aren't *real* men or women when they transition, and that's not an opinion--that's science." 

A person who believes that is ignorant of several things. Not only are they apparently unaware that there are chromosomal configurations besides XX or XY, but they don't actually consult any of the science on gender and sex--and if they would, they'd see that it's understood by experts to be much more of a spectrum than a dichotomy. Furthermore, they seem to be under the impression that a trans person would have to fundamentally change their body in some way to be identical to a cis person's before they would "be" the gender they're medically transitioning to, and that since that's impossible, they simply "are not" that gender. 

I've heard "but he doesn't have a uterus, he can't have children, he didn't REALLY become a woman!" used to invalidate trans women, even though cis women who are infertile or lack certain reproductive parts are not held to that standard of womanhood. It's not actually about the science here. It's about a choice to draw a line where a line does not need to be drawn. And it's about a choice to apply that line in a way that actively hurts, erases, and endangers people.

And so now I ask, if you've examined the "facts" and still come to the conclusion that your interpretation is accurate and the person you want to argue with is objectively wrong . . . 

Consider the following before you speak.

  • Is this constructive?
  • Is this compassionate?
  • Is this needed now?

"The truth" is not a person. "The truth" is not going to reward you or pat you on the back for defending it. "The truth" is something you may be using to excuse yourself for hurting someone. Ask yourself why you need to have this argument. Is their existence or their identity or their interpretation of their own reality hurting you? Destroying something you need? Denying you anything?

Are you helping? Or are you hurting?

Are you aware that people who are confronted with uncomfortable truths get defensive and less likely to listen? (I mean, 'cause that's some science right there.) Are you saying these things to them because you actually think they will hear you and do some self-reflection, or are you saying it because you want the experience of saying it? Are you actually talking to them because you believe you will be heard and that your interpretation will help them become a more authentic version of themselves, or are you saying it because you want them to shut up? Are you speaking to them at a time when they are ready to hear you, or are you charging in with "hard truths" when they are in no position to accept criticism or critique right now?

If you are ever discussing something uncomfortable with someone that's primarily about how they experience the world, and you're convinced they're wrong about themselves or need to change how they talk about it, understand that you will not be received constructively if you storm in adamant that your opinion is the truth and that theirs is bullshit. If you are not here on their terms, in a compassionate way, with an honest intention to let them talk to you as much as you're ready to talk to them, then this is not actually about helping them or proving anything. Before you start this conversation, seriously ask yourself: what is my objective? What is my intention? What is my ideal solution? What do I actually want from this person who I think is wrong, and how does it affect me if they don't agree with me? How does it affect them if they've got to have this conversation with me? Why is this important to me, and why is it important to them?

You need to be constructive, compassionate, and aware of whether this is the time to talk about this. If you refuse to consider these factors in a conversation, you are certainly not about to spread truth to anyone. You're making a conversation that you claim is about logic and reality and objective truth, and you're turning it into a destructive, traumatic, and inappropriate conversation. This happens to marginalized people every time you decide this is the right time (and you're the right person) to deny what they're saying about their own lives and call them to defend themselves (or, rather, to accept that your interpretation of their reality is objectively correct, and that it's very important for them to replace their experiences with your external understanding). 

They will not learn from you if you don't consider a constructive, compassionate, appropriate approach. And if you don't care whether they learn from you, you're definitely having this conversation for the wrong reasons. If you actually just want to hear yourself say things, you might as well not bother to have another person on the other side of the conversation.

No comments:

Post a Comment