Building Windmills to Tilt At

I would like to start out by qualifying a lot of what I am about to say. There are plenty of iconoclastic “weirdos” out there that do not care an iota about what anyone thinks or says about them. It is also true that an awful lot of moral weight is placed on aesthetic choices. What do you care if someone has their face tattooed so long as they can do their job? Even if that job is working with the public your only concerns should be if they are respectful and articulate.

With that in mind, I have to wonder about people that go out of their way to be “different.” I’m not talking about people who have no choice (and despite what some may say, being gay, trans or any of the other points on the sliding gender and sexuality scales is not a choice.) Nor am I talking about people who choose to be different after careful consideration of matters of deep, personal belief (religion or politics.) No, I refer to the people who dye their hair green, cover themselves in tattoos, get pierced in the most awkward of places or making clothing choices like wearing all latex clothes.

Do not mistake this for claiming these are inherently bad or completely insignificant choices. I’d like to dye my hair lavender (and may if I get a job that allows it) and want more tattoos than my one little bit of ink on my right arm. They are choices, however, and not necessary ones. You could have decided not to get your septum pierced or to go to your job interview wearing all black and a cowboy hat. You willingly put yourself in a position where people would raise eyebrows at you based on societal norms. So when they do you may want to keep your anger in check, especially considering, for the most part, these are not decisions that you would have been negatively impacted if you went the other way. You may be a victim of discrimination if you put on  clown make up and otherwise give a great interview, but only in the most shallow sense.

What really bothers me about this is the demographics of the people making these choices who get the most upset about the reactions to them. They are almost universally white, straight and often male. It is like they are trying to distance themselves from the privilege they know they enjoy. They are standing up and saying “Look at me! I’m different! I know what it’s like! They persecute me too, so I’m not one of the bad guys!” They want to escape their guilt over their status in a way that involves not actually acting on it.

Well you are not different, not in any meaningful way. You can still take off your make up, cut your hair, shop at Target and make yourself presentable. People of color cannot do that. Their difference is with them all the time, as are the BS assumptions about them. If a gay person, bisexual, pansexual, Muslim or other religious minority  that can “pass” lies about who and what they are, they risk the stress of being outed and the personal, psychological toll of living a lie. I doubt having to hide the fact that you dress like Janis Joplin on your downtime will have the same effect.

By all means, be as weird as you are willing to face the consequences for. Just remember, when  you are treated different, claiming that is on the same scale as real persecution is an insult to those that experience it.


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