Killing Us With Kindness

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OK folks, time to discuss memes again. I am seriously considering creating an entire feature dedicated to deconstructing memes, at least the political ones. I’d like to say that it was only right-wing, anti-equality, anti-poor people memes, that need deconstructing, but unfortunately there are plenty of liberal ones that require it as well. Sometimes they just need to be called out for bad reasoning that hurts the cause, sometimes because they are being insensitive to the people they are claiming to champion, as is the case in today’s meme.

allymeme

I appreciate the intended sentiment behind this. I really do. It would be nice if we lived in a world where gender and sexual orientation were totally inconsequential, but they are not. Perpetuating this meme contributes to erasure. I know that it is not the intent of (almost all) the people passing this around, but it sends the message that people of non-hetero, non-cisgender people do not have challenges unique to their gender or sexual identity to cope with. Well, we do.

When you say you don’t see me as a trans* woman, you are not acknowledging the internal identity crisis I have had to bear. You are not acknowledging that I have to deal with cops asking me if I am hooking. You are not acknowledging that relationships are far more fraught with peril for me than they are for you. You are not acknowledging the worry and pain I deal with on a regular basis. I feel comfortable saying I know you don’t intend this to be the case, but that is what you are communicating by this, and similar messages.

The same could be said of people who claim to be colorblind. If you are colorblind then you are refusing to see all the tiny, and many not-so-tiny, ways that people of color are oppressed. Again, you are refusing to acknowledge the challenges that they face.

The optimist in me would like to think that the people perpetuating these memes are good people who, understandably, cannot really know what it is like to be queer or a person of color. The cynic in me tends to think that people are being willfully blind so that they can wash their hands of their privilege. The rationalist in me knows it is likely an ever-changing mix of both from person to person and that there is no way to know how much one or the other is the reason. Good people do silly, hurtful things for the best of reasons some times, and this is one of them.

The good news is, if you really are one of those good people who just didn’t know better, now you do. Now you can say “Yes people are straight, gay, bi, cis and trans and their unique challenges matter to me, and I will stand by them.” It makes you a better ally and it makes me feel like I matter to you. Peace.

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