Since last week I’ve been wrestling with a thought
You see, I’ve been operating on the assumption that society is divided on transgender issues and that we need to find a way to come closer together. I’ve always presumed that individuals on both sides of this divide wish things could be better and are looking for good-faith solutions to improve our discourse.
I like to see the best in people like that.
And now, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m terribly naive.
Last week, a prominent transgender activist made a post asking for suggestions on what the Government could do to deal with the rise of transgender hate.
I was happy to this see this post. I noticed that there only were a few comments on the post and quite honestly they were rather unsubstantial, so I threw my thoughts into the ring.
I responded suggesting that our first move needs to be taking a step back to look at how we got here. I put forward that if we make the generous presumption that all individuals merit our attention, we are more likely to be able to identify where hate is originating. Because, for the record, I absolutely agree that transgender hate is increasing, and I believe that’s a huge problem and isn’t going to end well for anyone.
I mentioned how I’ve had great success building relationships with individuals who may not agree with my transition. I receive so many messages from people telling me how I’ve personally helped them soften their hardened feelings towards the transgender community. They tell me that my welcoming demeanor and willingness to engage in this topic with candor and authenticity rather than from a place of stubborn insolence has already begun to change their worldview.
I ended by suggesting that what we need is less loud transgender activists, and more regular run-of-the-mill transgender voices like myself to humanize the transgender demography with those who don’t have much exposure.
My comment was very popular, and it ultimately received far more engagement than any other comment on the thread. In fact, it garnered more likes than the original post.
Disappointingly, the individual who started the original thread did not respond or even acknowledge the hundreds of comments. This surprised me. I actually have a lot of respect for the individual and I believe that when hundreds of people like a suggestion and start lengthy threads, perhaps it’s one worth paying attention to. The next most popular comment after mine had like… 5 likes or something. I just couldn’t understand why she wasn’t participating.
Then, it clicked. Of course, she’s not going to respond… my message is possibly perceived as threatening. There’s business to be had propping up LGBT hate; it powers an industry to fight against it. There is huge reason NOT to want to see the status quo change, or at least not to change significantly.
Humans do well to have an enemy to rally against. It’s groupism, and it’s one of the most powerful ways to motivate people towards a cause. We need someone to view as our adversary, whether that division is based on LGBT, religious, political, or socio economical divisors. We thrive off of this, and it helps us build personal platforms.
There is, quite literally, a lot of money and power to be found in these conversations as long as you are willing to take a locked-in side.
We might pretend that we want to see it change, but do we actually want it? Do we actually want peace? Do we actually want to get along? Or do we just want to get our way and utilize conflict as an opportunity to inflate our own position of power?
Now, don’t get me wrong, in no way am I suggesting that LGBT hate doesn’t exists. As a public voice, I am frequently on the receiving end. Anyone who holds a diverse identity has stories of the horrible and dehumanizing treatment that they’ve experienced. It occurs in our schools, our workplaces, and sometimes our homes.
I’ve noticed that from these activist individuals, it seems everything is characterized as hate all the time as of late. Hate used to mean something very specific. It was rooted in contempt for an individual. It wasn’t about the words that are used, it’s about the motivation behind how and why they are used.
But now activists and modern social justice has made a business out of pushing the hate narrative beyond underlying contempt. These individuals loudly proclaim any position or statement they find conflicted with their values as hateful. These same individuals also go to great lengths to avoid having conversations with those they disagree with. They utilize ‘call out culture’ and ‘cancel culture’ to claim a holier than thou position to diminish these individuals as unworthy of their engagement.
When you do that, what you end up doing is diminishing the meaning of the word hate. You desensitize people to it and they stop believing that the hate exists at all.
Now, I started by addressing a particular trans activist but I do need to cut her some serious slack because I can also appreciate why she likely saw little value in responding. There are many people in opposition to her who are just as uninterested in having a real conversation. I saw this myself two weeks ago when I published a video walking the streets of New York City. I spoke about the importance of listening to both sides and thoughtfully engaging with worldviews of those you disagree with.
Honestly, the comments on that video were super discouraging. While some people got my point, like half of the responses were people taking the opportunity to simply restate their own position about how men are taking away women’s spaces or how transgender individuals are not listening to women’s concerns, etc. etc. My video has nothing to do with any of those issues, and if your take away from my video about listening to diverse perspectives was that this is your opportunity to be restate your position… then you failed to hear anything at all I’ve been saying.
The same thing happened on the commented thread that I initiated on that trans activist’s post. There were certainly some really insightful comments, but there were many more people taking the opportunity to just restate their own grievance with transgender individuals and transgender activism. That activist has been vocal about these matter far longer than I have and perhaps I just don’t understand how it wears you down over time.
So, my question to all of you is how do we get away from this? How do we actually engage with those we disagree with? And more importantly, do we even want to do that or are we happy with the discourse as it currently stands? I for one would really like to see us find a way to have productive conversations, but for that to happen we all need to be willing to take the time to really listen to those whom we disagree with.