Posts Tagged ‘respect’

Zip it

March 17, 2011 1 comment

So, I had an interesting run-in with privacy issues recently. People seem to think that “out” is an all-or-nothing deal, like you come out and everybody gets to know right away. This could not be further from being the case. I am out to a handful of people at my university, a group that I have been around for a while, gotten to know, and is generally accepting. Some people have mistaken this “out” for a variety of “out” where they can tell people I barely know about my identity. This, obviously, is a problem. So I’ve devised a few rules for people on how to deal with people they know who are “out”.

1) This is someone’s life, not juicy gossip, not a conversation piece, not a route to boast about how open-minded you are for knowing someone who is X. If the topic doesn’t come up on it’s own, no matter how “out” the person is, just don’t bring it up. It’s not your place to talk about it. Even if you feel that it is “awkward” to avoid the specifics of discussing someone, just don’t. If whoever you are talking to doesn’t already know, then they don’t need to.

2) It doesn’t matter how well you know the people you’re telling. You can think that they are the most open-minded and accepting people on the planet, and know in your hear that they won’t have a problem with whomever you’re outing. Doesn’t matter. It’s not your place to make that determination. One of the big struggles with coming out is that you have no idea how people will react, even one’s you’ve known for a while. Some issues, like being trans, don’t come up in conversation enough to gauge people’s opinions, and sometimes otherwise accepting people freak out when they have to come face-to-face with an issue they claim to be “OK” with. People come out when they feel that the potential benefits outweigh the negative consequences, or when the balance of those two things is acceptable to them. You are not in any position to know what the boundaries of this balance are for anyone but yourself.

3) It doesn’t matter if you think they already know. Some people are perceptive, that’s fine. We don’t confirm their suspicions until we damn well want to.

4) If you don’t know how “out” someone is, ask. It’s hard to know what assumptions people are making when they give out information, so if someone doesn’t explicitly tell you who you can tell, ask them rather than assuming it’s everyone. Take a minute to learn what level of risk they are willing to take.

5) If someone says not to tell a group or a particular individual, for fuck’s sake don’t go and do it anyway. You’d think this would be a no brainer, but this is the situation I happen to be in, and I can’t possibly be the only one. Seriously.

6) If you found out about something in some way other than the person actually telling you (e.g. someone outed them to you, or you for some reason were researching your friend or S.O.), then tell them you know and don’t tell anybody else. If they don’t know that you know, then they’re going to be very surprised when the town gossip finds out.

The reason for all this is that being out is a dangerous business. Once you tell people, the knowledge could get to someone who doesn’t like X, someone who would do you harm. People are attacked, people are ostracized, people are blackmailed. Coming out is a calculated risk, we tell the people we think will be fine with it and who we think will keep their mouths shut about it if need be. The only person capable of taking that risk is the person to whom the risk actually applies. This does not extend to acquaintances, friends, relatives, S.O.s, or anyone else. You do not have the right to distribute anyone else’s information unless they give that right to you specifically. Otherwise? Keep your lips zipped.


repost: nerdy apple bottom “my son is gay”

November 3, 2010 1 comment

This post here is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve seen in a long time. In addition to being a lovely and refreshing peace from a loving parent, the mother in question makes some comments that I think are very telling:

“Seriously, WHO WOULD MAKE FUN OF A CHILD IN A COSTUME ON HALLOWEEN?” Said with true incredulity. This should be an obvious question, it was to her, but it wasn’t to the other mothers she spoke with. It wasn’t to me, but then I’ve dealt with the sort of people who would. But think about it, isn’t it the most ridiculous thing?

“The only people that seem to have a problem with it is their mothers.” Bullies learn bullshit from their parents. Plain and simple. Younger kids don’t blink at that sort of thing, but later on when their parents’ “values” have taken hold they have no problem shitting on their fellow classmates. I actually had a similar experience with this exact thing. When I was maybe six, I went over to a friend’s house in one of my sister’s dresses (walking distance, my parents didn’t even see what I was wearing). Friend thought it was a blast, mother flipped out and called mine. A year or two later that would have easily gotten me pummeled.

“But it also was heartbreaking to me that my sweet, kind-hearted five year old was right to be worried. He knew that there were people like A, B, and C. And he, at 5, was concerned about how they would perceive him and what would happen to him.” Because kids notice this stuff, and it sinks in deep pretty quickly.

“If a set of purple sparkly tights and a velvety dress is what makes my baby happy one night, then so be it. If he wants to carry a purse, or marry a man, or paint fingernails with his best girlfriend, then ok. My job as his mother is not to stifle that man that he will be, but to help him along his way. Mine is not to dictate what is ‘normal’ and what is not, but to help him become a good person.”

I just wanted to end on what I thought was the best part of the post. But it is all much better in context, so pop over and give nerdy apple bottom some love, she deserves it big time.

I Believe in Respect

May 16, 2010 1 comment

This isn’t something that’s happened recently, but I thought I’d bring it up because it is very important.  In discussing trans* with people you get a lot of different reactions, even among people who are relatively accepting.  I’ve had my fair share of explaining that no, you can’t just tell if someone is trans (or queer in general), you are supposed to refer to them by their true (identified) gender, etc. to people who were more or less willing to listen.  But there is one response I’ve received that bothers me tremendously:  “It all depends on what you believe.”


Here’s the thing; beliefs about what gender is and isn’t, what it entails, and what determines it vary greatly even among people of the same background, culture, faith, whathaveyou.  Your beliefs will affect how you view your gender, and what it means to you, and where it comes from.  Note I say YOUR gender.  Because guess what, when other people become involved, your beliefs mean jack shit.  I don’t care where you get your views from; you don’t get to determine other people’s identity.

Let’s put it this way:  when you meet someone new, they tell you who they are.  Not the other way around.  Imagine meeting someone and saying “OK, you like cats, and seafood, and go drinking on Friday nights but not too much, and your dream as a child was to sing opera professionally.”  People would leave.  You would be an ass.  It works the same way with everything.  Yes, even gender.  You don’t get to tell me what I am.  Neither does the doctor, or the government.  I tell you who I am.  Because no one knows more about the subject than me, you don’t get to make clarifications.

It’s about respect for other people.  So when you meet someone and they say “I am a man/woman/neuter/spacething/whatever”, instead of checking their pants or birth certificate, just say “nice to meet you.”  I think it’s a pretty simple principle.