Non-Binary Bigotry

More and more people are beginning to identify as non-binary. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, it just means that you don’t strongly identify as either a man or a woman. You identify as you and that’s all. Gen Z, and millennials to a lesser degree, are the primary generations that are expressing this new identity category. While I do know older people and baby boomers that are respectful and accepting of this neutral gender expression, the majority seem to be personally offended by it for some reason.

In high school, I was crestfallen to discover that so many of my liberal friends were uncomfortable with bi-racial dating. Now once again I am finding out that concepts I thought were openly accepted by all my political allies, are not accepted nearly as much as I had assumed. I am also learning that people that define themselves as “liberal” are not nearly as liberal as I am. Honestly, I would consider them moderates at best.

In the few years that I’ve worked at my child advocacy center, we have met a lot of kids that have expressed that they identify as non-binary. For me this is just valuable information so that I can make an effort to make them more comfortable. However, it always seems to be a point of contention for basically all of my coworkers. Whether or not they claim to even believe non-binary is a thing, they all seem to disregard a child’s wish to be identified as such. It hurts my heart so much to hear people that have literally just met this child act as though they know who they are more than the child themselves. I mean, sure, there are probably a percentage that are just confused and still working to figure themselves out, but how is that anyone else’s business? Our job isn’t to decide what gender a child should identify as. Our job is to be loving and supportive and respect whatever they decide, wholeheartedly and without judgment.

I’ve been thinking about this issue even more recently because we happen to have a non-binary intern at our sister office. Upon finding this out, I was rather excited. I have never had a non-binary friend and I was eager to get a chance to practice using they/them pronouns and be an ally for them. I was even more excited yesterday when I found out that they were going to be transferring the rest of their internship to our office. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized just how uncomfortable that would make basically all of my coworkers who I had assumed would be kind and inclusive.

My boomer friend at work, whom I love dearly, immediately started cracking hurtful jokes about them. Even though I know he isn’t coming from a place of hate, he was still being alarmingly inconsiderate and offensive. He was laughing, calling them an “it”, and saying that he would just refer to them as their actual name every single time rather than using they/them pronouns. Even our therapist and other intern who are much closer in age to me seemed just as disturbed to share our office with them. We do a secret Santa every year and our primary intern was petrified to discover that she had pulled the name of our non-binary intern. (Why that is, I genuinely have no idea. It’s not like these gifts would be gendered anyway, and we make a list of things we like to help whoever pulls our name.) I quickly realized that it was going to be solely up to me to help them feel welcomed, respected, and understood. I plan on offering to switch with our intern for secret Santa if that would make her more comfortable.

I cannot express how sad it makes me to consider how hard it must be to be a non-binary person even today, especially in my small, rural, conservative area. I’ll never understand why people feel so burdened by interacting with these people. Literally all that is required of you is to try to use they/them instead of she/her or he/him. Why is that so hard? It irritates me even more that these people who complain about it don’t seem to ever consider just how difficult it is for the non-binary person. Oh poor you, you have to alternate ONE SINGLE WORD, whereas they have to be misunderstood, excluded, targeted, and disrespected literally everywhere they go just for being honest about who they are.

Maybe it’s just because I am so used to being the misunderstood weirdo, but I am more than happy to make accommodations for others. I’m also quite familiar with having to deal with people making “harmless” jokes about core aspects of my identity and expecting me to just smile and take it, lest I be considered “uptight.” For all of these reasons and many more, I am honored to consider myself an ally to all those who need social support. I know how awful it is to have to decide whether you want to be untruthful about who you are or be criticized for it.

Even after two years of working at this office, my coworkers are all unaware how many times they have openly made fun of or dismissed aspects of my identity that I haven’t shared. Each time they make comments about people who are pansexual, polyamorous, or atheist, I am reminded why it is unsafe to fully disclose who I am to most people. They also consistently make comments about “when I have children” despite me openly saying I don’t plan on having children many times. Each time this happens, I am that much more reluctant to ever mention I’ve had my tubes tied. God only knows how they would react to learning that, even though it does not affect them at all.

So many people will openly share their disdain or disregard for different types of people without even stopping to consider that they don’t know everything about the personal lives of the audience they are sharing these opinions with. And maybe that’s another reason I feel such a strong sense on kinship with other social outliers. In their presence I feel safe enough to be my full self. And I am eager to offer them that same sense of acceptance and comfort, which I know is so rare.

At the end of the day, we are all just human beings who deserve dignity and respect. That is what we should remember above all else. Even if you are someone who doesn’t understand, accept, or support these newly expressed identities, at the very least you can try to keep your opinions and judgments about it to yourself. I’m not asking everyone to like it or accept it. All I’m asking is for people to be decent to other people whether you understand them or not. Yet I am constantly reminded that even that is too much to ask.

Scotland Will Legally Recognize Non-Binary Gender Markers - The Pride LA

Racism & Sexism

I had a very interesting thought while driving to work today, that I wanted to take a bit of time to dissect. I tried to look up some studies on this theory. I know they must be out there, but I guess I couldn’t find the right key words to get the search results I was looking for. So I apologize for my lack of data, but hear me out because I would love to open up some discussion on this topic and see what everyone else thinks about it.

Okay, so here’s what I’ve been thinking about this morning. I was watching commentary videos about misogynistic tiktoks, you know because who wouldn’t want to use that to set the tone for their day, right? Anyway, I started noticing a lot of similarities with one of these sexist content creators and one of my coworkers at the other office. He definitely strikes me as the kind of person who would enjoy this man’s videos. Yet, given that he works with mostly women every single day, it confused me to try to conceptualize how men would even be able to have so much contact with women in their lives and still hold on to such harmful stereotypes about them.

I was unable to find any statistics to support this, but for some reason, I am thinking that racism and bigotry is most prominent in racially and culturally homogenous areas. I mean maybe this isn’t true, but this is the framework I’m working of off. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Logically it just seems to make sense that it would be easier to typecast a group of people and feel hatred towards that group as a whole if you didn’t have any personal relationships with these people. It just seems like most white supremacists don’t know many (if any) black people. Most people that hate and fear Muslims have never met one. We fear what we do not understand or are not used to. Even I had a general dislike of children when I didn’t have any experience personally interacting with them. I think we all build strawmen in our minds of others that we don’t quite know in a meaningful way.

This is something I’ve never really thought about in the context of sexism though. Once I did, I was very interested in the idea. How is it that sexism is just as prominent, if not more prominent, than racism when literally every human being in the world has at least one close connection to a woman in their life? Shouldn’t that simple fact mean that all people would have more compassion and understanding of women even if they themselves are male? A white man may live his whole life never having a real conversation with a black man. In that scenario, it would be understandable that he may also fear and dislike someone that he doesn’t know, “the other.” Someone you don’t know is much easier to demonize than someone you do. However, every man has a mother. Every man has at least one female relative, friend, or coworker. Knowing that, it blows my mind that so many men are still somehow able to view women as “less than.”

I spoke briefly about this idea to a male friend at work and he had an interesting insight. In his opinion, men are frustrated by women because subconsciously they know that for the most part men are physically stronger than women. So when a woman is equal to them or holds power over them, their reptilian brain revolts and feels cheated and restrained. They know deep down that they are unable to use their full power to come out on top, even though they could. While I don’t think this fully explains sexism in society, I do believe that there is some truth to that perspective.

I would love to get some feedback and hear what other people think about this. I genuinely don’t understand it, not that either racism or sexism makes sense. But I can at least see the subconscious thought process behind fearing what you don’t know, whereas hating/stereotyping women while simultaneously loving them and intimately interacting with them every day is quite baffling to me. I suppose it’s also interesting and confounding that sexism is able to persist and be such an integral part of societies all over the world when women are not a minority group. Exerting power over a group that is smaller than yours makes sense, but it fascinates me that sexism has been able to prevail for so long.

Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts for the day. Let me know what you think about all this in the comments. I would love to discuss it with other people and perhaps gain a more clear understanding of the mechanisms behind these forms of social oppression.

Everyday sexism in the tech industry | CWJobs

Advocacy vs. Activism

UK boards braced for new 'golden age of activism' in wake of Brexit and  pandemic - Financial News

The word “activism” is described as: the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. “Advocacy” is defined in a slightly different way: public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. While these may seem like the same thing at first, I would argue that they are very different. Here are my definitions:

  • Activism: fighting against policies or practices that one considers harmful or unethical.
  • Advocacy: fighting for individuals or communities affected by harmful policies or practices.

I consider both of these to be valuable, necessary contributions to the betterment of society. However, that doesn’t mean we are all suited for them. Some of us may be more capable of handling the consequences, whether they be physical, emotional, or mental, of activism more so than advocacy or vise versa. For example, maybe someone finds it easier to go to protests and lobby their government than personally supporting victims. Perhaps they have a lot of passion for a given issue, but it is more painful to see the end result of those affected. This would be someone better suited for activism. As an advocate, I find it easier to support and care for the individual than to fight against what has harmed them. Then of course there are those that can’t bear the weight of either one, and that’s perfectly fine too. In order to make the most of our energy and make the biggest impact, I think it’s important that we honor these personal differences.

Today I wanted to take the time to offer some suggestions for those of you, like me, that find your energy is best spent doing advocacy work instead of activism. First, I think it needs to be reiterated that both of these are amazing and much needed. Regardless of what or how often you contribute, know that your efforts matter. I’m only focusing on advocacy because I feel it is the lesser understood of these forms of social justice. For organization sake, I am going to break down my suggestions for advocacy by issue. I also want to stress that whatever you do, no matter how small, is something for the world to be grateful for. Maybe you feel you can’t be vegan yourself, but support the vegan movement. You can still donate to sanctuaries, share information, foster shelter animals, etc. Maybe you’re too afraid to leave a toxic religious organization, but you want to support others who are. You can still help in creative, even clandestine ways. So don’t be discouraged by anyone who says it’s not enough. However much you feel you are able to give is enough. And maybe you don’t feel like you have anything to give at all, even then, you can share these resources with others who might be able to offer more. That too is a great help.

1. Feminism

  1. Volunteer Clinic Escort: I just recently discovered that this is something you can do at Planned Parenthood. Instead of arguing with misogynists online, trying to make a difference in the collective consciousness, why not make a guaranteed difference in at least one woman’s life? Rather than raise your voice to shout down the hateful, ignorant protesters outside these clinics, let your voice be the gentle one at a fearful woman’s side championing her onward and wiping away her tears.
  2. Abortion Fund Donation: If you’re able to more easily give money than time, try donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Their mission is “to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice.” Often the women that most desperately need to terminate a pregnancy are the ones least able to afford or access services. The procedure itself can be expensive, but now with abortion rights being threatened in more and more states, there can be added fees such as out of state travel or hotel stays. Donating to these funds is an excellent way to make sure that we are helping the most vulnerable maintain bodily autonomy and their human rights.

2. Religious Freedom (Freedom from Religion)

  1. Support Recovering From Religion: This organization offers people leaving religion dozens of resources to help them cope in this new phase of their life. It also offers supportive counseling for anyone who would like it. You can help by volunteering your time for this counseling and/or you can offer a monetary donation. Often when one leaves a very toxic religious group, it can be insanely difficult to adjust. Some churches completely cut you off from friends and family still involved with the church, leaving you with no support system at all. This is obviously an intimidation and manipulation tactic that organizations like Recovering From Religion help combat.

* I actually had a much more difficult time finding resources for this section than I imagined. Another great way for you to contribute would be by adding new resources. You might work to start a non profit or make your own fundraiser to support people leaving religion in various ways. Also if you know of any other organizations or sites offering help to people escaping from religious groups, leave them in the comments. I’m happy to update this post as often as needed to incorporate new resources.

3. Racism

  1. Black Lives Matter: At this point, I’m sure I don’t need to explain what this group is to anyone. However, even after hearing so much about this movement in the news, this is the first time I actually went to their website. There are a lot of amazing resources and information on there. You can sign up for their newsletter to stay updated on information and events. You can volunteer your time by helping to report misinformation on social media. And of course you can donate or purchase merchandise to help the group financially.
  2. Educate Yourself: One of the most important things that all of us can do is educate ourselves about the history of racism in our country. I think even one individual making an effort to absorb this knowledge is a step in the right direction. No matter how much I think I know about the oppression of black and brown people, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of searching to find out about even more horrors. The more we know the better we will be able to support and show respect to our black friends and the black members of our community. Here is a list of resources you might find helpful in your pursuit for understanding. Just make sure that you are doing the work of educating yourself. Don’t burden you black friends/acquaintances with the job of educating you.
  3. Support Black Creators: I learned just the other day about the way social media algorithms actively suppress the voices of black creators. They are less likely to be recommended or broadcasted on the platform, therefor much less likely to be visible. If you use social media, you could make an effort to follow more black and brown accounts. You can also make the conscious choice to seek out movies, shows, books, etc. that were made by black people. In this way, we are not only offering financial support, but broadening our perspectives by exposing ourselves to more diverse content.

4. Veganism

  1. Vegan Outreach: This is one of my favorite vegan organizations. Founded in 1993, Vegan Outreach is a nonprofit organization working to end violence towards animals. They “seek a future when sentient animals are no longer exploited as commodities.” Their website offers a lot of different ways to get involved. You can join their vegan mentor program and give helpful advice to people just starting out of their vegan journey. You can assist them in offering vegan food to local communities during Covid-19. You can even do something as simple as reviewing vegan foods through an app called abillion. In doing so, the app will automatically donate $1 to Vegan Outreach for each review!
  2. Make Vegan Art: What is more prevalent in today’s day and age than memes? Why not try your hand at creating some new catchy vegan slogans or images to share online? Currently this is the route my vegan advocacy is taking. There is no need to share the art you create on your personal accounts if you’re trying to avoid confrontation. You can simply publish them on your blog or even in chatrooms. Who knows? Maybe one will go viral and make a huge impact!
  3. Donate to Sanctuaries: Farm animal sanctuaries are doing the important work of protecting animals that have been rescued. Obviously it takes a lot of money to house, feed, and care for these animals. Donations are a great way to ensure that they can keep doing so. You can even start your own fundraiser or volunteer at a sanctuary near you.
  4. Foster an Animal: Veganism isn’t only about helping farmed animals. It’s just as important to do our part for the various other types of animals in shelters around the world. You can always donate to your local non-kill shelter, or offer to foster animals until they are able to be adopted.
  5. Share Your Food/Recipes: This is a little bit trickier given the pandemic, but as long as you take the proper precautions, sharing your delicious vegan food with non-vegan friends and family can be a great way to bolster the vegan movement. One of the main things people fear about veganism is not knowing what they would be able to eat. Everyone loves good food. Even if sharing your recipes with others doesn’t make them go vegan, it can lessen that fear of the unknown. In addition, it may keep an animal off of their plate for at least one meal, which is a win in my book. Sharing my vegan creamer at work has led to our non-vegan intern switching to it at home!

I hope that you’ve found these suggestions helpful and that you’ll give some of them a try. There are many ways to make a difference, so don’t get discouraged if activism is a bit too damaging for your mental health. You can always find new, creative, peaceful ways to help a cause that you are passionate about. Again, as I stated earlier, please let me know of any other resources you think I should add to any of the sections above. I would love to pack this post with as many options as possible to get people involved.