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

Diversity

Up until a few years ago I was among the group of people that thought: All cops are bad. All cops are fascists’, class traitors, bullies, white supremacist’s, etc. Then I started working at my new job. Now I work closely with child protective services and the local police and sheriff’s offices. I even felt uncomfortable about that at first. I was worried I’d accidentally say something to get myself in trouble. I was worried they would be complete assholes, sexists, victim blamers. I was worried they’d find out I’m a liberal, yoga teaching, vegan and mock me or even despise me.

To my surprise, working with the police was not the experience I was expecting at all. It’s honestly left me pretty conflicted about where I stand in regard to law enforcement. As a child, we’re taught that cops are the good guys. They’re here to protect us and help us. Then we become teenagers and cops are the enemy. Now I’m a young adult and I’ve come full circle. Cops are just people. Some are good, some are bad, most are a complex mixture of the two just like we all are.

My sister is still very much in the mindset that all cops should be hated. To her, they are still all racists and monsters. She won’t even listen to me talk if the story involves one of my new cop friends. Which saddens me, because a lot of these guys are just that, my friends. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d ever say that. But I genuinely love interacting with a lot of the officers we work with. They are kind, funny, intelligent people. I genuinely value all that they do to help the children that we meet here. I see how much these cases affect them. I see the big, muscly, tattooed, bald cop tearing up at the story a little girl tells. I see how hard he works to put her rapist behind bars. He shows me pictures of his daughter’s pet rabbit, who loves him. Once he even tried to set me up with his son, and I was hopeful that it may work out and he would be my father in law some day. That’s how much I respect and admire this man!

The point I’m trying to make here isn’t that cops are good and we should all love the cops. Obviously, as we see on the news every day, there are cops killing innocent people for no reason all over the country. In no way am I trying to minimize that or make excuses for it. I’m just trying to highlight the importance of personally getting to know people from different groups before judging them. Just like I was able to be critical of all cops until I personally met some, people that don’t know any individuals of a certain minority group are far more easily able to lump them all together in harmful stereotypes. It’s nearly impossible to generalize about a group of people when you know and work with members of said group.

Ignorance breeds hatred. We fear what we don’t understand. Rather than sit with the fact that we don’t know much about different cultures and ethnicities, we prefer to pigeon hole them through generalizations. I hear a lot of talk about the value and importance of diversity, but I don’t often hear any explanation as to why this is so essential to society. I think my own experience has taught me that. And I am so grateful that I’ve had this chance to learn something so important.

It may be easy to see the harmful biases that others hold, but we can’t control the way the people around us view the world. Perhaps it’s more important for us to look inward. No one is free from biases and prejudice. Some are certainly more harmful and systemic than others, but nonetheless we’ve all got them. Not only do these judgements hurt others, but they hurt the ones who are doing the judging as well. What a crime it is to close ourselves off from the vast complexity of the world by trying to shove everything and everyone into neat little boxes. Keep your heart and mind open. Don’t decide who other people are, let them show you.

The Flower Metaphor

As someone who has a hard time loving their body, I have always really appreciated the comparison between humans and flowers. It is sometimes hard for me to accept that even though I don’t look like the women I aspire to, I can still be beautiful. The idea that different looking humans can be equally attractive in their own ways just as all flowers are stunning even though they have extremely different colors and types of blossoms. For some reason this is the only thing that was really able to reach me and allow me to look at myself in a new light. And I am so grateful for the new perspective it has given me since I first heard it.

While meditating on this idea, I began to realize that humans are a lot like flowers in many others ways as well. Not only should we not criticize ourselves for not looking like others, we also shouldn’t worry about our differences in motivation, energy, talent, productivity, etc. Just like the flowers, we follow different schedules so to speak. Some flowers have many blooms, some just a few. Some bloom multiple times a year, some just once. Some come back again and again, others fade after just one season. Some flowers come more easily than others, some for longer periods of time. Some flowers even bloom at night instead of in the day.

It is important for us to also honor these differences within ourselves. Maybe we can’t wake up at 5AM and workout like our neighbor does. Maybe we don’t have the energy to work full-time and be a mother. Maybe we don’t have as many “productive” days as those around us seem to. Maybe we still haven’t found our passion after 40 years, while we read articles about a child who already excels in theirs. We don’t have to feel bad about these differences. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others in this way. It can never be a fair comparison.

You and I are two completely different types of flower. We can admire one another without thinking less of ourselves for not “measuring up”. It’s okay to be different. It’s wonderful in fact. Who would want to live in a world with only one type of flower? We need all different kinds to allow our ecosystem to thrive. So never stop reminding yourself that you are an important part of this world. Just as you are. Because you are like no one else, not in spite of it. Biodiversity is a beautiful thing. Don’t you forget it, you incredible flower, you.