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Day of Silence Pt2: The right not to know
A while back, I wrote about the LGBT Day of Silence. I know its been a while; Ive been busy with school. But I want to address some of the criticism I got. I dont think I made my position quite clear, and I would like to reopen the topic. (Plus the last one got me over 300 page views total, so hey, its worth another shot).

Let me state my biases up front. I dont believe homosexual behavior is healthy. I dont like the behavior. But I dont have a problem with homosexual people. They are still people, and they will have my respect as such whatever they choose to do in their private lives. That said, I would like a certain common courtesy: the right not to know. I dont need to know youre homosexual, bisexual, or what have you, to have a good, friendly, working relationship with you. I promise, I dont care. I dont need to know any more than you need to know whether or not Im a virgin.

But sometimes, with homosexuals, thats all I know. I never get the chance to get to know them as people because thats all I ever hear about. Its like a fire alarm; I cant ignore it, but that doesnt mean I like the noise it makes.

When I was a freshman in high school, I took a drama class with a black girl. All her monologues were about being black. All the scripts she chose were about racism toward blacks. All her conversations revolved around the fact that she was black, and she had been made fun of in her life because of it.

It was irritating, because before she brought it up, I honestly hadnt noticed that she was black. I mean, I saw it with my eyes, but it didnt register in my mind as important. The thought did not consciously cross my mind: Look, that girl is black. I didnt have a single thought one way or the other because she happened to be black.

Unfortunately, since Ive known her, that has changed. I now often find myself categorizing people as black, Hispanic, homosexual, Goth, jock, etc. I try not to let it influence how I interact with them, but I think Ive learned to do it sort of as a self-defense mechanism. I have to be aware of these things because at any moment something I say might offend someone. I may get a label like racist or homophobe attached to my name, and my worth as a person may be called into question by someone else because of it.

Im afraid the truth is that the white, heterosexual majority arent the only ones who tack on labels. The truth is, no one is really normal. Everyone labels in their own way, and it is the nature of human beings to attack those who are different from them. We all propagate this destructive trend by separating ourselves into categories. I get really tired of hearing about the black community, or the LGBT community. Those are separations, and they are symbolic. Rather than being simply part of a grander, kinder human community, you belong to something from which I am divided. With every layer of separation you add to yourself, you are also labeling and separating me from you. Whoever you are, whatever community you are part of, I get the funny feeling that it's not MY community. I am at once alienated and forced to see you as alien. The more levels of separation I have to sift through, the harder it gets for me to look at you without prior judgement.

I was a shy, funny-looking kid in high school. There is no place in the cliques for a girl fresh out of homeschool who still winces at the f-word. I wore glasses, I refused to wear make-up. I got really good grades, teachers loved me, and outside of the classroom I sat by myself on the end of the lunch table in the farthest corner of the room and never spoke.

You are not the only outcast in the world. You are not the only one who knows how it feels to be made fun of. You are not the only one who has ever been bullied. You are not the only one who has ever struggled with depression, self-mutilation, and suicidal thoughts. Your group is not the only one that has ever suffered persecution. There are many kinds of beatings. There are many kinds of sexual abuse. There are many kinds of persecution beyond those that scream out loudly I am here. Your suffering is not more acute because you cry out the loudest. Your plight is not worse than that of millions, and if you try to raise your particular kind of hurt above all the rest, crying, See, look what I have been through! you set yourself apart from all the people who may also need to be lifted up.

What Im saying is this: maybe we cant hear you because our ears are ringing. Maybe we are not so different as we seem. Maybe these separations we create are all just in our minds. Maybe, when all is said and done, we are all just human. Maybe if we all stop shouting about our differences, the echoes will fade, and the people we think are judging us will be able to forget about those differences too. Call yourself the name you want to be known by, and maybe others will call you the same. Who knows but when you stop trying to categorize more or lesser kinds of pain, when you stop separating yourself from the struggling masses of the human condition, you may find more acceptance in humanity than you thought.

I am not straight. I am not white. I am not conservative. I am not leftist. I am not religious. I am not feminist. I am myself, and I dont want to hear you telling me how different you are from me than you want to hear me telling you how different you are. You are no more and no less than human in my eyes, and I do my darndest to make sure that will never change. The world hands our labels to us. Dont label yourself.

Originally published at Phronemophobia.


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