educating the masses

The tag surfer is one thing I love about WordPress over other platforms (LJ, for instance). It shows me all sorts of things I would never have found otherwise–and perhaps shouldn’t have.

Like this post by a well-intentioned but seriously misinformed person, trying to understand some basic concepts of gender theory and human sexuality. I’ve linked to it, because I’m hoping some of you can give her a little help (I have very little formal training in this arena other than my own life experience) but here’s some quotes to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Brace yourself.

“If gay people are gay, why do they want a same-sex partner who very much resembles an opposite-sex? Why don’t they be straight from the beginning and just like the opposite-sex in that case? Why bother making someone try so hard to look like the opposite sex when natural ones are readily available in abundance? [….] Or an even better example, Chris Crocker. He is obviously born a man and he’s gay. But apparently, he’s trying to be a woman, isn’t he? If he did go for a complete sex change, he will become straight because he still likes guys and he’s a woman then?

SEE. SO damn confusing. I should have asked my professor these questions during open discussion time when we were struggling to come up with topics to talk about.”

I left a long comment which is full of holes and some half-accuracies, but I was trying for understandable, not comprehensive. It was surprisingly well-received, by her response:

“I had no idea much of my thoughts could be offensive. I still don’t understand how it is but since you said so, I’m really gonna think about it again seriously. Because I’m serious about understanding homosexuals. I am afraid I wouldn’t be prepared if one day I find out I am one myself. I doubt it now but I really need to know about you guys, that’s all. […] I don’t think ignorance is bliss.”

Points for trying, in my book. When faced with ignorance, it’s very easy to become defensive and angry—because so often, it’s a justifiable and necessary response—but sometimes I try to step back and see if there’s some genuine effort going on behind. On a good day, I like to think there are more people like her than we realize, and that we really are getting somewhere.

8 Responses to educating the masses

  1. backlist says:

    I found this a lot when I lived overseas. No blanket statement there, only that the people I was interacting with often didn’t have access to books that could inform or the freedom to discuss in a way that thoughts could evolve. My gut reaction is to back slowly away from explaining, but you did a nice job!

  2. linaria says:

    Well, I considered backing away slowly…but then I considered her situation: she says on her profile that she’s of the Karen group in Myanmar (+1 for sensitivity to oppressed people), she lives in San Francisco (+1 for topical areas of interest, considering current politics), and the post was organized in a way that made it easy to address specific questions.

    And over the internet, it’s a lot easier to put yourself out there than when you’re actually living near people and have to get along with them.

  3. Dylan says:

    “I really need to know about you guys”… ugh.

    I think the misperception that people who like butches should just be with men is a common one. I was JUST talking about it on the phone last night. It does seem like this person does want to learn more about sexuality and gender and might have their intentions in the right place… but how they attended a class and walked away with only this level of understanding is beyond me. Wow.

  4. linaria says:

    Dylan: If you read her whole post, she alludes to the fact that she lives in California and it’s a politically hot topic (“Plus everyone is having a war on choosing sides and I need to form my stance some where”) and that is part of why she wants to learn about “us guys.”

    I believe there may also be bigger cultural issues at work as well, because as an immigrant she is still orienting herself to mainstream American culture, so subcultures, as it were, are another whole step. But I agree, it is a common misperception for a lot of people—even those who’ve lived their whole lives here.

  5. there’s something about the way the post was written that made it very clear (to me) that she was coming from a place of lack of/misinformation, curiosity, genuine interest as compared to all the really nasty places that very similar statements can easily originate. and, well, inform i can do – i don’t have the energy to change ideals.


  6. Dylan says:

    Ahhhh. Yes. I’ve gone to the post and read it myself and I think a lot of the struggle she is having stems from a cultural and maybe even language barrier. If English is her second language she may be trying to translate and understand terms that are more colloquial or only intelligible within communities. I think it’s great actually that she is making a genuine effort towards opening her mind and forming her own opinions. I guess my initial reaction is one of annoyance because so often entries like hers are just ignorant and hateful. You know, playing dumb to see less offensive, when really… the writer knows exactly what s(he) is saying.

  7. panphyuphyu says:

    Hello! It’s me! I can’t believe you even quoted me. It’s kind of embarrassing but I’m really honored(?) and grateful. Thank you. ^___________^

    And wow, linaria, the way you understand scares me. You really surprised me even more. Thanks for NOT misunderstanding me and even speaking for me as if you were the wiser me. I was going “Yes! Yes! Yes!” in my heart at what you said.

    I feel like we’ve built a bridge for each other. So many times I feel unwelcome/unwanted for trying to understand. Like Dylan at first, people are often annoyed and they won’t even give me a second glance for understandable reasons like the one she stated. Plus, although I studied like crazy, my English is no where near your level of such eloquence. Maybe it’s normal for you but I think you’re great. I often say the wrong things even in my own language. So that’s worse. Thanks for being the one on the other side to open the door. And yes, there are more of me than you realize. My friends are just as lost. But they are worse. Dylan would probably throw stones at them. Hahaha…

    I’ll be around. You know you have many points in my book too. ♥♥♥

    And thanks to all your friends for giving me that second glance.

    Love, PPP.

  8. linaria says:

    PPP: thanks for your comment! But you know, my “level of eloquence” is mostly a matter of practice–you’ll get better the more you write. Also, when you are writing, you can edit what you say to make yourself seem much more smart than you really are:) I embarrass myself by saying the wrong thing all the time in real life.

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