November 2017
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pushing back on cis bigotry using... confusion


icon: "confused (photo of a purple diamond-shaped sign with a line leading to four arrows all curving and pointing in different directions)"

Earlier today I had a strange interaction with a cashier at a farmers' market. The Killers song with the line "you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend" was playing and the cashier said, "that would freak me out, if I had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend haha." I stood there silently for a minute (while they repeated themselves in different words, seemingly wondering why I wasn't laughing), toyed with the idea of walking away without another word, and then decided to just say whatever came out of my mouth.

Me: "Well that's my favorite kind of person, so..." *shrug*
Them: "what? A boyfriend who looks like a girlfriend?" *surprised*
Me: "Yeah, or the other way around. I like to mix it up."
Them: "a girlfriend who looks like a boyfriend?" *half mumbling now* "but what would they even be? A boy or a girl? Now I'm totally confused about gender."
Me: "well, that's my ultimate goal in life, to make people completely confused about gender" *walks off*
Them: *still mumbling confusedly about their confusion*

Not sure if they thought I was joking, but confusion is better than confident ignorance! The main thing that keeps me from talking back when people say transphobic shit is not knowing what to say, not being able to think fast enough. I don't think I said anything very meaningful and certainly I didn't give a clear understanding of my perception of gender, but I pushed back. Maybe that weird little interaction will plant a seed. If I had been able to think faster I could have said something that might have actually taught something, but I couldn't, and that's just going to have to be okay. My instinct at being attacked (however accidentally) is to freeze, and I don't know a way around that.

Who knows, maybe random blathering is more effective.

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Comments
queerbychoice ══╣╠══
I think what you said is actually the most effective thing you could have said, to get someone thinking who has apparently never done any thinking on the topic. If you'd been clearer about exactly where you stand, it might have been easier to write you off. When all you did was express that you don't stand where they expected you to stand, it's more likely to make them keep wondering where you do stand and what motivated you to say those things . . . and the more they keep wondering, the more they're doing some thinking on the topic.
belenen ══╣eccentric╠══
Very true! *ponders* now if I can just remember this in the future when I am on the spot, heh, and not try to condense a book into a sentence!
wantedonvoyage ══╣╠══
Agreed. The way you handled it THEY didn't feel attacked, and thus left the situation focused on their own confusion instead of a negative encounter.

As someone who knows he has tons to learn, I likely say stupid things. But if someone comes at me with "you're an asshole" I'm going to probably tune them out because they are assuming malice or disrespect on my part, when in fact I WANT to learn and treat people well. I just don't know what I don't know.
wildrose ══╣╠══
wantedonvoyage ══╣Acts╠══
One of the things I learned doing LGBT advocacy in the church was this great reminder from the Rev. Debra Peevy, a pastor in the Disciples of Christ church who was one of the leaders against Prop 8 in California:

When we challenge people's thinking about these issues, part of what they're coming back to us with, whether or not they say it, is "I learned what I know (or believe) about people like you from people that I loved and trusted."

In other words, when you're telling someone that an assumption they've carried around for a long time is untrue (or you just challenge it by being yourself), you're--like it or not--calling into question everything else they've learned from that same source, be it parents, teachers, religious leader, etc. That can be traumatic, and--while I understand the concept of privilege--if we want people to learn from us, I feel like we have to respect that. I watched a poor woman completely unravel because she could see our side of the issue, but she had been told the opposite her whole life and it freaked her out. I think there needs to be room for compassion around that.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
that is a wise pastor! very true, when 'rightful authority' is believed in, then all beliefs from that authority become a house of cards.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
I think you're totally right, that they were focused on their own thought process instead of me, and that's how I want it to go!

(on 'stupid': http://tinyurl.com/pleasenoslurs )
annapandawoo ══╣╠══
As a minority who lives in the south, I can honestly say random blathering makes the bigotry worse. People feel attacked and become very defensive. The way you handled it was perfect. Unless the person wants to be taught, the best any of us can do is, as you said, "plant a seed".
belenen ══╣tree wisdom╠══
Very true! without that desire to learn, there can be no teaching.
kehlen_crow ══╣medicine╠══
I really, really, really despise these "little" racist, misogynist, ~phobic "jokes", and the expectation you will join the hyenas' laughter.

You did good.
belenen ══╣snarling╠══
*nods emphatically*

thanks!
meteorology ══╣╠══
I love your comeback, and I think you handled this the best way possible, but I'm sorry you had to go through that uncomfortable interaction.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
thank you! I felt much better about it than usual.
wildrose ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣giggling╠══
hee *grins* it makes me giggle too, to remember!
jeune_fleur ══╣╠══
I think it was effective! It's important to speak up about things like these. Maybe the person felt a bit ridiculed after this interaction and thought that their train of thought was wrong? ^^.
belenen ══╣iconoclast╠══
thank you! I hope that it made them reconsider.
chillychilly22 ══╣╠══
Most humans love to blather, so it may have been the most effective way to communicate given the situation/setting. I think you did great. :)
belenen ══╣effervescent╠══
thanks *grins*
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.