Busman's holiday


Busman's holiday: "vacation or day off from work spent in an activity closely resembling one's work, as a bus driver taking a long drive."

Part of what I do for work is advocacy for oppressed people, particularly people with disabilities and queer and trans people. But this is such a part of my personal life that it's not really possible for me to take a vacation from it.

The advocacy I do is mostly small-scale person-to-person education work, and I don't actively choose to do it most of the time. Instead, I am put in a position where I have to choose between:

1) feeling wounded and dehumanized (by the oppressive belief systems of people around me) and also feeling like I am betraying myself and all of humanity with my silence, or

2) feeling wounded and dehumanized and also dealing with other people's defensiveness and dislike and sometimes hostility to the point of violence.


I usually choose number 2, but either way I don't get to escape feeling wounded and dehumanized. This is why it is almost always work to be around other human beings. The vast majority of people* have done very little work to unlearn the racism, sexism, ableism, cis-sexism, classism, capitalism, and other oppressive belief systems that are the sewage we all slosh through since we learn to understand language.

An example of how this work follows me when I try to take a "holiday" is this: I go on vacation with my partner and while we are shopping for snacks, a stranger asks if we are sisters. That is both assuming that we are not in a romantic relationship, and assuming that we are both women: I have to choose which to advocate about because in a brief encounter there simply isn't time to explain all the things that are wrong with that question. I also have to figure out if this is a time where any advocacy at all is possible, and sometimes it is not, because I have to respect the emotional safety of my partner and the physical safety of both of us.

Another example would be if I have a party at my home, I need to consider the accessibility needs of guests and try to accommodate or at least inform people of the access issues at my house so that they can determine if they are willing and able to navigate those issues. We live in a world that is inaccessible by default, and to "turn off" my disability consciousness would be to cause harm to the people with disabilities in my life. The basics of access don't really feel like work to me, but the work can come in if I invite guests who use ableist slurs (without knowing it, such as "stupid" or "lame") or who make ableist assumptions, because then as host it is my job to try and correct that (regardless of who is at the party!).

Also, even among people whom I can trust generally to not make hurtful assumptions or use hurtful language, my own access needs are a thing I must advocate for in order to be able to participate. For instance at a party hosted by someone else -- if I want to be able to understand what people are saying, I almost always have to go outside, because the ambient noise level is too high. Its worst when there is music playing and a game or show making noise, but even if the only noise is people talking, multiple people talking at once scrambles my brain.

However I have to balance my own needs with those of others, and I know that for many people, a party without ambient noise simply isn't a party. And certainly for many people, everyone taking turns to talk while being in a quiet environment would feel restrictive and not fun. So what works best is when the party hosts have established a noisier hang out place and a quieter hang out place. Advocacy for something like this can be very difficult because I feel like my needs go counter to other people having fun, and I don't want to be perceived as taking away people's fun. I want to be seen as a fun person, whose company is enjoyable.

I would love to be able to go on a real holiday from advocacy, but that would require going to another world where the dominant ideology is not hierarchy, competition, and punishment of deviance but instead equality, cooperation, and appreciation of variety.

And honestly that would probably be work too, because then I would be the person who was carrying the most oppressive ideas and I would feel the need to be constantly checking my behavior so that I wasn't causing harm to everyone I encountered. I'd probably be needing to learn and face my own issues at a much higher rate than I do in my day-to-day life.

So my only hope for a real vacation is to not have to interact with any strangers or any people who I don't already trust to have done and keep doing a lot of unlearning. I think this is possible but will require a great deal of planning and pre-work, but it sounds so lovely that I think I need to try it next time.

*(in the world that I have access to: literate people who speak English and have access to the internet, primarily U.S. citizens)


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Comments
alycewilson ══╣╠══
You describe very well how all-encompassing these issues are for you. I understand how you could never get away from them.
Renoir - Thoughtful Girl
roina_arwen ══╣Renoir - Thoughtful Girl╠══
I know I probably have some unlearning to do, but honestly if I were out with my BFF and a stranger asked if we were sisters, I would just say No and leave it at that. Often a question of that sort is just idle chit chat, and it’s highly doubtful that the questioner means to be hurtful or insensitive. But that’s just my 02 cents.
belenen ══╣╠══
Of course it is not meant to be hurtful erasure, but that is what it is. It shows that the person isn't considering the possibility that queer people exist. If you see two people who you read as a man and a woman and they seem to be very close, you don't ask if they are siblings (unless they look very alike), because it is easy to think about them being a couple. But because people don't think about queer people existing, they assume everyone they meet is straight.

I would never have been bothered by someone asking if my best friend was my sister, because those are similar relationships to me. But that is not a good comparison-- it would be more like if people kept asking if your husband was your brother or father. Why aren't they considering the possibility that you are romantic? It implies that there is something wrong with you being a romantic pair.

Having my romantic relationship erased constantly by people not wanting to think about it has rubbed me absolutely raw. If you want to learn more, I would suggest looking up "microaggressions" -- this happens for all kinds of people around oppression.
Under Your Spell
roina_arwen ══╣Under Your Spell╠══
Thank you for letting me know about the term microaggressions - I went to Wiki and read the article on it, and I have a better understanding of what you’re saying. ❤️
suesniffsglue ══╣╠══
You really are always working in your advocacy! Just knowing you on the internet I see it all the time!
d0gs ══╣╠══
Really well written and incredibly descriptive
ragnarok_08 ══╣╠══
Very well said :)
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.
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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.