Belenen (belenen) wrote,

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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