Today, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). From their website:
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to this issue.
It is not one centralised campaign; rather it is a moment that everyone can take advantage of to take action.
The date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
This year I’m participating in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The blog-hop rules require a giveaway – so I will be giving away a combination prize:
- A $20 donation in your name to the LGBTQ organization of your choice. (Anywhere will do, as long as it serves QUILTBAG adults or youth! I can give you some suggestions if you are not sure.)
- A small drawing on an ACEO card of any subject of your choice; this will be put in an envelope and mailed to you! (In my non-writing life, I am a graphic artist and illustrator. I do pen-and-ink illustrations, watercolor and computer art; you can check out my non-romance blog and click on “Kismet” or “Freebird” to see what my comics look like.)
Please leave a comment with your email (or other way of contacting you) to be entered in the drawing.
The contest ends on the 27th, but I will be driving to the airport late on the 26th, traveling on the 27th, and on vacation with very limited Internet for the next week! So I probably will not be able to draw a winner until Saturday June 1.
And now, moving along to the post itself.
I wanted to keep this short (although, er, it ended up quite long indeed!) because I am a cisgender woman in a relationship with a man, so I don’t want my voice to drown out the voices of queer people speaking of their own experiences. This day is not about me, and other voices than mine should be heard.
If I have any one thing to say that I feel is more important than anything else, it’s that. To my fellow straight cis people: please listen as well as speak, or better yet, listen before you speak. The world is full of our voices. The mainstream media is full of representations of people like us. Peggy McIntosh’s Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack is specifically geared towards white privilege, but the general themes apply to straight cis privilege as well. It’s true that each human being faces their own individual difficulties, but on a societal level, for those of us who were born straight and gender-conforming, society was designed by people like us for people like us. We do not have to fear having our voices unheard when we talk of our experiences; our relationships unrecognized; our safety and lives threatened for being who we are; our most basic human rights denied — such as the right to be called by the name and pronouns we prefer, and to marry the people we love.
But the thing is, I figure that most people who are circulating on the blog hop today already know this and believe this. There is not much I can say that you haven’t already heard and don’t already believe.
So I’m going to talk a little to the other straight cis people on this blog hop about how to be a good friend and supporter to your friends, co-workers, parents, siblings, children, and other people you may know who are on the QUILTBAG spectrum. And again, I’m guessing most of you already try your best! But the thing is … we do screw up. We say stupid things. We might misgender a co-worker, or accidentally write a harmful stereotype into one of our books.
If you’re lucky, then someone will call you out on it! Yes, I said lucky. It means they respect you to be a sensible adult about having a mistake pointed out. It means they are giving you the benefit of the doubt that it really was a mistake, that you didn’t do it on purpose. And even more importantly, they trust you not to react badly and hurt them again, but to listen to their criticism, to think about it, and to see what you can do not to repeat the mistake in the future.
This happened to me the other day, actually! I accidentally misgendered a friend when I was chatting with another friend. My friend gently corrected me. I apologized and made a strict mental note so that it won’t happen again.
Or perhaps you’ll think about it and decide that you actually stand by your actions and don’t feel that you did anything wrong. That’s fair too! The entire LGBTQ spectrum is not a monolith of people who all feel the same way about a particular thing. People disagree. I guess the important thing is not to give in to the knee-jerk retreat into defensiveness that plagues a lot of us when we are criticized, but to give the other person the benefit of the doubt (that they aren’t saying it just to hurt you or to be argumentative, that you really did hit them in a sensitive place) before making your decision.
And whatever you do, don’t deny someone else’s lived experience. You can’t be in their skin; you can’t know if something hit them in a homophobia-sensitized place and hurt them, even if you don’t consider it homophobic yourself. Even if you are somewhere in the LGBTQ acronym yourself and don’t consider it homophobic! I have been that woman who tells other women, “No, that thing you’re so upset about? That’s not actually sexist.” And I’m ashamed of that now, because no one has the right to dictate that to another person. It’s basically saying, “Your feelings are not valid, and your pain does not matter.” You can say, “That’s not valid for me”, but you can’t say “That’s not valid for you”. All of us have a slightly different lived experience of the world.
We live in a world in which it’s not hard to find examples of blatant homophobia and transphobia. I think (I hope) that most of us on this blog hop would speak out if we encountered a situation like that. But it’s also important to be aware of the subtler things, the microaggressions that we commit by accident, or tacitly reinforce because we don’t say anything, or don’t notice, or have pointed out to us and then argue about.
And most importantly: listen. Yours is not the only voice; other people have more experience with homophobia and transphobia than you do. Listen to them.
I’ll leave you with a couple of links that are not specifically homophobia/transphobia-related, but are more on the general theme of human beings living in a society with other human beings in which not everyone has the same amount of social status and everyone screws up sometimes:
- How to apologize when you’ve fucked up.
- The Mean People Upstairs – a really good metaphor for privileged people dealing with “angry” people in a less-privileged position.
And finally, a post from last year with some thoughtful and useful criticism of the Hop Against Homophobia itself. This is not to make anyone feel bad about themselves. Obviously I am participating myself! But I also agree with some of their criticism, particularly of the weaknesses of the M/M genre in general. (In which I write, so again, you know — including myself in the criticism here!) And this day of all days, I think, is a good day for those of us who are straight allies to reflect on ourselves too, and ways in which we can do more, rather than breaking our arms patting ourselves on the back over what good allies we are.
Read. Think. Listen. Learn.
And now let’s see if the LinkedIn code works — theoretically this should take you straight from my blog to the rest of the blog hop! Don’t forget to leave a comment with your email or some other way of contacting you if you would like to be entered in the drawing for a donation and a sketch. And enjoy the rest of the blog hop!