One thing I think about a lot is nuance, and compassion. The fine line between emotional self-care and rigid cruelty.
It’s difficult to parse, because on the one hand, I agree with feminist activists like Audre Lorde, who say, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
But on the other hand, all too often, the people with the capacity to deal the most harmful verbal and psychological blows are not strangers, but those within our social circle. Family, relatives, friends, co-workers. It’s relationships that either must be preserved, due to circumstances outside our control (work, school, marriage), or we feel such strong social pressure to preserve that the guilt of severing them almost outweighs the emotional/ psychological benefits of doing so.
When I was 13 and first began seeing a therapist for depression, my classmates were pretty cruel about it. I was already a target, and this info was just more material for the flames. It caused a lot of heartache and tears for me. I had a hard time understanding why–why kids who were friendly one day would change their attitude once they learned about mental illness. Why people would chant about straight jackets at me. Why people abruptly ended friendships when they learned about the therapists and mental health treatment.
My mom put me in therapy because of her own history with mental illness– grandma had bipolar, and was untreated (due to the era) for much of mom’s childhood. Treatment changed things for the better. Mom was diagnosed with bipolar in her 40s, after several pregnancies/ childbirths and bouts with PPD. As a result, she was super-attenuated to any hint of depression (overly so, one might say) and very much on guard to get out ahead of mental illness and make sure it was treated.
I often read about people whose parents ignored/ denied their struggle with mental illnesses such as depression and ADHD, and even continue to do so, and the negative impact it had on their overall quality of life. This is especially sad to me, because a growing body of research shows that in some cases, diagnosing a mental illness earlier–like in childhood–and treating it through an appropriate medication and therapy routine actually alters brain development for the better.
For example, adult ADHD is a problem. Left untreated, mental illness can also harm brain development; neurally entrenching it. Once an adult, and with set neural pathways, it’s pretty much, whoops ADHD for life– medications and/ or therapy tools from now on. But if a child is treated with medications/ therapy tools early on, while the brain is still developing neural pathways, the research is showing it actually changes the way the brain develops, and they’re growing up to have pretty normal brains, with much fewer brain structure abnormalities than untreated kids– they’re probably not going to need ADHD medications and therapy tools for life.
Basically: treat ’em while they’re young, and potentially prevent mental illness in adulthood. Or ignore/ deny mental illness in childhood, and increase the chances of it in adulthood.
Luckily, we never had the issue of mental illness denial and erasure in my household–although mom was very aware of mental health stigma in the wider world, and the impact it had on people’s perception of us. She would stroke her fingers lovingly through my hair and say, “Don’t tell them. Don’t ever tell them about mental illness. They don’t understand. They’ll never understand.”
That was her advice, as long as I can remember. To hide any hint of mental illness, and keep it secret; hidden shameful and silent. To never speak of it.
I wasn’t great at that. Instead, I used it as a litmus test: Is this person worth being friends with? Do they run when they learn about my mom’s bipolar? Do they treat me shitty after they find out I see a therapist? Do they say things like, “Mental illness isn’t real,” or, “You can cure it by eating better/ exercising more/ being more positive.”?
It turns out, stigma against mental illness is pretty widespread. If you want to have a wide social group, you need to have a pretty broad tolerance for bias against mental illnesses.
Mom died in 2003. At her funeral, I learned from several ward members that, although they knew of her illness, she had actually never confided in them about it. It was an open secret, as they say. She died believing no-one knew of her struggle–and worse, that no-one outside her family would support her or accept her in it.
That breaks my heart.
When I started taking history and sociology courses in college, I couldn’t help but think of my lived experiences as a woman with mental illness when I listened/ read about/ watched histories of feminists, people of color, and labor activism in the US and abroad.
I thought about both how it felt to be othered for things I had no control over–my gender, my genetics–and yet, despite how unkind, thoughtless, and sometimes vicious people had been, how lucky I have been.
As a woman, I have:
- Been treated as less intelligent, less valuable because I was female– had men interrupt me and talk over me, even “correct” me by repeating and rephrasing information I’d literally just said.
- Been overcharged for consumer goods due to being female.
- Been cat-called, had men expose themselves to me (not as in consensual sex; as in, I was 17 and an adult stranger showed me his flaccid genitals and tried to get me to touch it), and had a (now ex) boyfriend kick a car window in on my face because I was going to go watch a movie with a friend, and then almost all the guys (except one) who witnessed the altercation blamed me for “instigating it” by trying to leave when said boyfriend got upset with me.
- I’ve struggled to receive the medical services I want–it took me three visits and the potential threat of medical malpractice (although I didn’t realize it at the time) to get my tubal ligation. Two years later, when I began to show signs of endometriosis, it took another three years to get diagnosed and three more years before I could get approved for surgery–and the entire time, they treated me with this suspicious disdain, like I was trying to get pain medications instead of diagnosis and medical treatment! The really crazy thing is, I don’t even like being high, or buzzed! My husband has to force me to take pain meds after surgery, because I loathe that disassociating sense of a loss of control; that floating, detached carelessness from self. It’s unnerving. I hate it.
As someone with a personal and family history of mental illness, I have:
- Lost friends because of the stigma of mental illness
- Have been overcharged for medical services (until mental health parity was passed) because of mental illness.
- Been told mental illness is faked by the mentally ill for medications
- Been told mental illness is: a construct of Big Pharma; laziness; self-indulgence; poor diet; lack of exercise; lack of sunshine; a desire for attention; a punishment from god; or possession by demons.
- Been told my mother was a bad mom who abandoned me
- Been threatened with loss of my child due to my diagnosis during preliminary custody negotiations (thanks to my social location and education, I knew this threat was unsubstantiated, but a lot of people don’t)
- Been told my diagnosis and mental health struggles make me an unfit mother and wife
- Been told my atheism is a product of mental illness–in fact, that many of my (valid) emotions are invalid, and products of mental illness, rather than actual beliefs, opinions, or relationships concerns to be taken seriously.
Statistically, I’ve probably lost employment opportunities due to either one or both of these issues– there’s no way of knowing for sure, but it would be irrational to pretend that factors such as gender, motherhood, and a history of depression didn’t play a role with potential employers.
I’m well aware of the HR advice not to disclose your personal life to potential employers, and I do try to use pseudonyms online– but sometimes information just slips out, despite the best intentions. Too comfortable in an interview, or a the stray word of a well-intended reference mentioning conquering past difficulties, or the misplaced (illegal) inferences of a former employer one doesn’t have the resources to address, or a background check which brings up irrelevant, decade-old information a potential employer has questions about. Things happen.
As both a woman and someone with a family and personal history of mental illness, my lived experiences have often been taken from me by those who believe they know my life better than I do, reinterpreted and re-written, re-packaged and presented anew–my experiences dismissed, marginalized; my voice silenced.
Yet, I am lucky.
I am lucky because I am white. Because I am a cisgender, heterosexual woman in a culture and social location which prizes those qualities. Because my disability– such as it is– can be invisible. If I do not check any ADA boxes, if I seal my lips and take my meds and go to therapy on a regular basis, I can pass as “normal,” and no-one will ever know that mental illness is a Thing in my life, in my family, that has shaped who I am and how I see the world.
I am lucky because women like me aren’t stopped by police officers to die alone in prison for no damn reason.
I am lucky because of the social/ economic class I was born into.
Anecdote: Story of Rebellion
When I was a sophomore, my best friend/ crush got arrested and sent to Juvie. When I heard, I was filled with a formless, voiceless rage. My parents disapproved of him, so I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. For a few months, we wrote back and forth, and the anger simmered in me, helpless and inexpressible. I wore dark colors, dyed my hair, and moped around a lot. Then I learned he was being transferred to another state, all the way across the country, and I would probably never see him again.
At the time I was in a sewing class. Not out of choice–I wanted to take auto shop, but my dad said no, and suggested sewing. My little sister got to take auto shop when it was her turn to pick electives. Probably because of this incident.
I got angry at my sewing teacher and we argued, and I left left school. Walked home and grabbed the keys to the car– I didn’t have a license yet, just a driver’s permit– and spent the afternoon driving furiously around the county. Obviously, it was illegal without an adult, and I was speeding. When I came home, my dad yelled at me for my reckless, idiotic behavior–the argument with my teacher, my temporary expulsion, driving the car without a permit. We fought, mom got between us, I lifted my hand to slap, and dad caught my wrist. I called 911 in a childish snit. Cops came, arrested me for instigating the assault. Said they had to, because it was a domestic violence call, and by law they’re required to arrest someone. I went to Juvie for a night.
I even got to see my friend.
The next morning, my dad showed up to the juvenile court hearing and they worked out my release. I don’t know the exact details. A fine was probably paid. I did community service for a few months– office work at the city hall. I apologized to the teacher, twice– once, verbally, because I was required to, and then again a few months later in a letter, because I realized how shitty and awful I’d been and actually felt bad. She was a good person and didn’t deserve to be treated like that.
Mind you, I think (personally) this punishment was fine. Appropriate. It’s the type of punishment that should generally be applied to minors– minimal incarceration, maximum community service. Juveniles are stupid, and do stupid shit all the time. Brains aren’t fully developed, they’re acting on a toxic mix of hormones and impulsivity, and it’s all just a mess up in there. But I got that punishment because I was a middle-class white kid with a lawyer dad.
The incident– in the scheme of my life– was little more than a lesson in right and wrong. In mistakes and values. It didn’t alter the course of my life for the worse, but it corrected it for the better.
Anecdote in Contrast
That friend in question? He was a white low-income stoner kid, child of divorced parents. His life of crime began at 13, when he was caught selling weed. He told me it began earlier, at age 9, when he began smoking weed in Boy Scouts.
He told me he began selling it the next year, and was caught at 13, when he was tried, sentenced, and sent to juvie, where he served his time and was released. While on parole, he moved from state A to state B to live with his dad, where he attended my high school and we met and became friends (much to my parents dismay).
Moving was a crime, as it happens.
Over holiday break, he was riding shotgun in a car when the driver sped through a stop sign and was pulled over. The officer ran everyone’s name, and discovered an outstanding warrant for a parole violation on my friend, who had–at the tender age of 14–skipped parole to change custodial parents.
He was about 15 or 16 at the time. He ended up staying in juvie until he was 18–they transferred him back to state A. After he was released, he had trouble finding work–how could he? No HS diploma, no GED, no diploma, no work history. He fell in with his old crowd, and ended up participating in an opportunistic robbery that turned violent. Like an idiot, he tried to run, was caught and convicted, and ended up in prison for another 10 years. By the time he was released in his 30s, he’d spent more of his life behind bars than out of them. A few years after his last release, he broke parole to attend his dad’s funeral. Shortly after that, he was shot in a no-knock police raid allegedly regarding parole violations.
The thing is, I was shocked when I heard about the robbery, because he was always so gentle when I knew him as a teen. Real hippie stoner, stop-and-smell-the-roses type. It broke my heart, to think how a nonviolent drug crime had landed this gentle, sweet kid inside a broken system and just twisted and shattered him, setting him toward violence. Over the years, we wrote thousands of letters to each other, staying in contact, and in his writings to me he always remained this voice of compassion and open-hearted wisdom. He consistently advocated love, forgiveness, and acceptance. In his letters, he was humble and full of self-introspection.
We continued our friendship as pen-pals through the 15-odd years of his incarceration(s) from juvie and prison. He was there in spirit as I completed high school, started college, and dropped out. We were writing when I met and fell in love with Cowboy, the doomed missionary boyfriend who would later die in a hunting accident, and still writing when Cowboy and I broke up. We were writing when I met and fell in love with Twit, the abusive boyfriend who kicked a car window in on my face. Twit didn’t approve of contact with other guys, so the writing fell off during the 18 months I was with him, but I picked it up after the relationship ended– though more sporadically, as I’d fallen from the habit.
Still, we stayed in contact through all the major life changes of my twenties: when I met John, when he proposed, when we married, when our son was born, when my best girlfriend and mom died by suicide in the same year, when I left the LDS church, when I returned to college at age 27 as a young wife and mother. He knew when I got my MSF endorsement and my first motorcycle. He always said he would come visit when he was released. I felt weird about it, but it was a “someday” problem.
Then he was released. Facebook was a thing by then. He got an account and started posting, and the things he posted … the guy on FB was unrecognizable to me; completely different from the guy I’d exchanged letters with for over a decade. In his letters, he’d confided his confusion and heartache regarding an ongoing, passionate same-sex relationship, and his uncertainty about it– was it real? Or just a product of the circumstances? Was he gay? Bisexual? A victim of rape? Stockholm syndrome? He confessed he didn’t know, didn’t care–he couldn’t stop thinking about his partner, the sweet curve of his latin lover’s lip, the stubble on his jaw.
But on FB, he was homophobic, viciously so. and racist as well. He frequently posted memes identifying himself as a born-again Christian, and often used disgusting, nauseating racial slurs to describe President Obama. Casual misogyny and mental health stigmatization were frequent meme topics as well, but his favorites were the ones themed “Christian nation” with racist, anti-muslim, homophobic overtones.
Gone was the agnostic live-and-let-live, sweetheart stoner I’d known as a teenager, the one who’d been unconcerned with how others chose to live their lives and who advocated acceptance and kindness.
We fought about it. Stopped talking. A few months later, he was shot and killed by police in a no-knock raid for a parole violation.
I believe it is important to speak out. To break silences, end stigma, shatter discrimination.
When voices join together to name bigotry as unwanted, to cast it out, it is an important and necessary work that can take years–generations even–but I believe in it. At the same time … when such a work takes a lifetime, it can be a draining and alienating work. Sometimes I struggle with the morality of my “line in the sand,” so to speak.
Am I akin to Javert? He was so focused on the fact that Jean Valjean had committed another crime at the beginning of his parole that he couldn’t see the mitigating factors–that the priest allowed the theft of candlesticks, that Jean Valjean had to change his identity to start a new life, that he became a respected and useful member of the community. None of that mattered to Javert. As far as he was concerned, crime=punishment. Sometimes I wonder, am I so focused on the righteousness of my path, I cannot see the nuance in the shadows?
My friend died without reconciliation, because I couldn’t handle his opposing views anymore. Was that self-care on my part, or abandonment?
In high school, he was one of the few people who reached out and offered friendship instead of bullying. He was funny and compassionate. He and his brother believed in me–they used to tell me I was smart, and beautiful, and could do anything I wanted. When they introduced me to people, they had this way of doing it, where they would take my hand and spin me a little in front of them like they were showing me off, and then announce my name with shining eyes and a wide grin, as though they were announcing the coolest person in the entire world.
When we disagreed on FB, I didn’t want to call him out publicly. I feel like it doesn’t help, and I’ve read a fair amount that supports this sense. Besides, his friends and family mostly seem to agree with his views, and I–of all people–knew his educational background hadn’t exactly been comprehensive or progressive. I didn’t want to just write him off. He was a product of his environment.
Sure, he was an adult now–one could argue his adult ignorance was a choice–but he was an adult grown and cultivated in prison, with no real educational system, no proper libraries, and substandard learning programs.
When we were kids, I’d had the support he lacked from parents and teachers, and I didn’t value it back then. Back then, what my peers said had more weight, and he was the first of my peers to tell me I was cool and funny and smart and beautiful. That I was worth being friends with. I remember, as a freshman I used to sneak into my older brother’s room and steal his dirty clothes–he was 6’3, and I’d “borrow” his baggy carpenter jeans and oversized t-shirts to hide my underdeveloped body; ashamed of my scrawny frame. I dressed like a scarecrow in a gunny sack.
This friend and his brother saw a photo of me in my Sunday clothes and convinced me to wear something nice to school–with their help, I developed body confidence, and the realization you didn’t need giant boobs, luxurious locks, or curvaceous hips to be good looking and fashionable. They never made fun of me for expressing myself, in fashion or opinion. They always treated anything I said or did as though it was valid–as though I had, of course, valid reason for making that decision, even if they didn’t know the reasons. It was something I really needed at a point in my life when I often felt invalidated and questioned by everyone around me.
So when, as adults, he began posting that bigoted shit, I would message him privately to ask why he was saying that kind of stuff, especially given his own personal experiences. I thought we could talk it out; work through it.
It happened slowly, mind you–it wasn’t like, overnight, bam, bigot. It was like … a few memes here, a few updates there. Filtering up through my newsfeed, all jarring and upsetting.
The first time I pm’d him, it was about mental illness or misogyny, I think. One of those, because we ended up discussing my mom’s suicide. He walked back on whatever he’d posted–claimed he was just saying it to “stir shit up,” and that he didn’t really mean it, etc. etc., he was just mad at his girlfriend/ baby mama, etc. etc. I was kind of baffled and upset, and said something about how even if he was upset, he needed to think about how that kind of language looked and sounded to other people on his feed–people who had, maybe, lost loved ones to suicide. To mental illness. He apologized, and we made up.
The next time I pm’d him, it was about a homophobic meme. Basically, wtf. Again, he walked back on it–he was just stirring shit up. Just having fun. Just messing with people. He didn’t mean it. He wasn’t serious. He didn’t mean to offend me. He was sorry I was offended.
I silenced his feed.
A few months later, he began commenting on my feed–pro Jesus stuff about how He is the answer when I posted atheist news articles, anti-muslim stuff when I posted political articles mentioning President Obama. I’d politely correct inaccuracies, with sources (ie, President Obama’s not a Muslim, here’s the source), and he’d get all pissy and shirty.
I pm’d him again. We had a pretty heated argument–it started about atheism, but sprawled all over. Went into mental illness and racism and misogyny and homophobia. Basically, he attributed my pro-labor, feminist, pro-mental health awareness, LGBT-ally, anti-racism stance to being mentally ill because I was atheist and had rejected Jesus.
Also–ironically–he was anti-union and supported Wall Street bankers/ CEO’s getting massive, inequitable payouts because they were, and I quote, “better educated than the rest of us,” and knew more than the rest of us since they’d gone to college, all of which meant they’d earned better wages. When I pointed out that–according to his logic–I was better qualified than him to speak on all of these subjects and he should listen to me, as I’d studied the social and constitutional legal history of the labor, civil rights, feminist, and immigration movements while pursuing my Associates and Bachelors degrees, he told me that was “different.”
In the end, I told him I couldn’t handle it anymore–that it was bad enough when he was spewing hate and ignorance across his own feed, but now he’d started vomiting across my feed for no damn reason, and I couldn’t deal with it. So I blocked him.
The thing was, I didn’t think that was really the end end. Not of an almost 20 year friendship. I guess I thought he’d come to his senses? If not in a few weeks or months, then maybe years? I just sort of figured, someday we’d reconcile … that someday, he’d realize what a hateful bigot he was being, come to his sense, and we’d be okay.
And then, the next thing I knew, he was dead.
So, am I Javert? Should I have been more open-minded? More patient? Willing to engage? Less principled in my stance?
His death is heartbreaking and awful. Sometimes I take out his letters and re-read them. The thing is, I know when I’m mourning him, I’m not actually mourning the man who died; the person I interacted with at the end. I don’t really know that guy.
I’m mourning the boy he was. The friendship we had. The man he might have been, if we lived in a better world, a more forgiving culture, a less unequal society. I mourn the man he never was–the man he never had a chance to be.
But realistically, I wonder, what were my choices? When someone in your social group is a bigot, what are your options? There don’t seem to be many.
- Call them out publicly
- PM them
- Ignore them
Calling them out publicly doesn’t seem to work–even with sources, people are inclined to believe what they want to believe, regardless of the facts. This probably explains the persistence of religion.
PMing them is probably a little better–a private discussion seems a little more likely to facilitate compromise and conversation than a public shaming. I know I certainly respond better when a criticism or concern is delivered considerately and honestly through face-to-face or private communication, and there’s a lot of potential there if both parties can keep their cool and remain respectful and patient despite their differing worldviews.
That said, I think private messages are also minefields. I’ve certainly been in a few situations where I’ve initiated–or responded–to a concern brought up privately, and the discussion seems to be proceeding well and then everything goes south quite unexpectedly, either through a complete cessation of communication, or when the conciliatory tone of written communications abruptly vanishes into all-caps insults as everyone remotely associated with the disagreement is suddenly and embarrassingly looped in through CC.
Which pretty much leaves ignoring, because if you can’t talk calmly about the issue, then it can never be resolved, so you pretty much have to ignore it. Ignoring can go two ways: Ignore the person, or ignore the issue.
Most people choose ignore the issue, which makes sense if you have to work or attend school with them. You can’t choose your coworkers or classmates. A lot of people feel that way about family, too, although I personally disagree, and I don’t think I’m alone anymore on that–more and more, I think, as we’ve adjusted culturally, to the idea of the “love match”–people seem to be shifting in the idea that you can’t choose your family, and accepting that families are, in fact, malleable–that you can choose your family.
The question behind ignoring someone is, I guess, the morality of it? Like, is it moral–if you know someone is a bigot, saying and doing bigoted things, and you’re not required by extraneous circumstances (like work or school) to maintain the relationship–to simply silence their feed, ignore the issue, and pretend it doesn’t exist because it doesn’t effect you specifically? I mean, that doesn’t feel moral. That feels like a cop-out.
The following situations are hypotheticals, exactly because of how it feels/ looks to me, but this is how I view it:
Every year, something awful happens that’s targeted at women, LGBT, people of color, or the mentally ill. These are frequent and tragic news stories. And if I have a known misogynist/ homophobe/ racist/ anti-mental-illness person on my social media feed, at some point I will be stuck with the awareness that X amount of people were murdered because of Y trait, and this bigot in my feed–regardless of whether they’re being quiet, praying for the victims, or spewing victim-blamey bullshit–agrees, fundamentally, with the killer.
So at that point, I can either be quiet and say nothing to “keep the peace,” or I can call them out for promoting and perpetuating bigotry that leads to mass murder. And I feel like if I say nothing–if I’m silent–then as far as the bigot knows, they have my implicit support. So I feel like at the very least, I have to register my objections and unfriend them–I have to do that much. I can’t just tolerate it.
But that’s social media, you say. Social media isn’t real life. True. It’s not. I personally find it difficult to deal with bigots in real life, too–they make me jumpy. I’ve been around a few bigots in the real world, and they say super inappropriate, strange, and disgusting things in public places, like they think that behavior is accepted or acceptable. Like they think they’ll get a pass, or not be called out on it. So when I find out someone holds bigoted views, I pretty much stop voluntarily socializing with them– I don’t want to be in that situation of going somewhere with someone and having them launch into a racist, homophobic, classist rant–assuming that I agree with them, because I’m white and cis and educated. It’s happened. It’s awful.
So yeah, part of me is a little scared about the long-term repercussions of pushing the pause button on the conversation, hoping that someday we can resume it, only to learn it’s been abruptly and permanently terminated. But the other part of me feels like … I dunno. That it’s not healthy to expose oneself to hate. That it’s not healthy to condone it.
I believe change is possible. I know it is, because I used to be a conservative mormon with some very ignorant ideas on feminism, workers rights, and racial equality, but thanks to curiosity, patient teachers, and lots of reading … well, I changed. So obviously I believe change is possible, and I have to accept such change is possible in others.
But. I also recognize such change comes from within, and cannot be forced. If someone busts out all bigoted-ass, I can respond with sources on why their reasoning is ahistorical, anti-science, illogical, and factually unsound … but all I can do is provide the sources. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. After that, their ignorance and hatred is a choice: You can’t force change.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I don’t mind it when people disagree with me. I sometimes get this impression, with all these complaints of “p.c.” culture (which is, what, oh, I don’t like having to be polite to people, boo-hoo) that people think if there’s any disagreement whatsoever with a sensitive feminist progressive liberal-type, that she’ll just willy-nilly cut all contact. But, I mean, I disagree with my friends on plenty of things. For example, I’ve got friends who:
- Think eating meat is gross/ bad/ morally wrong
- Believe in conspiracy theories (such as JFK assassination CIA plot)
- Believe in the power of crystal healing, chakras, fortune telling, etc.
- Believe it is possible to “de-toxify” your liver
- Think GMOs are evil and will kill us all
- Think Catan is a dumb game and Monopoly is cool
- Believe in an imaginary invisible friend who grants them wishes
- Think having more than one kid is awesome
- Think having pets is not awesome
Obviously, I disagree with all these things, but whatever. Live and let live. It’s not like they’re racist homophobic misogynists, right? That’s my line in the sand. I can disagree with a person, even about topics like the relative value of religious institutions in society and whether or not there is a god.
I can disagree with a person regarding political questions such as their stance on taxes or their attitudes toward fair wages, and while I may come away with a lower opinion of their intelligence (depending on the arguments they make), I will probably not actually think less of them ethically and morally, because I understand that these are complex topics not generally discussed or well taught in our society.
But when someone is a bigot, I just can’t handle that. Like, at all. I see them differently. It doesn’t even matter that I’m not gay or trans* or a person of color, or if I never speak up about my own mental health issues, they’ll never know. All that matters, upon hearing any transphobic, racist, sexist, mental health, or gay slur come out of someone’s mouth is knowing that individual is someone who views a good portion of the people on this planet as lesser. Less than. For nothing more than being born a little differently than them.
It changes them forever in my eyes, and for me, at least, changes the relationship as well. I can no longer relate to them in the same way, and I really do think it’s an act of mental self-preservation to go low or not contact with anyone who discriminates based on mental illness, race, gender, and sexuality. It’s too emotionally and psychologically draining to pretend it doesn’t matter, to try to ignore.
It’s easy not to give a shit about random, pointless, harmless beliefs. It’s the ones that matter–the ones about human rights violations, the ones that people take with them when they choose which charities to donate to (or not to donate to), which political organizations to fund, which politicians to support. Those are the ones that are so fundamental, so core to the well-being of a people and a nation, that when I learn someone is the type of person who can justify limiting the human rights of another individual based on an arbitrary set of socially-defined standards like race, gender, sexuality, or nationality … yeah. I just can’t. I can’t deal with that shit.