This graphic is brought to you by Genderbitch, who describes herself as “Just another pagan, kinky, queer trans chick with disabilities”:
I found the genderbitch blog because of a recent post published there on “calling out” bigoted behavior, and because I’ve been thinking about a recent incident in which I chose not to “call out” a classmate who said something homophobic in front of (but not about) me and a small number of my colleagues. I didn’t say a word when it happened and, upon later reflection and rehashing, decided that even if I could do it again I still wouldn’t speak up.
You know me, right? I don’t have a problem with making enemies, and I have no problem with calling people out when it’s deserved. I even sympathize with the author of Genderbitch when she writes, of her struggle with the idea of “allies”:
I’m not gonna lie, I find the entire concept of an ally to be vile and revolting. Mostly because I think creating an above and beyond the call of duty label for people to just be decent human beings (which is what fighting oppression makes you) gives them more entitlement and a greater capacity to hold their efforts hostage to influence us.
I don’t mind making enemies, and I feel fine about my ability and willingness to stand up against bigoted behavior. Yet I didn’t call out the bigotry when it happened right in front of me. Why?
In part because while the bigotry wasn’t about me, it sort of was about me. I mean, in the sense that anyone who’s paying any attention at all can figure out that there’s something gender-y, perhaps even queer, going on with me. I wear men’s clothes and men’s shoes and I keep my hair very, very short. For example:
If you say something homophobic near me, you’re also saying something homophobic about me, to me, and at me. Which means, in case you were wondering, that I have a right to call you out if I choose to.
In this situation, I didn’t choose to. Because at that moment, I was busy learning that my classmate was at best oblivious and at worst ignorant about gender politics. Because at that moment, it became clear that there was no point in calling out the bigotry–if he hadn’t figured out that he shouldn’t be all gaybashing in front of me already, there was no point in bringing it to his attention. Because his bigoted comment was enough hostility, directed though it was at someone else, for me to bear for one day.
And, most importantly, because my colleagues–who didn’t speak up either–brought it up to me later and asked if we could talk about what we should have done. There wasn’t a question in anybody’s mind that something anti-gay had happened; the question was whether any one of us should have or could have handled it better. My colleagues–all of whom are, to the best of my knowledge, straight.
Straight, but allies. Allies who believe they had a responsibility to speak up against bigotry even though I wasn’t willing to speak up myself.
There will always be bigots, right? What we hope is that there are enough people who abhor bigoted behavior that sometimes it’s not necessary to call bigotry out. Sometimes it’s enough to just turn your back on it.