I am not offering quick one-off solutions to anything, and remain highly skeptical of anyone who does. I offer an unusual perspective and open conversation, not answers. As such, I have some suggestions that I both aim for in my own writing, and would like others to consider before commenting. None of these are deal-breakers, I won’t block someone for them, they are just ideas for fostering deeper conversation:
- Avoid memes. Funny pictures with snarky comments might be enjoyable, and occasionally make a point, but I’d rather see involved discussion.
- Related, but somewhat different: explain yourself. Don’t assume that anyone else understands your perspective and experience. Talk a bit about what leads you to and informs your opinion or disagreement. Many times, people are operating from vastly different world views and understand things very different. Assumptions can make an ….oh, you know. I promise you, as a transwoman, I walk through a very different world than my cis friends, often to the point where I feel like we are speaking two different languages. We can understand each other, deeply and fully, but it takes work and time. Don’t necessarily assume we all have the same assumptions about how the world works. Because of our various intersectionalities, this is an assumption which is unlikely to be true, even among people who agree on almost anything.
- Tone matters. I slip up on this one a lot, I admit, but I plan on proceeding with care. I get the righteous anger – I am filled with it. Ditto for the frustration and pain. A lot of people have a lot of strong feelings, myself included. My own personal experience is that giving those emotions unbridled expression tends not to help. Strive to be reasonable. I hope to, and I freely urge anyone and everyone to call me out when I fail. I expect I will, and I expect you will. We are all human. If someone genuinely goodhearted, not acting out of meanness or malice doesn’t get a point, take the time to ask where they are coming from, why they see the world that way. Many times, people cling to untrue beliefs because those beliefs are comforting, and fit in well with a larger worldview, which they deem necessary to navigate the world. Facts are facts, but the border between facts and opinion is sometimes blurrier than we recognize. It is also often the case that untrue myths serve a legitimate purpose on a personal level and speak real truths about underlying anxieties and experiences. Searching for truth and common ground (oh, really!) requires more than sharing stories – it requires understanding what those stories mean to the individual. Sometimes, it’s about more than surface facts, it’s about perspectives.
- Forgive. We won’t reach any deeper understanding through fear and anger, even when those emotions are valid. Out in the world, enemies and policies are real and affect people’s lives in real ways. I get that. Here, at least for a while, let’s all try to rise above it. The goal is for all of us to transcend our own bubbles. Treating each other as intelligent adults with valid views seems a better way to achieve this than facing off in anger, as much fun as it may be at times. Here, at least, let us try to rise above ourselves, and move with purpose and beauty.