This essay is by Swati Nair, originally posted on Facebook, dedicated by her to the public domain and reposted here so that it might become publicly available.
A lot of times people have called me "weird" and abnormal and not all of them have meant it in a good way. To say that it hasn't affected me at all would be a lie but mostly, I understand that people mean well.
When someone says "That's so gay", I am sure that more often than not, people aren't actually being homophobic. When people use the default label of "he", I'm even surer that they might not always be sexist. However, would it be too much to ask people to not say certain things if they really offend a group of people? How many of us make jokes based on religion and castes? I'm sure that someone who subscribes to the stereotype that all Hindus are Hare Krishnas who shave their heads and dance all day to "bhajans" doesn't really hate Hindus. How many Hindus would take kindly to this assumption anyway? I don't think a lot of them would like it very much. I'm sure that there are people who would have shrugged and said "I wouldn't care" upon reading this but imagine if this worldview were a lot more prevalent and popular and derogatory than it already is... what if people said this to you so often that you wouldn't be able to swing a dead cat across an alley without hitting at least three of such people? Might get to your nerves a little bit eh? Gay people might get tired of people doing this to them too.
To you and me, it's not going to take a lot of effort to stop saying "That's so gay". For gay people to actually fit into the society and be treated as "normal"... it's going to take a lot longer. We can't call their lifestyle "alternative" or "abnormal". There's nothing "right" or "wrong" about being gay or transgendered or being genderfluid. These things are amoral. How is it right or wrong to be a crossdresser? How is it right or wrong for either men or women to have safe, legal, consensual sexual relations with anyone they want?
Why should we, as adults who understand sex, make value judgments upon people who have several sexual partners and call them "sluts" or "whores"? Why is it demeaning to be a sex worker? Why should someone be treated differently because of what they do for a living (mostly when they have no choice in what they do and even if it is their preference to be a sex worker)?
People say they have issues with "accepting" these ideas. People say that they don't want their children to grow up in such a manner. "I can't accept a gay son." "I can't accept my daughter marrying a guy of her choice, especially if he has different religious beliefs" "I can't accept a transgendered child"
Here's what you HAVE accepted:
- A world where bribery is alright.
- A world where people get killed and we shrug because we're too numb to care. So we've accepted the fact that people get killed by other people, mercilessly.
- A world where women need to think twice and thrice before stepping out in the dark for fear of getting raped.
- A world where students study in some very horrible educational systems where speaking up might cost them their entire education and in consequence, their career and life.
- A world where dishonesty and hypocrisy is alright but complete truths are not.
- A world where we are required to suspect people's intentions and motives when they're actually being nice for fear of being duped and/or killed.
I could go on, really but we aren't afraid of raising our children in this world. I hear arguments saying "We accept these things because we can't do much about them". So if you COULD do something, you would? I think that we COULD do stuff like not saying things that are offensive to people. So why aren't we doing it?
People are not born callous. The world makes us callous. This can change. We can go back to what we were. We can actually make a small effort to understand the world around us. Understand people who are disabled - physically or mentally, understand people who seem different but really just have varied preferences (gay or trans folk aren't "different" or "abnormal"), understand that "gender" is complicated and that people don't really fall into two blanket categories of male and female -- and that it is OKAY to be that way, understand that women are not weak and that "Don't be such a girl" can actually be offensive and that it is okay for people to be offended by that because of obvious reasons. Understand that these "gender roles" are useless and unnecessary.
We've accepted gore, violence and self-harm. It's just a very big excuse for us to say that "we can't accept" things as they are. We're programmed to care, not to afflict pain intentionally. It will take a LOT of effort on our parts to actually make small changes and not say certain things and a humongous effort to actually not FEEL (instead of just not saying) about issues like we do already.
Is all the effort worth our time and energy? Let's see... it just might result in a better world than what we have already. It can make the society a better place. It can make people feel a little less crappy. We might not be able to stop corruption and war and all the fighting in the world but we can at least create a situation where it's not awkward to be seemingly different.
We can create a world where all of us can stop worrying about being judged all the time.
For ourselves. For our children.
Acceptance is where it all starts.