Content Warning: This writing tackles bigotry, hate and ignorance. I give a further warning along the way for language that is homophobic, transphobic, body shaming and racist. To be clear I do not hold these views but the language is used to show what I grew up hearing.
Earlier this week I shared Love Takes Strength. As I do with most of my photographic posts I simply paired my images with a quote that I felt to be relevant to the images. I have discussed before how for me this is another type of storytelling. In my head the images I’m sharing and the quote I pair with them are always combining to tell my readers something.
Sometimes folks comment and I’m amazed that they have interpreted things exactly how I had intended them. Other times they are interpreted differently than I had imagined they would be and that’s okay too. Either way is fine by me because like most creatives my intention is to make visitors to my blog feel something, whether that’s a brain feel, a heart feel, or a sexy feel, so long as I don’t bore you then we are all winning.
Rarely does the response I get move me to expand on why I chose the words I did to accompany my pictures, but the quote I used for the previously mention post has definitely got my brain cogs whirring. The quote for those who have yet to read it was as follows …
To hate is an easy lazy thing
But to love takes strength
That everyone has
But not all are willing to practice
Words by Rupi Kaur
I chose that quote during pride month for a reason. The world always has something hateful going on it, but every now and again hate drifts closer to home and over the past few months that has happened a lot. Before I continue with my thoughts I want to share some words and how they are defined by the dictionary, because for sure I think some people do not understand their meanings.
Hate – feel intense dislike for
Bigot – a person who is intolerable towards those holding different opinions
Coward – a person who is contemptibly lacking in the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things
It seems I may be alone in seeing hate as an easy, lazy way of being, I am going to tell you exactly why I think this is true though and honestly, it might not be polite, but I think I am past caring.
CW: racial slurs, homophobic and body-shaming language in the next few paragraphs
When I was little we had a local corner shop run by a chap called Sam. He was a nice guy, friendly, polite and super helpful but as my stepdad would point out ‘a paki’. Now geographically I very much doubt this was an accurate slur, but he had brown skin and an accent so it was a fair word to call him apparently. My stepdad was without a shadow of a doubt racist. I grew up hearing all the words you can possibly imagine using as a slur for people of colour.
He was also fat-shaming and homophobic. I suspect he had many more opinions I’d disagree with but these are the main ones I recall growing up alongside. My Mum worked in hospitality for a little while when I was little and through that, she worked with a lot of gay men or poofs as my stepdad called them. ‘He’s alright for a poof’ is definitely a phrase I heard more than once. In terms of how he viewed fat people, most specifically fat women, well, they only had to be walking down the street and he’d make a comment about them.
Once we were at the petrol station and he commented something akin to ‘Jesus look at the state of that’ and when I looked it was my teacher. This teacher was sweet and kind but to my dismay also bullied by her students. I remember trying to tell him she was lovely and that seeming to matter very little to him.
I mention these things not to glorify them, I am actually sick to my stomach to have them on my blog at all and I am sorry if they caused anyone upset, but I think it is important to show you the type of langue I grew up around. Language that I at times I used myself because as a small child I had no idea that ‘going to the paki shop’ was something I should not be saying.
As I grew older I realised I did not hold the same views as my parents in many ways, I am far more liberal than all of my parental figured combined. I have had hard conversations over the years as I have voiced my differing opinions and I still haven’t come anywhere close to experiencing what marginalised folks have to go through to fight for their right exist peacefully.
I know I will have people either in my comments or muttering to themselves as they read this read to defend why they’re not racist, homophobic, transphobic, body-shaming, misogynistic, bigoted or any of the other awful things most of us don’t want to be. The truth is at some point many of us have been some of these things. I’ve done it myself, I know I have. I know that before I took the time to listen, learn and change my views I said things that were just awful.
It would have all to easy to stick with the views I’d been surrounded with as a child and just said ‘well this is what I’ve always known, so I’m not ‘insert prejudice here’, I’m just a product of my upbring/generation etc’. So yes, I do think hate is an easy lazy thing because so many people take it on board without even questioning whether or not it’s right and then when confronted with information that highlights why they are wrong they refuse the opportunity to grow.
I get why they choose to stay in their bubble, growth is hard. It’s hard to be shown where you have gone wrong, where you have hurt someone and say ‘damn, I fucked up, I’m sorry, let me make it right,’ The instinct is to defend ourselves, to point out how and why we aren’t ‘that way’, the truth is though we do not prove we aren’t racist by having a black friend and having a trans friend doesn’t absolve us of transphobia. To not be those things, amongst others, we have to act. We have to be willing to suffer some discomfort and acknowledge our privilege and we have to consciously do better.
It’s human nature to fear things we don’t understand and that is the root cause of a lot of bigotry. To love all of our fellow human beings, enough to stand alongside side them when the going gets tough sometimes means finding the strength to love in the face of fear.
There have been many times in my life where I have been able to use my voice and my privilege to stand up and tell someone their behaviour and their attitude was disgusting. There have also been many times I chose not to be that voice, sometimes for reasons of personal safety or wellbeing, sometimes to protect my employment and sometimes simply because I wasn’t brave enough to face the backlash of being an ally.
I am not proud of those moments where cowardice won out over action and it would be a lot easier not to acknowledge them. The truth is though I think a lot of people are too cowardly to do what is right, even when they are in a position to do so because the thought of being the target of other peoples hate is unpleasant. How wonderful for us that we are privileged enough to make that choice.
I know I need to do better, to do more. I hope I am doing things that can’t be seen here on the blog or on social media though. As a mother I am raising a son who is already more educated on religion, race and gender than many grown-ups. This is not by luck, I have made choices that surround him with people who I believe will help him grow into a man that is open and welcoming to people regardless of how different they are to him.
He goes to a school where between them the children speak 32 different languages, we live in a culturally diverse part of town and he has even corrected me when I’ve slipped up and expressed something is for girls/boys – ‘Mummy, that’s not right, you’ve always told me things are just things and anyone can enjoy them’ – you know what, Mummy did say that and she absolutely believes that but those views I was taught as a child are deeply ingrained and fighting against them in an ongoing battle.
When faced with the information that highlights our ignorance and bigotry I think it’s easy to assume that we are being told we are a terrible person. Unless you continually show yourself to be a terrible person, there is no reason for this to be the case. You can make a mistake, hell you can make more than one mistake, and still have plenty of time to rectify your behaviour and choose personal growth over staying set in your ways.
You may well think you’ve never said, done or written anything that qualifies as hateful, ignorant or bigoted, I’ve got news for you though, many of us have. Saying you didn’t, especially in the face of someone telling you that you have because they read it and it was hurtful to them, doesn’t make you right, it just makes you look more ignorant. Replying to this post declaring your innocence also won’t make you right, it will just make me think you felt called out and honestly if you feel called out it’s on you to question why that might be.
*Spoiler alert* … If you feel called out it’s because you know your own actions have been shit at some point. This is good, sit with that discomfort and then make some changes, do better, be better and don’t for the love of god defend yourself in my comments section.
After writing all this I have questioned whether or not I should link it to MxNillin’s fabulous month long meme celebrating pride. I even read the rules again to see if I should and I have decided I will and I’m going to tell you why.
The sex blogging community likes to pride itself on being openminded and accepting, the truth is that for many folks that means openminded to and accepting of the things that sit right with them. I wrote The Pain of Tolerance a while back because the comments I both read within the community and on my blog made me feel like LGBTQIA+ folks were just being tolerated and not genuinely welcomed.
I felt that way as a queer bisexual woman, with a fairly popular and well-received blog, with posts that folks kindly share fairly often and leave nice comments on. If I see and feel the pain of merely being tolerated, and can see the ignorance and bigotry in your words surrounding my thoughts then I can’t even begin to imagine how ostracised other LGBTQIA+ folks have who for want of a better term are ‘less palatable’ to certain people because let’s be honest that’s what a lot of this is about.
I fit into many people’s comfort zones quite nicely, I’m often alternative enough to make people feel like they’re doing well with acceptance, but not so different that I challenge their beliefs. I’m also an easy-going people pleaser that hates confrontation, so it’s rare that I make waves big enough to make them feel like I threaten their bubble of ignorance. I don’t want to be that person. If you can’t accept the beautiful, amazing bloggers in this community that challenge you and highlight your mistakes, then don’t bother accepting me either.
For anyone who pays close enough attention to social media, you will wonder how I can feel that way and still be following some of the people that have really not supported the LGBTQIA+ bloggers in the way we’d like. The truth is I want to see what they’re saying. If they want to hide their shitty ways from me they will have to block me. As it stands it has been quite informative seeing some of the comments people have made when they know they are not being watched by certain people.
I am more than happy to receive comments on this post but be warned I WILL NOT under any circumstances publish hateful comments, this blog is a safe space and I wish for it to remain that way. I also have no interest in being bombarded with anything that falls into the below statements …
Don’t tell me you’re not homophobic, while actively hating on queer people.
Don’t tell me you’re not racist whilst denying white privilege exists.
Don’t tell me you’re body positive when you only comment positively on slim bodies.
Don’t tell me you’re not transphobic while continuously misgendering my friends.
Don’t tell ME you want to learn while ignoring the people who are best able and also willing to teach you.