Topic for 11th October 2015: Educating the un-
8pm BST, Sunday, using #NBFolks Twitter hashtag. 😀
Side note: This week’s discussion stems from some personal feelings and questions by mod Lex, and as such, I’m very aware of putting my own thoughts out there as some kind of be-all and end-all opinion piece. Please rest assured that it is the exact opposite of my intention to belittle anyone’s experiences, feelings or abilities or to say that my way of thinking is the only one, nor even that my way is right. I’ve known it from the start, but this week really highlights to me that I need other voices in the questions and discussion startng. Please, please consider signing up to help me make #NBFolks the best, safest community it can be.
I’ve noticed a bit of a split in the nonbinary community (goodness, that sounds awful. Please bear with me. I will do my best to explain…)
I believe it’s fair to say that the majority of us would like there to be greater visibility and understanding of nonbinary genders. However, while some write articles and press for publicity, others seem to feel it’s not their responsibility to educate anyone else.
I can see both sides. It’s tiring and frustrating having to explain yourself again and again, and I’ve personally often worried that by doing so, I might risk coming across as bolshy, pushy, or a one-track pony (…that is, a one-trick pony with a one-track mind). That said, I’ll lay out my cards here; this is my personal opinion, and I do respect yours, but this is how I feel: if every one of us doesn’t speak up and tell our own story, how can we expect cis folks to ever understand?
I know, though, it isn’t safe for some of us to speak up. Whether they’re in an unfortunate social or family situation, or due to a triggering past event or mental health and personal wellbeing issues, some people just can’t explain it to anyone and everyone who asks. I get that. I really, really do understand that, and I respect it. But if you can explain, if it isn’t detrimental to your own health or wellbeing to do so… why not? (A genuine question!)
Yes, it’s tiring. It’s frustrating. It’s often upsetting. And some days you just won’t have the spoons to do it. But I personally can’t understand people who, every time, will say “Google it”. (There are some truly amazing info resources out there, but not nearly so many for us as there are for, say, binary trans people.)
None of us can, or should, speak for all of us. But we can tell our own stories, and most of us have some academic understanding of the wider picture which we can perhaps explain with a careful ‘but this isn’t my experience, and you should do some more research on your own, if you’re interested in supporting me’ (or whatever words you prefer). Maybe provide some resources you personally feel are helpful and informative. Work with the person who wants to understand.
I’ve come across relatively few people who seem to shut down all questions, but they do happen, and I personally struggle to understand them (if it’s not for health or wellbeing reasons, of course, which I do not presume to understand in any case where this has come up). Our discussion tonight is about educating the uneducated and misinformed. How far should we go? And is there ever a good reason to just tell them to get lost?
As ever, the questions are just starting points…
Q1. Do you tend to answer questions about your gender? To what extent?
Q2. Do you think nonbinary folks have a responsibility to explain this thing that’s strange and new to many cis people, or should we not have to?
Q3. How far is too far, when it comes to helping someone understand your gender? What would make you say “Go away and look it up yourself”?
Q4. How can we protect ourselves from the exhaustion and frustration we might feel in explaining it?
Q5. Do you start discussions about gender, or wait for others to come to you? Encourage them, discourage them?
Q6. How can we best help others to understand? What skills, abilities or external resources would help you?