Dear straight cisgender white friend,
I know you’re not racist, or homophobic, or sexist, or xenophobic, or transphobic, consciously ableist, or a full-fledged bigot. I know you mean well. I know you; I know the way you fall silent when I say “white people” or “cisgender people” or “the straights.”
I have spent the last eight years of my life navigating our conversations without getting too controversial. Without bringing up my many gripes with you — more specifically with the group of people you fall into.
I don’t know how to put it nicely. Perhaps there’s no nice way to put it, but it’s a confrontation that needs to happen; you look like, talk like, and act like my oppressor.
And, dear friend, this world is built around you. Every system is built for your survival and success. Every. Single. One.
Unfortunately for me my very identity makes me too political, too controversial. My very identity throws me into a life where, in order to succeed, I will have to trade in pride for acceptance. I know this doesn’t make sense to you, so I’ll put it in simpler terms.
In order for me, a queer person of color, to succeed in the traditional sense, I will have to strip myself of my identity. I will have to, every morning, remember to leave my identity labels at home before I leave for school or for work. I will have to, every day, remind myself to bite my tongue and hold my fire. I will, one day, become desensitized and will have learned to stomach the very actions and words that target me and my own.
One day further down the line I will have learned to stop myself from speaking out. My success is contingent on my ability to be complicit.
And I have already been complacent for far too long.
I have spent years in history classes where I learn your history instead of mine; your knowledge of the history of America will feel complete without the AIDS crisis or the Civil Rights Movement, or the LA riots or Stonewall. I, on the other hand, will always feel like there is a piece missing.
Dear friend, when we live in a world with bigotry, I cannot afford to settle for the bottom line. I have to consciously speak out against it to ensure that my people are not denied what they deserve: respect and rights. For me that means being constantly plugged into the news cycle, it means having countless tabs open tracking legislation, it means I have written so many letters to senators that I have lost count.
The funny thing is, until now, I didn’t grasp that I had not been holding you to the same standard. I guess that’s how double standards work.
But now I’m holding you to the standard I hold myself to: stop being silent and complicit. Not being a bigot isn’t enough — it will never be enough, because by not calling out bigotry and not refusing bigots spaces, you are inadvertently giving them room to grow.
People listen to your voice more than they do mine. Use it.
Your token “diverse” friend
- Featured image taken by the author