I sit here, adrenaline rushing through my veins, leg tapping uncontrollably as I write, delete, write, delete, write, delete comment after comment. A neighborhood group has posted about Target’s new name tags including their employees preferred pronouns and the vitriol being spewed leaves me aghast. Person after person cracks jokes, laments the downfall of America, all because people want to be correctly identified in their place of employment. A gesture of respect that costs absolutely nothing.
That’s what I get, I mutter to myself, for reading the comments. I delete yet another comment and step away from my computer, telling myself walking away is self care. I get across the room before I stop, slapped in the face by the realization that turning a blind eye to these messages of hate and ridicule is not self care. It’s self indulgence.
My life is full of privilege. I present as a white, straight, cis woman. The comments I read, the comments I ignore, are not meant for me. They are not meant to cut me down, to make me feel small and insignificant. They aren’t meant to ridicule me and yet I’m the one who can’t handle them? I’m the one left floored and silent? I’m the one who walks away and calls it self-care? That is privilege at it’s finest and I am better than that.
These are the times I need to live up to my fervent desire to be an ally. Not because trans folx can’t stand up for themselves, but because they shouldn’t have to do it alone. Because if I’m tired and hurting from reading these comments that aren’t even aimed at me, how must it feel to read them every single day knowing people in your community hate, fear, and ridicule who you are at your very core. I’ve been an ally in name but not in spirit and certainly not in practice.
So I comment. I respond. I engage in dialogue and it goes about as well as one would expect. And I’m probably doing it wrong. I’m probably not saying enough. I know I’m probably making mistakes, but if I want to call myself an ally, I have to try. I have to try, I have to learn, and I have to improve.
My hope is that by responding, someone in my community will see that they are not alone. That they are cared about and respected. That they don’t have to do all the fighting alone. That there are people out there willing to say trans-phobic jokes are wrong and hurt real people with real feelings.
There are spaces where not reading the comments is self care for me. Those spaces are the ones where my identity is being attacked and ridiculed. Those are the spaces where on the days I can’t take another fat-phobic joke, I rely on allies, not to speak for me, but to support and affirm the words I’ve been screaming for so long. I rely on allies to help me feel like the world isn’t completely against me and to give me a seed of hope. Now it’s time for me to stop being a shitty ally and extend the same respect to others. It’s time to read the comments.