Question: Strategies to Deal with Ignorance.

Tor asks…

I’m feeling ineffective dealing with trans ignorance. In my circles, GBL is apparently fine, but not T. I’ve tried patient, educational responses to ignorant remarks, but recently I was told to stop being pushy with my opinion as others are entitled to theirs. I’d like to help people to understand that their comments are as discriminatory and unacceptable as racist or homophobic ones. How?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on June 11th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 9 comments »

9 Responses to “Question: Strategies to Deal with Ignorance.”

  1. Dream

    To be honest, I think you answered your own question without realizing it. You just have to tell them blatantly that the remarks they’re making affect you deeply, and that you find them insulting. If at this point they still don’t get it, I would suggest moving on, cut that poison out of your veins. If they truly don’t honor your way of life, and they don’t honor you, or respect you enough to even attempt to understand, what kind of friends are they?

    This is how I would handle it, I hope it helps in some way.


  2. Als

    I think maybe Dream is right… The first thing I noticed about your question was that you said “help people to understand” and I thought “wow, how lovely and compassionate”. From that I’d guess that it’s others who are being forceful, and maybe you’ve just been being a little too diplomatic. But then I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to handling other people’s lack of acceptance of me, and that mightn’t be appropriate for everyone.


  3. Dae

    I think Als has a good point. I think it’s wonderful to try to educate people and be diplomatic, and I think there are a lot of benefits to that, but at the same time, I think people are entitled to be upset when people say things that are offensive/ignorant and I think the offending parties should know that that sort of thing is just not down. And maybe telling them that it upsets you will make some of them think (of course, maybe not, but if that’s the case, then maybe it’s time to think about whether or not they’re worth it).

    Personally, I’m generally diplomatic and am willing to explain things to people, especially if I think it might get through to them. But at the same time, I don’t want to give the impression that it’s okay for them to say hurtful things to me. I’m not sure if this is what you’re experiencing, but I’ve come across people who seem to think it’s okay to say prejudiced or hurtful things about LGBT people (or, as in this case, particular segments of them) because it’s “just their opinion/belief,” and then get upset when queer people are offended. People are entitled to their beliefs, even prejudiced or hateful ones, but that doesn’t mean they’re free to voice them without any social repercussions. Sometimes, it’s okay to just say, “That’s really offensive.”


  4. Tor

    Thanks for the ideas so far! A few details that may be worth mentioning:

    1- I’m not visibly genderqueer myself. Though according to Kate Bornstein I’m a gender outlaw, I’d say I’m pretty vanilla when it comes to my gender presentation.

    2- I’m facing the issues I described at work, so I can’t really get away from it as was suggested (though I’d love to!). Relevant or not: my workplace is a hair salon- which is why I write that GBL is totally cool (even expected to a certain extent).

    3- My Diplomatic and positive wording here does not always carry over to my actions/reactions to people. I had time to edit and reword this post (and I did), when people are ignorant I’m not always so tactful.


  5. Kate

    What some of the more assertive transpeople that I’ve met do, in response to this sort of thing, is satirize. If your coworkers have a good sense of humor, it could help you work them around their prejudices by explaining, implicitly, how “-ist” and silly they sound. A prime example of this could be daedsider “Red is Dead” on Youtube. She makes a few very entertaining arguments that deal with beef-headed transphobes.


  6. Danny

    I think the best way to respond to an ignorant comment, at first, is to just say that it’s untrue (for example, if someone says that trans people are just confused, you explain that they aren’t).

    If that discussion reaches a point where nothing new is being said (like it’s going back and forth with people rewording the same ideas) or the other person expresses they want the conversation to end (like saying you’re being pushy about your opinion), then it’s time to just express that you find whatever they said offensive and would prefer they not say it again.

    If you’ve said that clearly and firmly as many times as you can and things haven’t changed, then your last option is to start cutting off communication.


  7. Lexi

    Changing peoples’ minds about important issues like this is something of an art – you need the right balance of persistance and forcefulness, friendly helpfulness and bristling conflict.

    Just do your best, that’s always enough :]


  8. Riley

    First let me give you a bit of background about myself.

    I’m a pansexual genderqueer. I have suffered discrimination from the GL individuals in my circles for being Genderqueer, and for not being “Completely gay”. Some flat out say they don’t believe me on either count. I usually try my best to point out that they have absolutely no right to say things to me that are Biphobic or Transphobic when they are complaining to me about how much homophobia they encounter.

    we all need somewhere we can rest our heads and know that we are loved regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and I think that GLBT communities should be those places, but all too often they are no better than regular society.

    Anyways, I hope you have found the answer.. Good luck!


  9. Naomi

    Riley: Me too. I haven’t found very many lesbians and gay men who are accepting of me as a pansexual genderqueer. All my friends are non-monosexual queers because of this.

    It’s too bad we can’t have mandatory sensitivity training for the GLBT community. I feel like most of the perpetrators are just ignorant and don’t know what they’re saying. Everyone talks about homophobia, but no one ever talks about biphobia or transphobia.


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