Apologies for this late final response, but this New Year is already insanely busy, and it’s not even three weeks old.
Me: At no point, anywhere in my piece, do I compare “gender slurs” and “racial slurs.”
Again, I apologize. I leapt to a conclusion.
I did so not without reason or justification, however. And from my not uncommon viewpoint. And, frankly, it’d be naive to assume that many if not most Black people wouldn’t make that same leap. Not all Black people experience gender bias from the rest of the world, but almost all Black people experience racial bias, so when the word “slur” comes up, OF COURSE, that’s where it would naturally lead. Commonly shared viewpoints happen in every sector of humanity — there’s no monolith of any group, but certain group characteristics is more likely than others (one can easily and correctly assume that most Black people wouldn’t want a white person to run up to them and call them the N-word . . . no monolith there, just a predictable, LIKELY group characteristic). Which doesn’t make said leap imprecise, but it’s hardly going to be uncommon or difficult to understand — especially from someone who’s experienced racial slurs or both racial and gender slurs.
If I say: “My grandmother died at the hospital today,” and before I elaborated that she passed away peacefully, dozing off while visiting a friend who was a patient — if you then automatically jumped to the conclusion that she died of sickness while herself a patient in the hospital . . . would your jump be considered odd or difficult to understand by anyone? I doubt it. It wasn’t the correct conclusion, but in almost ANY similar circumstances, it would have been.
Not every mental shortcut in every situation is wrong. And some shortcuts are very frequently correct. Mine wasn’t, in this case, so I apologize.
In fact, my piece has nothing to do with either topic. You’ve made an unwarranted leap from my use of the term “hate crime” to the topic of “racial slurs.” That leap is yours, not mine. You read that into my words because they are — quite literally — not there. There is LITERALLY nothing in my piece about race. NOTHING. Nada. Zip.
The leap was incorrect and inaccurate, but not unwarranted — there’s a difference, practically and semantically. My experiences and reality color my perceptions. From THAT POV, my leap wasn’t at all unwarranted. Racism is real and it is INTENSE and it is ALL THE TIME for me and others. If someone says “slur,” and I or someone who experiences it adds a “racial” (or “ethnic,” because until very recently, even without those modifiers, it was commonly accepted that “slur” meant “racial/ethnic slur”), that seems unwarranted to you, and pulled out of the air? It has no basis in reality? It’s out of left field and has nothing to do with anyone’s anything? Do you find it odd that a Black person would make that leap or read “slur” as shorthand for “racial slur,” the kind of slur we suffer MOST, no matter their gender, or sexual orientation, or religion, or sex? After the past . . . several centuries? Does the shock of my initial conclusion startle you? Does it REALLY?
Well, whether it does or doesn’t, jumping to conclusions isn’t living a best life for anyone (shortcuts often lead to long delays — misunderstandings, biases, and worse), but this jump isn’t across the Grand Canyon and it doesn’t lead to Narnia. It’s across a crack in the sidewalk that leads down a well-trod path many folks walk every minute of every day. Can you really not see how my particular conclusion can be reached, in light of history and the present? Does my jump seem so outlandish and odd to you? Or my hurt over what I perceived as a callous lumping together of unique pains? Do you get that THE PAIN BLACK PEOPLE AND OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR EXPERIENCE CONSTANTLY, even when it’s not purposely dumped on us, has been dumped so often, it can be dangerous to give dumpers the benefit of the doubt no matter how well they mean or what they mean? That despite your best efforts, a little more care and consideration for that response from a Black or POC reader could have easily predicted how “slur” would be and IS COMMONLY taken? And that with a little more precision or clarification in your word choice could have avoided that misassumption?
Have you never noticed that experience colors reality and perception — whether that’s convenient or not — and that conclusions based in experiences are right far more often than they aren’t?
Again, you aren’t obligated to get why I made that leap or to even try and get it, but I don’t understand why you seem surprised that I or any Black person might make it. Whether you like it or not, what I read into your article is experience-informed perception AND REALITY for MANY people. Not just Black people. Dreams of semantics and ideal shoulds from an ivory tower, where every word and phrase means only EXACTLY it’s dictionary definition and is never a cover or umbrella-term or euphemism for something similar or larger won’t change that, even if they should. No matter how high-minded and precise you aim to be with your vocabulary, not everyone can live in that unrealistically pure state. Words mean not only what they strictly mean, but what they commonly mean and commonly imply, what is commonly deduced and inferred from them, and what they could possibly stand for. Sometimes, “what they could possibly stand for” is a leap that literally saves lives in harsher, less ideal realities and situations.
Reality influences perception and vice versa, ‘round and ‘round. Not an excuse, but it is the truth and I’m baffled — and disheartened and overwhelmed — that that seems to surprise and dismay you. That of all the places where a potential shared understanding might fall down between two strangers with some common interests and maybe experiences, “experience shapes perception and reality/vice versa” is the place where yours and my potential shared understanding seems to stall.
I stand by my assertion that (for me!) intentionally misgendering a person is akin to a hate crime.
INTENTIONALLY? Agreed. But someone making a faux pas while trying to be inclusive or supportive, and they get it wrong without meaning harm? I don’t agree that THAT needs to be labeled, should be labeled, or that it’s helpful if that’s labeled a hate crime. I understand that an intended slur and an accidental one have similar results, but there’s a reason there’re different words for “murder” and “manslaughter.” Same results, but very different motives. In both cases, gender slurs and causing another’s death, the cause/motivation matters in the short and long term. And I think that, too, is a subject and discussion that has merit and practical value. That, like the problem of inclusivity attempts that go badly awry, deserves exploration. And consideration of possible alternatives that show consideration and respect for people’s gender without de facto demanding that they share parts of who they are when they might not want to.
“Akin.” Not “is.” “Akin” meaning “of similar character” not “exactly the same as.”
And that’s a comparison. Positive claim of kinship means you made a comparison, at some point. The entire article is predicated on your comparison of a thing that isn’t commonly likened to another thing. You propose that they are the SAME THING, misgendering and hate crimes. That’s not a commonly held perception. You had to make a comparison and show us that you had, for the purpose of the article. Whether you’re showing difference, kinship, or sameness, comparisons do and need to happen.
Also, seeming to hang one’s rhetorical hat on semantics and encapsulated semantic coups de grace— while avoiding a deeper and not unrelated concern raised during an argument — doesn’t imply, nor should one reasonably infer, a good faith claim or argument, or good intentions. Someone says: “This is what I’m hearing/fearing and it’s hurtful,” and your response amounts to: “Clearly you don’t know the precise meaning of these several words”. . . ?
There’s a difference between someone whose argument has been misheard or mis-taken, saying: “that’s not what I meant, let me clarify” and “clearly you don’t know the precise meaning of these several words.”
Hanging one’s hat on semantics is that second one, and it implies (and can also easily be inferred as) disregard for the POV of someone who yes, maybe got it wrong, but actually WANTS some sort of clarification and dialogue — maybe even accord, if it can be reached. I came into this honestly, and wanting those things — clarification and dialogue. Maybe even reassurance that even if you didn’t agree with or fully understand my POV, you could understand why I would have it and that it was valid based on life experience. Worth consideration and keeping in mind, not rhetorical dismissal. And even if that pipe-dream didn’t happen, I at least, wanted you to know that the possibility that my POV is NOT a unicorn is extremely likely.
I can’t know your intentions, but I accept that I took the stated thrust of your argument imprecisely and incorrectly. I didn’t take your words as you and Merriam-Webster meant them — made a leap I perhaps didn’t need to. But for me, it’s not a leap. It’s not even a half-step. It simply IS. And not once have you addressed the real concerns that color the gender issues of people of color. OF people for whom being a gender minority is the tip of a huge-ass iceberg and maybe the LEAST OBVIOUS AND IMPACTFUL ONE. I understand you weren’t speaking of racial slurs for your part, but that’s what I, as a reader, brought to this article. What a lot of readers can and will bring to this article. Not dishonestly, but because that’s our reality, and reality colors everything. Perception, reaction . . . reality even and especially controls REALITY. So, dismiss wider or “tangential” perspectives with semantics if you wish— that’s your right. A racially angled perspective on your article wasn’t what you were courting in writing it. But I would ask that you not diminish, distract from, or utterly dismiss a racially or ethnically angled POV with semantics simply because you don’t share or agree with it, or have no interest in hashing it out.
Your fixation on this statement of personal values, which is only tangential to the central argument in my piece (about the power dynamics of public requests for a person’s gender pronouns) mystifies me.
Yes, I see that. We’re speaking at cross-purposes at this point, and in several stumbling block-ways. I’m probably just recursively banging my head against a brick wall rather than clarifying or resolving anything. So, I think it’s best that I move my own“tangential personal values” and POV on from this discussion, though I mostly agree with your article’s “central argument.”
Simply put, it seems there’s no place or space here for— nor will one be made to include — wider implications or anything of my and others reality that isn’t a de rigueur “AGREE” or “DISAGREE” with your precisely stated/strictly intended central argument. And that’s mine (and others’) reality to bear up under . . . neither unexpected nor uncommon.
But your article is, overall, interesting and thought-provoking. I hope you keep on exploring, pushing the bounds of, and refining its core premise. And arguments in favor of it. Thank you, and good luck.