Monday, November 7, 2011
"Why do you care what other people think?"
No. I can't.
For starters, I'm not a wall of iron. I have human emotions. Keeping important parts of my life secret makes me feel bad and being judged harshly makes me feel very bad. This is not a personal weakness, this is not something for me to grow out of, this is not a challenge I must overcome. Emotional support is a human need.
But getting frowned at is the tip of the iceberg. I don't just need social cceptance for fuzzy-wuzzy reasons. I need it for my livelihood and potentially my life.
For example, I could be fired or kicked out of school if the wrong person learns I'm a sexual deviant--it happens, and "perv" is not a protected class. It doesn't even have to be about direct hatred from the administration; it can also be litigation-fear. I mean, my program has a pediatrics rotation. I don't want to think about the chances parents will be calm and rational if they find out a person with sexual deviancies involving consenting adults was touching their child.
When I was in high school, I got bullied for being unfeminine and dating a girl. It wasn't just words. I had obscenities Sharpied on my clothes, I had beer bottles hucked at my head, I had things stolen from me, I had someone spit in my lunch, and I just got straight-up hit a few times. Once three kids threatened me with Bic lighters, which is a little hilarious in hindsight because with no fuel and tiny lighters I don't think they could have done anything worse than put little scorch marks on me. But I can't just "ignore the haters!" when the haters are threatening to set me on fire.
Here's a positive one. Recently I went to get STI testing, and I went to Planned Parenthood and explained my relationship status--polyamorous and open--to them. They didn't tsk-tsk, didn't lecture, just talked about condom use and swabbed my crotch. Feeling safe there makes it much easier for me to get tested on a regular basis, which is pretty damn important for my health. (Yes, I could overcome this by being a Wall Of Iron. But I shouldn't have to be. Tender-delicate-flower poly people should have the same access to healthcare that tender-delicate-flower monogamous people do.)
These are examples from my relatively comfy middle-class-white-American life and my relatively mild deviancies. Once you get outside that sphere (and sometimes inside it), people are literally killed for doing their own thing and not worrying about what other people think.
Caring what other people think isn't a weakness. Being aware of what other people think, and seeking to change it for greater compassion and understanding, is a god damn survival skill.