Thursday, September 18, 2008

Race. Sex. And all that easily offends.

I can't count how many times I've used a word or said a sentence that set people off.
I've been accused of being racist, sexist, ignorant, spoiled, irresponsible, inappropriate.

These accusations hurt. I've had many late night conversations and lost friendships just trying to figure out the why of it.

Here is me:

I'm most happy with these classic snippets from the back and forth between my old roommate and I-

R- Way to date yet another hardcore vegan lesbian with a mullet

Me- Whatever, at least I wasn't raped.
R- Whatever, at least my parents wanted me.

I come from the middle class. My family has money they earned themselves. They used to live in absolute poverty. I like to talk about sex during dinner. I enjoy saving money for lavish vacations. I am lucky and I know it.

But at the same time, I'm not white. I'm middle eastern, which means when I fill out forms- I'm OTHER. I'm the margin of the marginalized. I've had eating disorders and suicidal tendencies. Lived in shitty neighborhoods and been bussed into a private wasp school. I'm queer and I was raised muslim. I don't even EXIST in Iran (right, because Iran has no gays!).

I never mean to downplay others suffering by making commentary that they might find offensive (which I seem to do often enough that it's become an issue) but I also think the approach people have taken to remedy this situation is wrong. I know I'm not an asshole, but it sure seems like I am when the offended call my new friends and warn them that I'm racist, etc.

Here's what I think: we all need laugh about things. Dear closeted, racist, trans, race conscious, sex positive, sexist, assholes and sweethearts- we need to talk.

Next time I offend someone, I don't want to find out via being defriended on myspace.

A few examples:

I grew up in a community where my best friends were white jews, bahai chinese, bulgarian atheists, bolivian this that and the other. There was a class system that didn't correlate to any race system, and so I like to think I've never (consciously) treated anyone differently due to race. If I'm guilty of any discrimination, it's the shallow aesthetic kind.

Coming out of the mini-utopia, it's hard to understand what everyone else's experiences are. No doubt I've read about it- but maybe not enough. let me hear your story. I'll tell you mine.

Since when did educating someone become a burden? since when is explaining yourself offensive? How can I be expected to know what offends you?

Last night we were drinking wine in my backyard with a few friends (one trans, FTM) and the two other people kept referring to him by the female pronoun. He COULD have been offended, but instead he explained himself, The curious straight southern bio-dude got to ask questions (some I didn't know the answers to).

I think it's amazing when someone can candidly answer such intimate questions about wanting to have a penis or not or a surgery or not or how the american psychological system needs to label you crazy for a year before you can do anything of the sort.

this honest dialogue, this is what I strive for.

thanks for everyone who ever took the time to explain things to me, instead of brushing off my lack of knowledge as a personality flaw.



Miss Stephanie Rae said...

I believe that is exactly what life is about- honest dialogue, learning from others and explaining yourself so others can learn. If no one is learning, than no one is living.

I have an awkward craving of wanting to meet your family. Next visit- Moni, you, &I will climb a roof with a bottle of wine and talk.

Irina Sarnetskaya said...

I just had an "honest dialogue" experience too!

In my journal is written one question to ask, a non leading question that asks to know about the perpetrator:

"Why did you think that it would not offend me?"

Anonymous said...

My roommate last year and I were totally like that. We'd get into faux shouting matches when we were bored.

This is Space Station Mir btw.