Cassandra Keenan

Apathy and silence are luxuries of the privileged

Filed By Cassandra Keenan | December 03, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: prejudice

So, there it was, a perfect chance to fill a glaring silence as my hairstylist and her colleagues snipped away at us customers. I sat in the salon chair thinking, Why yammer about the weather when I have something much more compelling to chew the rag about? So I began discussing a queer event I was going to that day. It was an activism training session, in fact.

Now, I'm no zealot for anything or anyone, and I don't go around gabbing unprovoked about LGBTQ stuff 24/7. But at the same time, when discretion is used, everyday spaces such as salons offer prime opportunities to initiate such chat to help sow the seeds of equality, justice and acceptance. I mean, who needs a stuffy legislative chamber or other government setting when you could be vocal on the front lines of everyday life?

One of the cool things about this approach, I think, is that there is more potential to transcend partisanship and other bias and connect through a common bond with the people around us, regardless of whether they're queer. Sometimes, it's the common bond of oppression. Other times, maybe it's just general humanity.

For instance, I went on to tell my stylist that I was the victim of repeated discrimination and prejudice because I was a queer. I told her that experiences like that, they change a girl for good. I then explained how much I had come to despise bigotry, and how I had grown outraged and frustrated because of my mistreatment. I told her I wanted to channel all that energy into something positive -- something that may improve my life and the lives of others like me. I told her about my ever-growing fire to fight for queer equality so I don't have to be a victim anymore.

Next thing I knew, the Hispanic women next to me who was getting her hair cut chimed in with experiences of her own -- instances of racial prejudice. Then my stylist joined in, citing a time when she herself was the victim of something similar. The conversation blossomed. Awareness was raised. A bond was formed. And the topic of queerness was de-stigmatized in the process.

But it isn't always about chit-chatting while being pampered at the salon. Sometimes it's about quite the opposite: going outside your comfort zone, as well as causing discomfort for others. Namely, sometimes it's about confrontation. Even at the expense of causing a scene. Not violent confrontation, mind you, but calling people out for things that they say and do that might be narrow-minded, abusive, discriminatory or prejudicial. And while I am much more selective about where and when I initiate conversation about LGBTQ rights, I will never, ever back away from a situation where someone needs to be challenged for saying or doing something that's essentially unacceptable.

I think too often, these instances go unaddressed, whether they occur in informal/everyday settings or even places like schools. In fact, two books I recently read (Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School; and Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School) cited research that pointed out frequent instances when teachers and administrators failed to intervene to put a stop to verbal abuse and discriminatory treatment against students at the hands of their peers -- or even other educators.

I personally think that as a trans person, I do not have the luxury of such apathy. Especially in my daily circle of existence. It's my very jurisdiction, after all. If I don't stand up and speak out within it, who will?

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You had me at conversation, but lost me at "confrontation."

First, they key to our equality IS conversation. Until we take responsibility for our equality by creating it with personal appeals to friends, neighbors or "people at the salon," we will not make progress. We will live under the delusion of political efforts and (by default) join the chorus of "one of these days." Thank you for talking to the people that can actually help change our future.

I get lost on the confrontation because why bother? The people you identify are unable to have the "conversation" you spoke of. They are unable to listen, consider and understand - God wont let them. This is the one-third of religious people who are the very "literal interpretation" conservative Christians. They are not worth shaming, blaming or even talking to. The other two-thirds are.

When we respond with "attack" we don't accomplish anything. Plus, when dealing with the reality of "religious beliefs" as our problem, if we attack any religious person - we attack them all. It's like they're all part of the same "family." It's better to seek the liberal and progressive members of that family and marginalize the others - with silence.

Privilieged and stupid.

Don't forget the stupid.

Mo Rage
The blog

That is a good point, Andrew. Yelling at people and getting all in their face won't get anybody anywhere. But please keep in mind that the word confrontation means a bold challenge, not necessarily a hostile challenge. That's the way I intended the word to be interpreted.

Thanks Cassandra,

I understand. I'd just use the word "challenge." It seems a bit more inviting, less aggressive. I think we can still smile while "challenging."

Educational conversations are important but even more important for LGBT individuals wishing to garner support for our issues is friendly socializing. People support friends more than causes.

Remember that other people have issues too. Is discussing same sex marriage really as important as commiserating with a straight friend who just got fired, for example.

And finally remember that the world is not all doom and gloom. It is possible, indeed preferred, to regularly have fun with other people without anyone making a big deal of their personal issues or pet causes. Apologies to the LGBT activists whose heads just blew up upon discovering this from reading my comments.

Yet another example of how trans activists tend to be weirdly fanatical, with a totalitarian bent and a misplaced sense of moral superiority. Only a little commissar in the making could listen to a beauty salon chat about the weather and think that the participants must be a bunch of privileged, benighted fools who need political reeducation.

The author was pampering herself at a beauty salon instead of working for the revolution in Venezuela. How privileged can you get?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 4, 2009 7:38 AM


Excellent point and there are many opportunities in a variety of venues be they coffee houses, volunteer organizations, community watch organizations, churches (if youi are so inclined). I never saw being an out Gay person as something one does with only other Gay people. Similarly LBT persons should bring their liberation and consciousness raising into everyday life.

Not everyone lives in Chicago where I had this luxury to speak comfortably so, like always, be careful out there.

genderqueer riff raff | December 4, 2009 11:57 AM

excuse me, Mark Andrew and any other persons who wants to single out "trans activists" without us, you all would be you wanna start this old bullshit AGAIN go for it you only show your complete ignorance and misogyny - your own privelidge call it challenge , call it whatever WE all are still second class citizens. I am sick of the disrepect shown to the Trans bloggers here. STOP IT ! dammit.
If you have nothing postive to say then move along - the rest of us are fighting for our lives. So check yourselves please. There is rising violence against all of us - calling any activist or person who cares enough to write about our issues who happens to be Trans fanatical makes me ask whose freakin side are you on - there is no excuse anymore for this - EDUCATE yourselves please.And if your life is soo easy you can call activists fanatical i suggest you are a part of the problem , not the solution;