Straight Up | Issue 19
Words people have called me, words I’ve called myself
In this column I thought I’d give myself some space to reply to words people have called me, and I suspect many other queer/trans folks too. These are words some of us internalise and begin to use to describe ourselves. I am writing this column because often I haven’t been able to respond when someone has used these words against me, or I haven’t been in a space where I can see why it is important that I don’t use them against myself.
“I can’t deal with this. You’re too emotional.”
Guilty as charged. Often I find people say things like this when they want to excuse themselves from engaging deeply with an issue, or someone’s experience of pain arising from an issue. They also use it to shut down people whose responses are deemed “too emotional”. This is a strategy that has often been used to shut down women and people of colour. For example: yes, I might be pissed off at being treated like shit and want to talk about this, and yes, it might be an emotional conversation.
“Calm down, you’re overreacting.”
Similar to the above. Why is it my responsibility to be calm? A better question would be: why you are so uncomfortable with me being angry or upset? What does this expectation for cool, calm dialogue conceal? Who does it privilege?
“You’re so PC.”
Every time I hear this one I automatically reframe the sentence in my head as: “I authorise myself not to be mindful about how what I say and how I say it impacts on others.” This rhetorical strategy is insidious. It loops any opposition back to silence, which will of course be automatically delegitimised because it is PC.
This reveals more about the speaker than the person being addressed.
“You’re such a kill-joy.”
This is one of my personal faves. If I am a killjoy simply for pointing out that one person’s version of happiness doesn’t actually make me happy at all, or actively depends on my silence or oppression, then I am happy to own that! I am deeply suspicious of the ways in which expectations to be HAPPY all the time suffocate opposition and keep current power arrangements in place.