Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"But I'm A Good Person" I can't be homophobic or racist or a little sexist. Right? Because I'm a good person and good people aren't those things.

It doesn't work that way, guys. I have people in my life who seem to think that their being good people means they aren't homophobic, but they've got it backwards. You have to not be homophobic first, and then you get to be a good person. It sounds similar, but it's not: The first construct allows you to avoid any kind of honest self-evaluation. The second absolutely requires honest - and perpetual - self-evaluation. Works the same way with racism and any other kind of prejudice. You don't get to just declare yourself not homophobic and expect me to buy it. You have to do the hard work first.

I'm bringing this up because people suck sometimes. And those people can be really super important in your life. Maybe they're your parents, or your best friend, or your partner. And you want them to hear you and understand you and not just patch it all over with wallpaper. That shit won't fix the cracks in the walls.

It kind of leads back to the whole "culture of politeness" thing I've written about before. If we privilege politeness and getting along over anyone's individual needs, someone's going to get hurt. So now queer kids all over the country are having to figure out how they're going to deal with Thanksgiving, for instance, when their family's official line is "We completely accept you as gay" but they keep doing things to hurt you. It's no good. But when you point out to them that they might not BE homophobic, but in some ways they're ACTING homophobic, or saying homophobic things, the whole thing goes to hell.

I think we all need to be able to be honest about ourselves and who we are with the people in our lives. If we can't do that, because they "aren't ready to hear it" even if they "completely accept you," then those people have not done the hard work of perpetual and honest self-evaluation. How do we convince them to do that?


  1. Here, here.

    Being a good person takes a lot of work. Contrary to popular belief, being good is rarely innate. In fact, I'm pretty sure that most of us are born as little shits and have to work really hard (hopefully with the help of good parents) to be better. I'm still working.

    On the flip, being a bad person is really easy. It is really easy to believe that anything that is different is bad or sinful or gross or funny or whatever other offensive modifier we can concoct. Challenging those primitive thoughts/feeling/beliefs is where the real work comes in to play. I wish more people were up to the challenge.

    And yeah, if I hear one more person say "I'm not homophobic/racist/sexist, but..." I might have to go all crazy prego bitch on hir ass. More rationally, I've taken to finishing the sentence. Here are a few suggestions:

    "...but, you're about to say something super homophobic/racist/sexist?"

    "...but, you like to say super homophobic/racist/sexist things because it makes you feel better about yourself?"

    "...but, you're not clever enough to say something funny without being super homophobic/racist/sexist?"

    Then flash a really big, disingenuous smile and make a grand exit. Skipping is encouraged. So is sashaying.

  2. Emma, you already knew this, but I love you. End of sentence!

  3. I disagree with the concept of a "good person" entirely. I think not being a racist makes you a non-racist person, and not being homophobic makes you a non-homophobic person. Not being both of these or both of these plus non-sexist equals what? not necessarily good in my book. You might still be a fickle, lying ass, shallow fool. What is a good person really? More to the point what is a bad person?

    I think you can find YOUR people. People who are accepting of you, welcoming, echo your values, challenge you when needed, not toxic to your spirit. But these norms don't transcend across individuals, people groups, nations, cultures, uniformly. I'm not sure that they should.
    I think we can and should consciously ask folks to agree and define codes of morality instead of assuming they are shared.