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Standing up without stepping on toes

Graphic by Isabelle '17
Graphic by Isabelle ’17

Despite my view that it is my duty to stand up for what I believe in, I sometimes feel pressure to remain silent in order to avoid speaking out of place about groups of which I am not directly a part. I believe my support for equality stems from my attendance of a diverse school and residence in a diverse neighborhood. I was raised to accept all people for who they are and not to discriminate against race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or political views. My community has taught me to be accepting of others, even if I not identify in the way that they do. So, when I went to summer camp this past summer and made a friend from a different kind of community, it didn’t occur to me that she would have views that opposed my liberal and progressive ones.
We met around the time Caitlyn Jenner came out as a transgender woman. My friend and I were watching the pilot episode of the television series “I am Cait” when my new friend referred to transgender people using a derogatory term. When I corrected her and told her that what she had said was offensive, she told me that it was not my place to chide her because I’m not “one of them.”
As the week went on, she continued to make offensive remarks, using language that I objected to. She even told me that a friend of hers who had been sexually assaulted was “asking for it.” When I told her that I believe sexual assault is never the victim’s fault and that I viewed her comment as disrespectful, she told me that my all-girls’ education was “brainwashing” me.

TV1 online
Graphic by Baxter ’16

Throughout these and other instances, I found her telling me that I was critical and rude for trying to create a more accepting environment. She was accusing me of being disrespectful to the people I was standing up for because I did not identify the same way as they did. Even though all my supportive thoughts came with the best intentions, she struck fear in me that I may come across as though I am suffering personally the consequences of these issues. I have never had to face the harsh truth of unsympathetic rape culture nor have my rights been jeopardized due to my gender identity. Because I am an outsider on these subjects, I can feel hesitant to voice my support for victims out of fear that I will say something that will be considered offensive or that I will be judged for defending people when I am not coming from a place of experience.
While it is true that I will never fully understand what anyone besides myself is going through, if I see people or groups of people facing social or political injustices, I have decided to feel confident in doing everything in my power to help spread support and awareness for the movement towards equality.