Emotionally Present / Open Letter

An Open Clue-By-Four For A Fucking Numb-Skull Named Ryan

Yesterday, you sent me and a couple dozen other people a message about a party you’re planning. The recipient list showed even those people who either have blocked me or whom I have blocked myself, and when I saw who all those recipients were, I had to laugh about this. And believe me, I laughed pretty fucking hard until you sought conflict with me because you think I’m picking a fight with you. Here’s a review of the people on that recipient list:

  1. a few people I’ve never met or even heard of;
  2. a few people I’ve met, maybe, but barely remember, if at all;
  3. a few people I’ve met and made satisfying though emotionally distant/casual friendships with;
  4. a woman who, not taking my mental health seriously, made a series of disingenuous agreements with me, then clung for months to a grudge that she gave the appearances of having settled, before finally picking a fight with me over one of my Facebook status updates (just like you just did), yelling at me and following me as I walked away to keep yelling at me, being as physically intimidating and threatening as she possibly could have without actually touching me, and finally throwing money in my face in front of a woman she had only just met 15 minutes ago for the first time;
  5. one or possibly several people who allied with the aforementioned woman (i.e., people who think it is acceptable to yell at someone, badger them, and be as intimidating and threatening as possible even when the targeted person is walking away without so much as yelling back);
  6. a man who picked a fight with the aforementioned woman, because though he was not even present for the inciting event of his grievance with her, he demanded she apologize to him for saying “There, there, princess” to another guy (who was being a sexist douche at the time), and when she refused to do so, he accused her of being transphobic (when in fact, it is the sexist douche who is being transphobic by taking such outrageous offence to being called “princess”); and finally, last but certainly not least,
  7. a woman who, while insisting that the word “settler” is somewhere nearly as offensive as a racial slur, insisted on debating whether or not cultural genocide really qualifies as genocide.

You are actually such a fantastically shitty “friend”, you can’t even be a decent person to your shittiest friends. And the sad fact is that you actually deserve and desperately need better friends, Numb-Skull. Unfortunately, you don’t think you need better and you’d convince yourself you’re not entitled to it even if you did agree that you need better.

Rather, you think that it’s acceptable for people to debate whether or not cultural genocide is really genocide, because on some level, you haven’t accepted yourself that it is. On some level, you’re still debating this fact yourself. For that reason alone, I can’t afford to acknowledge your existence any further after I finish writing this blog post. But wait! There’s still more to this.

You take that person’s perspective as more genuine and more objective than whatever I have to tell you about what they really believe and how that makes me feel. And why do you do this? But because you believe that they are somehow more entitled to pick that fight with me (yes, that is actually how that happened at the time) than I am to be spared their vitriol for my extended family—which includes several residential school survivors. Somehow it’s easier for you to believe that someone who has internalized racism this deeply is less inclined to pick a fight than the person whose eyes are wide open to its full scale and magnitude. Somehow it’s easier for you to believe that I am the one being confrontational, when in fact, it is that person whose perspective on social justice is constructed on an inherently racist foundation. You just refuse to see how inherently confrontational that person’s entire world view is. You essentially refuse to differentiate between someone being defensive because some woman has come along to dispute whether or not their extended family’s experiences of genocide are valid, and someone actively seeking out an interaction in which they try to convince a person whose extended family includes residential school survivors that cultural genocide is just an over-exaggeration. You know what? That makes you a complete shithead in my books.

But wait! You also think it’s acceptable for someone to be as demeaning, domineering, and overbearing as possible while they demand an apology for something that neither were they present for, nor has any bearing on them personally, either immediately or at any time in the future. You refuse to see how this is immediately sexist and fucking absurd when the perpetrator in this instance is a cisgendered male accusing his target of transphobia when she refuses to comply with his demands. I happened to be hearing his every written word, and every carefully compiled response, directly from the target through the entire course of the conflict, and I chose to side with her because he had done it to me too — not by demanding an apology for something I did to someone else, but by demanding that I abandon the idea that Muslim women in the Middle East have a diversity of their own voices, none of which are represented by topless white chicks from Eastern Europe harassing patrons of mosques during prayer (in protest of shit they neither caused nor can change), or “protesting” their “cause” in the streets of Europe by performing acts of racist minstrelry while topless (and thus being directly abusive to the women they are “fighting” to rescue).

Yet I’m sure that when the opportunity presents itself, you’ll get his “side” of the story on both of these events too — which conveniently minimizes the several distinctive layers of sexism, cisgendered privilege, racism, and imperialism, in favour of a narrative that paints me as some sort of intolerant asshole who goes out picking fights then getting so angry that they are practically frothing at the mouth — but I bet to you, there’s nothing sexist or privileging of cisgendered people about this stereotype of both women and trans* people, right? Just a friendly reminder that, while you were assigned to the male sex at birth and generally do not tend towards feeling mismatched in your own body, I was assigned to the female sex at birth (and have been persistently gender-dysphoric, resorting to several high-risk coping behaviours for relief of any kind) and have had a lifetime share of sexism to be reminded of all at once during interactions just like these. I promise you, no matter how sexist (among several other things) it makes you to side with him despite his behaviour, you’re going to do so anyway and just tell yourself that I picked a fight with him—even though, just like the woman who was so offended by the term “settler” that she prevented any future contact with me for defending its use, he actively sought these conflicts out himself and refused to back down when he was getting the fight he picked from both of us, just two weeks apart.

But wait! I’m not even finished yet! You also think it’s acceptable for someone to use their ability to project their voice to demean, humiliate, and intimidate another person, even if they are doing little to nothing to defend themselves apart from trying repeatedly to walk away; and/or to use their physical body to continue pursuing their target by following them and badgering them for a fight, and to barricade another human being into an elevator. And not just for any reason at all, but all this over a fucking Facebook status update. You were even confided in several weeks previous to this final event, that neither her nor her partner, with whom I was living on a full-time basis, spoke a single goddamned word to me for an entire month. Yet you still believe that someone who is willing to display this magnitude of unchecked anger, even in front of or towards a complete fucking stranger — a behaviour of some habitual regularity, I might add, that she boasts about with the same frequency — is not the one who picked a fight that day, but the person who just tried to walk away from her was.

I’m frankly shocked and dismayed that you can maintain this degree of cognitive dissonance towards sexism, racism, cisgendered privilege, and domestic violence, and we can somehow still have several dozen friends in common (I’m also dismayed by the fact that I have several dozen friends who think this kind of ambivalence is acceptable from their friends—what kind of “friends” are those?) But mostly, I’m shocked that I had so little self-respect despite all the gains I’ve made on that front since my wake-up call in the end of 2009, that I’ve managed to maintain a friendship with you, and enough respect for you to think you matter enough to consult with the details of these interactions with your friends, for as long as I have. It doesn’t surprise me that you’ve found it difficult. Of course it fucking was.

Although I now realize how unlikely it is that you’ll take my word for it on this one, trust me when I say the feeling is mutual. Now I hope you’ll feel the same when I tell you that you can go fuck yourself for all I care.

9 thoughts on “An Open Clue-By-Four For A Fucking Numb-Skull Named Ryan

  1. Since you directed me to this blog – in the words of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, “oh, well allow me to retort!”

    You have mischaracterized our interactions here, Jamie. I have not defended any of the people you’ve spoken of here except insofar as I’ve had an exchange with one woman you spoke of and gotten her side of the story. I have not said any of the things I’ve said about you vis-a-vis your sexual orientation or gender expression, and it’s disingenuous to claim that I am ‘ambivalent towards victims of domestic violence’.

    There is a clear line of demarcation, in my view, between the kind of neutrality in the face of an oppressor that Bp. Tutu had in view – where the oppression is in full view for all to see, versus the sort that arises in domestic situations where people begin to grate on one another’s nerves and things are said and done that are violent and violating of someone’s safety (broadly defined). I am not neutral in the face of systemic injustices, much as you may like to (falsely) characterize me as such. However, when it comes to situations in which some of the facts are not available, I think there is wisdom in remaining neutral and reserving judgement until such time as I feel I have the facts.

    Since that neutrality appears to constitute a grave sin in your view, I’m not sure there’s much more I can do. What I won’t tolerate, however, is being told that I’m choosing the side of the oppressor, or being shamed and told that I ‘deserve better friends’ (which is really just a passive-aggressive way of policing who I spend my time with…thanks) because I prefer to reserve judgement, and then having a passive-aggressive (or just plain aggressive) blog post written about me.

    Anyway, I’ve said my piece. Later

    • How generous of you to reply. I forgot to include in this piece of writing the several times you’ve blamed me for every instance of domestic violence I’ve faced in the past two years. Just wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten that either.

      You have defended them. By calling them your friends, putting these conflicts behind you as unimportant despite how very recently I’ve spoken of them (not to mention how gravely fucking serious the implications of their behaviours are), and trying to corral all of us into the same room, where we will be expected to ignore these matters between us to celebrate your life.

      Fuck that. That isn’t a celebration. That’s reliving the trauma of knowing these people and their hatred at all. Apparently your head is too thick for you to let that fact sink in.

      There is no neutrality when you prefer to surround yourself with racists and claim victim status because someone took the effort to call you on it. You are not capable of neutrality when you’re passively accepting other people’s bigotry.

  2. Pingback: Personal Fault Inventory: Infinite Passion, Extremely Finite Patience | HaifischGeweint

  3. Hi Jamie, I just wanted to clarify that I didn’t ask her for an apology. I wanted to 1) confirm the transpiring events with her, and 2) establish that she was believed her actions were right and defensible. I can show you a transcript of the discussion, if you do not believe me. Whether I asked for an apology is just a question of fact, so I thought I’d mention that.
    While I disagree with your other points against me, those are not merely matters of fact that are “easy” to settle…

  4. And, incidentally, since I’m here I might as well be in for a penny, in for a pound..

    I never blamed you for being victimized. What was done to you by the various people who’ve committed violence against you is inexcusable.

    What I did say, however, is that when things keep happening to you over and over, it behooves you to maybe take a look at your actions and trying to determine if you might be contributing to those things obtaining. That is not to say that people reacting to you in violent ways is ever excusable: we can be annoyed with a person, we can even ask them to leave, without being violent.

    I’m sorry if I gave you the impression I was trying to excuse the violence you’ve suffered, Jamie.

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