Monday, August 17, 2020

Semantics

 We received a comment from Connie on our Allies versus Accomplishes post:

"Although I understand the concept of being more than an ally, I just can't use the word "accomplice" to define it. The word has such a negative connotation, and literally means a person who helps another commit a crime. I am a transgender woman, and being one is absolutely no crime!

I think that there are those who are sympathetic transgender allies, and others who are empathetic transgender allies. One can be sympathetic to the cause, but it requires empathy to really support a transgender individual. In my own life, I have encountered people who range from intolerant, to tolerant, to accepting, to sympathetic, to empathetic. There are fewer at each end of that range, and although I have successfully moved some up a notch, I have found it to be more difficult to convince the intolerant to be tolerant, and the sympathetic to be empathetic.

My own wife was intolerant of my feminine-self for quite some time, but that was my fault for not talking about it. She even went so far as to leave the Bible on the counter for me to see and read Deuteronomy 22:5 (the verse is about cross dressing, calling it an abomination - although it is actually about dressing in the garments of the other gender for illicit purposes, and is not necessarily an abomination in itself). Interesting, here, that my wife's support for my cross dressing for illicit reasons would have made her an accomplice. Anyway, it took a few years for her to really become the empathetic ally she is today. Aside from other trans people I know, one of my daughters could be added to my list of empathetic allies (the other daughter is still struggling to get past acceptance to sympathetic).

I came out to an old friend a few years ago, and he seemed, at first, to be accepting of me as a trans woman. I remember so well that he used the words: "I don't care" when I first told him. Over the following months, with him only seeing me in feminine appearance, I had to make countless corrections of his dead naming. I finally went to a lot of effort to explain to him how that was hurtful to me. Afterward, it wasn't but a few minutes before he actually called me Connie - only to hem and haw and then "correct" himself by saying my dead name. When I told him he was right the first time, his answer was: "Whatever." I then told him that the truth of it was in his first declaration of "I don't care." Even if I were to generously say that he was accepting, he was certainly not sympathetic. I cut all ties with him after that, anyway, with the full knowledge that he was incapable of ever really caring at all.

We should all be so lucky as to have many empathetic allies. I think that having many sympathetic ones would be enough. As such, we would have people around us who would, most likely, advocate for us. In fact, an advocate is more than just an ally, and is a much better word than accomplice."

1 comment:

  1. Words and language matter! I think that there are many more disagreements based on the misunderstanding of what someone said/meant than need be. Although words and language do evolve, over time, I don't think it's a good idea to force a change in the meaning of a word while attempting to bring others to be accepting of one's cause. So much time, energy, and money has been wasted because of the failure to communicate (not that Cool Hand Luke would even give a shit:).

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