My brother’s wedding was a beautiful affair. It was well planned and joyful and full of hospitality and good will. I have never seen him happier than on that day. The days I spent with my family were indeed the highlight of my trip. In truth, the wedding was only part of my reasons for taking the journey home. The other half was to reacquaint myself with my friends from childhood and college that I had not seen in quite some time.
I am saddened by my journey here because it was a slow process to realize that sometimes you outgrow friendships. One friend I met with was more interested in selling me a fitness lifestyle than reconnecting with me. I could barely get a word in edgewise. I feel like I missed an opportunity to share all the good things happening in my life.
With other friends, there was a moment where I sat and looked out at someone who had been essential to my very existence and realized they were a stranger to me now. I don’t think they had changed much. Older yes, more life experience sure, but overall their views hadn’t grown, their perspectives unexamined, never being forced to leave the cocoon of privilege we all grew up in. The difference between the two of us was that I could not live in ignorance because I was now the “other.”
“Well, I’ve always called you boo. That’s your nickname. I’ll call you that instead.”
“I’m just preprogrammed to call you Alicia. It’s just been that way for so long its hard to change it now.”
Because I am so indifferent about pronouns, I thought that it would bother me less to hear my old legal name being used currently. After all, I put up with it in professional and medical situations. But it actually hurt so much more than I ever imagined to hear people that I used to care very deeply about dig their heels in on such a simple change. Even after taking the energy to explain being a non-binary person and what it meant to me and how it fits in with my identity. Even after explaining that it was important to me. At a certain point, I feel like there are some things you shouldn’t have to ask from my friends.
I spent hours of my time trying to explain that feminism is about equal rights, that the term “special snowflake” and “safe space” are terms being used by political dishonest groups to infantilize large groups of their opposition and demean and obfuscate valid points, arguments and factual information that does not suit the right-wing agenda. I just wanted these people I loved to understand that they are confronted with bias every day and to think critically about where it is coming from and how just randomly spouting back unsubstantiated facts can be really harmful to the friend sitting right in front of your face. At a certain point, saying that you love people for who they are is not enough to call yourself an ally. I should not have to spend all my energy explaining to you why you’re being unintentionally shitty. All this time you have known how I identify and you didn’t ask me for clarification and you didn’t do independent research so that you wouldn’t have to burden me with your reactions.
I am so happy that you can afford to be unpolitical, and privileged enough to not need to do research about anything you hear, and blessed to be able to walk on this planet without worrying about losing your job, housing, healthcare or other opportunities because you are a cis-white American individual. Equality dies when lackadaisical allies do the orthopraxic dance and ceremonial flag waving without any substance or real content. Call me by my Name, or does your support only matter in June when you come into my space, and march with my people, to celebrate our victories and progress. Call me by my Name, or is your ally-ship only matter when you get to adorn yourself in rainbows and tell your more conservative friends that you are “so supportive of your LGBT friend.” Call me by my Name, or is your comfort and your habits more important than my mental health. Call me by my Name. It is such a simple request. Call me by my Name.
So here we are; you on your side, waving this ignorant flag of acceptance and love and friendship and sunshine, and I on my side, wondering why you can’t hear me screaming over the sound of a flag waving in the breeze.