This weekend I managed to catch a bit of Interfaith Voices on my local NPR station. I don’t usually seek out this show, but I greatly enjoy it when I hear it. This weekend was no exception. The focus was on LGBT individuals, especially within their faith traditions. Even more specifically, the focus on was T in LGBT. The premise being that more and more Americans are comfortable with L and G but less so with T.
I found myself listening closely to the individuals being interviewed, not only for their stories and thoughts as one might expect, but for their language choices. As I do not know many trans people, I do not feel confident in how best to speak about this group. I noticed I was listening to hear how they identified and described themselves in the hopes of some sense of how best to do so as an outsider.
In the midst of this it hit me that I tend to avoid participating in such conversations because I’m concerned about saying the wrong thing, coming across as ignorant or worse, or offending someone. And not just in issues of sexual orientation or identity, but also of race and class. As a middle-class, white person I feel uncomfortable. My position of privilege, rather than giving me strength in my voice, holds me back.
I’m not proud of this. I’m not okay with this. It was eye-opening to realize it, however.
As an educator (and really, as a human being) I have no excuse for not speaking up when I am aware of discrimination or mistreatment or any form of inequality based on race or class or gender or sexual orientation or whatever. I have a voice. I will do my best to use it.
I will screw up. I will say the wrong thing. My biases will show. I will offend someone. I will not let any of that stop me.