This is an attempt at a catharsis post; it's about a recent exchange elsewhere.
i wrote something not much longer than a contemporary tweet - roughly 300 characters - and shared it. It drew criticism from a person (let's call them ‘M’) who had only engaged with me one other time, and had been critical on that occasion also. M condescendingly told me to “do better”, particularly given that i'm someone who “takes pride in being well-read and well-educated” (or something along those lines).
i'd taken some time trying to get the phrasing right. In the end, i'd posted my best effort, even though i'd felt it was awkward. Given that, i apologised, noted that clear writing is a skill developed over time, and that i would indeed try to do better. However, i also noted that several other people had seemed to “get it”, and in addition asked M to tone down their interactions with me - otherwise, for the sake of my mental health, i'd have to block them.
In response, M said that when i spoke of ‘mental health’, i was ‘really’ just offended and unwilling to deal with anything outside my echo-chamber ‘bubble’, where the ‘bubble’ included those who had “got” the point of my comment.
i blocked M.
Let me now make a number of comments about this.
For a start, although it's certainly true i take a certain amount of pride in being (what i think of as) relatively ‘well-read’ in some sense, i also don't think any less of people for not being ‘well-read’ in the same way. And i don't really know whether to consider myself ‘well-educated’; i've no formal education beyond a Bachelor of Arts, and have regularly felt at loggerheads with academia on a number of topics close to my heart (cf: other entries on this blog).
But, whatever. There are bigger issues for me here.
i'm almost 50. i've identified as far-left for over three decades; nonmonosexual for almost three decades; trans for around two decades; nonmonogamous for around the same amount of time; and kinky for well over a decade. Prior to all that, i spent the second half of my childhood growing up in rural Victoria: my home was in farmland, more than 20 kilometres away from the nearest significant town. i was a non-sporty, nerdy, ‘boy’ growing up in an environment where those characteristics were grounds for regular physical and verbal harrassment. i was also autistic and adhd, though unaware of it at the time, because these things didn't present in the stereotypical ways. (For example, my hyperactivity is internal, rather than physical.)
i went to uni in the early-to-mid 90s. i started out doing a combined BA/BSc, but ended up majoring in Women's Studies. This was several years before i transitioned; and when i did eventually transition, after years of introspection and trying to fit my sense of gender in with the feminist politics i'd learned, mainstream feminism was much more radfem and much less intersectional. Which meant that not only were ‘progressive’-minded people not anywhere near as likely to be as supportive of trans women now, there was often active _hostility_[a]. (Similarly, sex workers had to even more regularly deal with radfem-inspired crap, with “the Swedish / Nordic model” overwhelmingly considered by progressives / leftists to be the ‘obviously correct’ approach.)
Up until recently, i couldn't even have a social bubble in which i wouldn't constantly encounter centrist-to-right political and religious ideology, queerphobia and heteronormativity, transphobia and cisnormativity, mononormativity and kinkphobia, and so on. Communities and circles that were supportive of one or a few parts of me were often negative towards others:
- Lesbians and gay men being hostile to bi/pan people.
- Feminists being hostile to trans women and kink[b].
- Polyam people being hostile to swingers, and vice versa.
- Spiritual people being hostile to sexual people[c], and vice versa.
to list just a few examples. And not only has there been the usual general internecine conflicts between leftists (“Splitter!” etc[d]), i've frequently found myself in the position of being the person who, having given some thought to a topic, is critical of the party line: my long-standing positions around porn and sex work are a good example.
Yet that's just the sociopolitical stuff. There's also my decades of living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome[e], autism[f], and adhd[g], with the latter two things only being diagnosed recently, and me having to deal with constant gaslighting around my physical and mental health.
Most of my life has involved having to constantly listen to other people's opinions about how and why i'm wrong, in various ways, often without having the support of more than just a few people. Not only that, but i've actively put myself in the position of talking to the general public about the sort of topics i describe here: from street campaigns (e.g. against nuclear testing in the south Pacific, and in support of native title[h]), to being on panels presenting queer and tgd perspectives to uni students.
i hope the preceding goes some way to indicating that i might not have lived most of my life in a social bubble of mutual back-scratching. And i hope it might also suggest that i've been under a considerable amount of psychological pressure over the years, and that i might therefore have very genuine concerns about my mental health.
Was i ‘offended’ by this person's comments on my comment? In the sense that i'm sick and tired of people making incorrect assumptions about me and my thinking, and then criticising me or attacking me based on those incorrect assumptions: yeah, ‘offended’ isn't too far wrong. But was i ‘offended’ merely by being exposed to a different opinion? No. There are various people in my life with whom i have some significant differences of opinion, and yet we're still able to talk to each other about it without resorting to arrogance and condescension.
M apparently assumed they were part of the intended audience, was then critical (dare i say, ‘offended’?) because it didn't immediately make sense to them (i suspect because they were making incorrect assumptions about what overall beliefs are[i]), and finally didn't acknowledge my conciliatory apology, instead opting to double-down and attack further. i wouldn't at all be surprised if M spoke of my blocking as ‘woke’[j] and ‘anti-free-speech’; in my experience, a number of people who behave in these sorts of ways can also be the sort of people who would suggest that not being willing to listen to a random person is just like government censorship.
As i wrote in a comment after all this:
Treat me with respect, as a peer, or piss off. This is a boundary. i will enforce it.
And i'm particularly okay with enforcing it in the context of a stranger treating my boundaries as something to be criticised and attacked.☙
[a] Example: the years of controversy regarding the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.
[b] And in some instances to polyamory / consensual nonmonogamy. Because when have there ever been any links between monogamy and patriarchy? :-P
[c] i.e. spiritual people who regard sexuality as something to be ‘transcended’, and e.g. swingers regarding spirituality as just conservative religious sex-negativity.
[h] ‘Native title’ is the phrase used here in Australia for ‘Aboriginal title’.
[i] It's probably due to me being white Australian, but i'd only rarely heard (let alone used) the word ‘woke’ used in leftist / ‘progressive’ contexts before it became a core part of the rightist / Murdoch media lexicon.
[j] Like the assumption that a criticism of capitalism necessarily implies support for actually existing communism - _as though those are the only two possibilities_. But i think it's fair to say that sociopolitics isn't actually bivalent. :-P