The Impact Of Understanding

The Impact Of Understanding

Two sides of the aisle exist for a reason.
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Growing up moving all around the country has its perks. Seeing a diversified version of the truth is the most crucial one of these. I have lived in places both where my opinion was the majority and where my opinion was the minority, with little exposure to a blend of each, which is precisely the problem. On each end of the political spectrum are people who have no idea or experience in what they’re talking about, only spewing recycled information to make the other side look bad. I have often been among these numbers of people, because winning an argument in the moment feels far better than being factual and actually getting a point across.

Of all people, I understand. Many people with more liberal politics, such as myself, are incredibly guilty of this; our smug and self-identified superior intelligence over our adversaries is just as harmful as we perceive our political opponent’s views to be. We are what we fight against. The importance of consideration and the recognition of a grey area comes into play here; to avoid this absolutist ideology, we must learn to at least try to see something from the other side. Seeing isn’t always believing, however; seeing and understanding someone’s point of view doesn’t mean that you have to be any less vocal in your beliefs - just that you have to acknowledge that other, valid ones also exist.

Before starting college, I lived in middle, mostly rural, Georgia for three years. Yes, Georgia is certainly a red state and yes, I was definitely in a red area, but it wasn’t as unbearable as you would think. I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where our politics are often referred to as a "bubble." Most people here have politics that lean pretty far to the left. There is no obvious right wing here, not one that is proud and not one that shows itself often.

In discussions with people here in San Francisco I would often find that they were the parallel of their conservative counterparts in Georgia; that they often spoke on their beliefs with incredible bias and no actual fact, and that they couldn’t understand why someone would believe the opposite way. In San Francisco, if you voted for Trump, you are a bad person, and someone who hates minorities and is a Nazi.

While I disagree with voting for Trump, I can’t reconcile the people I know and love from back home who, yes, voted for Trump, with this perception that people here cultivate; just as I can’t reconcile people here with vegan crybabies who hate America, as many people down south warned me about before I moved here. Don’t get me wrong, its refreshing to be around people who sustain my beliefs so I don’t have to fight anymore; I just worry about assuming everyone I speak to will agree with me and won’t challenge my beliefs.

I’m asking people on both ends of the spectrum to understand that a differing belief doesn’t equate the person who holds that belief with the human embodiment of evil, that realities for people in different spheres of political influence is vastly varied, and usually cultivated by their environment. I urge you to look at a person holistically, at how they act and speak to determine their quality, not at what they believe.

Cover Image Credit: flickr.com

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
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In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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I Joined A Gym And This Is What Happened

Three weeks ago I made the decision to take better care of myself, for better or for worse.

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Three weeks ago I made the decision to take better care of myself, for better or for worse.

Like many people, I'm notoriously known for jumping on the health and weight loss bandwagon and sticking it out until it gets hard. It would last a few days to a few weeks but never really much more than that. My trips to the gym would dwindle into non-existence. Where was the accountability? What was keeping me going besides a shadow of my high school self?

It's a frustrating, endless cycle that ends only in depreciating my self-esteem.

Three weeks ago, that cycle stopped.

A friend of mine tagged me in a post promising custom meal plans, fun workouts, accountability, and best of all—results. To be honest, this initially sounded like another one of the thousands of gimmicks thrown at consumers every single day. However, my friend went to a consultation, and the more she told me, the more I became hooked.

The gym we joined is a small, family-owned business dedicated to helping people lead healthier, happier lives. They believe in building you up while teaching you to be healthier—in and out of the gym. The price tag almost scared me away, but part of their challenge is that if you reach the weight goal they give you, you either get your money back or can put it towards a gym membership after your six-week challenge.

After speaking with my family and friends, I decided this was the best decision for me right now, despite my current medical conditions. I was tired of the excuses and knew if I wanted results, obstacles would have to be worked around.

Week one was absolute hell.

Everyone was given a custom meal plan that, although straight and simple, is easy to stray from. The plan consists of several food options I would eat anyway when eating healthy, so that wasn't the difficult part. The hard part is everything not on the list. Week one shows you explicitly just how terribly you eat and drink. Week one reminds you of all those days you spent inside instead of exercising.

Week two was easier… and more satisfying. Cravings were still there, but they weren't as strong as the previous week. Even more rewarding, I had lost three pounds! My family could already see a difference in my body. I was performing exercises and eating foods I never expected myself to do or eat.

Week three was a giant curve ball I thought I had prepared for. My family went on a week-long vacation out of town, taking me away from the gym and the environment I had grown used to for this program. I decided I would continue to meal prep and utilize the at-home workouts the gym provided for us. I wanted to stay on top of the game. Things changed, however, when I got sick and was bedridden for the rest of the week. I couldn't eat, and I certainly couldn't move enough to work out. Whatever it was that hit me didn't leave for over a week.

I lost six pounds in four days, which wasn't the way I planned to lose that weight.

Going back to the gym this week was difficult. My morale was lower. Sure, I'd lost more weight, but it wasn't through the work I had signed up to do. I feared gaining it all back after being able to eat again. Working out is shaky at best due to being on a liquid and soup diet, but this time, I'm not giving up.

It's only week three, and I've seen more results in less than a month than I have in the last five years. I've never felt so empowered to treat myself well.

If anything, it's a lesson in challenging yourself. Don't hold yourself back; you may be surprised by the rewards.

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