In their social relationships, people often rely on tried and true “recipes” for how to handle such relationships.
– Alfred Schutz
I think it would be very pretentious of me to say that I accept everything about people, that I am not prejudiced, and that I acknowledge and respect every difference in this world. The truth is, I can’t and I don’t; I have my biases, and that everything about society will always be a struggle not immediately for acceptance, but acknowledgment. Recognition and respect.
Baby steps, so to speak.
I can only see so much and accept so much given my very limited perspective of the world. I can’t have a 360-degree view of everything, so I have to settle for so much given how I perceive my reality. The challenge, I think, is to accept your own biases and prejudices as “learning aids” to help you understand society better.
Nothing could be more true for society that that ticklish subject: alternative sexualities.
I couldn’t have known that the person I long acknowledged to be a guy is now a transsexual. The prudent thing would be to be welcoming and accommodating of that new revelation and truth, but I have to admit that I have my biases, and that I’m viewing the world from prejudiced – if not jaundiced – eyes.
Frames, so to speak. When it comes to sex, I am very secure about my sexuality, even if lighthearted jokes have been made about that. I’m not one to impose rules and beliefs, either. My perspective of the world will always be framed by the many things that make up who I am. When it comes to my view of sex, one of those frames is that I’m straight.
Of course I was shocked. Shocked enough to backtrack on everything I knew about my friend. Every memory that may give me an idea of how he turned out to be the way he is now. It would be the height of hypocrisy for me to say that I accept everything about him, that nothing ever changed. Maybe I should accept him as a person, but what if his personhood – and this holds true for everyone – is defined by his sexuality, his sexual preferences, his gender? I’m sure it doesn’t make me a homophobe to ask those questions.
Sure, I have gay friends, lesbian friends, and I know of transvestites and transsexuals here and there. No one can accuse me of being a homophobe or anything, just because my perception of the world is limited to the tools available to me, and how I use those tools to understand something. I’ve taken up gender studies before, but that doesn’t mean that I’m enlightened to everything about it. While I got to know more about sexual orientations and sexual politics and engenderment, that doesn’t mean that every bias I have was removed by a 1 1/2 hour course held twice a week over the course of a semester.
It would be presumptuous of me to say that I accept people as people, because much of who we are as people is defined by things we are biased, for or against whatever those things may be. Oh sure, I’ll laugh at the gay joke, make some comments that may be offensive to people with different sexual preferences even if I don’t mean it, and so on and so forth.
It would be unfair to say that I’m “ignorant,” but it would be fair to say that there are some questions I don’t have to ask, and answers I don’t have to know. The world didn’t change, and it’s not like having at least one transsexual friend removes every bias and prejudice I have against people with sexualities and preferences different from mine. It only means that I have to exert a lot more effort into struggling with a gender bias. It’s the same thing with race, employment, economic status, and other things that keep us apart.
The first thing I should do, therefore, is to admit that I’m a boy with a bias, and I can start working from there. Society, like sexuality, will always be understood in terms of struggles. Not only with, between, and among others, but yourself as well; how you view the world from where you stand, and what you see, is a struggle in itself.
So my friend is a transsexual. Yes, I have my issues with transsexuals. But that doesn’t mean that just because I have issues with transsexuals, my friend stops being my friend altogether.