The Consequences of Ideas that Dehumanize and Erase Groups of People
This article discusses the marketplace of ideas, and how we have allowed a very toxic idea to become normalized within our marketplace of ideas: Bubbles — Both sides http://www.armoxon.com/2017/09/bubbles-10-both-sides.html
Read the article as it is wonderfully written. What I write in the following is a closer examination from the perspective of trans person.
To be honest, I’m exhausted by the fact cisgender people think trans folks are not relevant to most discussions, especially those oriented around healthcare. I’ve also seen people use similar strategies to try to exclude people of color from similar discussions.
When people argue we’re “small enough population” to ignore, they are essentially fighting against our existence and the push to include us with more inclusive language. Often, the argument goes that using “men” and “women” is easier and less cumbersome, but this argument has a harmful intention at its core.
First, it intentionally erases the demographic and deems them invalid or unimportant, thus turning people into an abstraction to be debated.
Second, it normalizes the idea that erasing people is an okay idea, and that idea heavily relates to the idea of deporting, harming, or killing people because they do not belong to the privileged group. These ideas are arguments in bad faith, and both push forth the stigma that specific groups of people are worth less than others.
Why is this so hurtful? Because it dehumanizes and erases the stories of an entire group of people. Erasure and dehumanization is traumatic, and this happens on a daily basis, often multiple times a day depending on where I browse, who I interact with, the bias of folks around me. Thus the trauma builds up and causes illnesses, disrupts our lives, and impacts our ability to survive. That trauma can impact generations.
These ideas, that are rooted in dehumanizing or erasure, are used to justify the killing and destruction of people — the murders of trans people (especially trans women of color, who are the most targeted), black people shot to death for existing, police brutality, immigrant and Native children separated from their parents and never reunited, and I could go on and on with examples.
Some days I wish I wasn’t trans, because of the intense discrimination that is baked into our society. But trying to stay in the closet nearly killed me, as it hurt me daily — the physical dsyphoria as well as the struggle to not be found out. Being honest with my gender identity was the only path to healing for me.
At the same time, it was terrifying to come out because of how little protections against discrimination trans people have, and because of the intense amount of debates about the validity and worth of trans people in our society. Those debates played a large role in keeping me from much needed medical care.
Coming out doesn’t always make my life better, because our society is toxic to trans folks. In over 30 states, it is legal to fire us for just existing. It is legal to deny us healthcare. It is legal to deny us services or even to kick us out of stores. Trans folks of color have it even harsher because they have the added layer of racism.
I can’t turn this off. I am a trans person. I am nonbinary. This is my gender. It’s always been my gender, even before I understood it as such. The impact of discrimination that I’ve faced within healthcare, within everyday interactions, within the language people use to have discussions about various topics — all of these compound and are traumatic in of themselves. It affects my healing journey, which saps my energy and leaves me exhausted and sickly at times.
I’m not “small enough population” to ignore as we number in the millions across the entire planet. We’re in every culture, every continent, and we’ve existed in past cultures for thousands of years. We are not a new thing.
I matter just as much as any cisgender person. I’m not a derailment, a side topic, an not-relevant topic to ignore. I’m not an abstract debate for you to disagree on my existence, worth, and whether I’m allowed to exist in public spaces in society.
Anyone who argues about my existence or argues about whether I matter enough to be included in x topic? That Person Is Engaging in Transphobic Behaviors. This isn’t to say the person is a bad person. But that was a transphobic behavior, and the person must acknowledge the harm done in order to learn, listen, grow, and do better.
It’s exhausting to have to beg for inclusion. And I know it’s all too easy to fall on old habits of how you were socialized into men versus women terminology. I know it’s hard. And I know the friends, who try hard at this, care, but they need to really think about how to support us in a more holistic way.
Language matters, and the ideas we allow to exist in conversations has an impact on how we view other people. Some people may use these arguments out of ignorance, thus by calling out the harmful premise we can educate them, but for many, this is not done out of ignorance.
The people who do not care about other people’s lives, who think that my life, my existence, and the lives of all the trans folks are an abstraction to be debated? They engage in specific lies and wordplay to intentionally divert the conversation. They often overlap the people who do these same tactics to folks of color, immigrants, and LGBTQIA folks.
Often these people, who engage in these specific lies and wordplay, cannot be convinced, because their intention isn’t to listen with empathy. Their intention is to assert an idea that we are lesser, not human enough, and not important enough. These ideas then leads directly into the idea that we are not worthy of life.
To them, we are just esoteric debate topics and aren’t part of the their vision of a human being. They are the reason we are dying. They are the reason we have horrifying policies that oppress us.
Empathy with these people will not bring them closer toward the side of justice and humanity because their intentions are to argue in bad faith, to force their ideas to be seen as valid enough to be debated. Some ideas are too harmful to be allowed to exist in the marketplace of ideas, and we must not allow their ideas to stay rooted in our society.
Instead of allowing the debate on our humanity to happen, stop it at its roots. Don’t allow it. Don’t allow these people to assert their intentions and idea that some people matter less and it is okay to dehumanize and/or destroy them.
If you see your friends doing any of the above? Call them out on it. Yes, it’s hard to do. Yes, it’ll make them upset, but we can’t change society unless cis allies actually be allies in ACTION as well as words. I’ll talk more about how to do this in the next section.
Marginalized folks like myself, many of us are tired. We’re tired of fighting for the right to exist as an equal to a white, straight, and/or cisgender person.
None of us should have to yell that “we exist and x topic affects us too” all the time.
None of us should have to “wait my turn” to get the same rights as white, straight, and/or cisgender people (typically men, due to our white supremacist, imperialist, patriarchy).
We are not your fodder to be tossed aside just so you can feel smug about “winning” a debate or asserting your ideas that we are abstractions and lesser.
We are not a debate. I and all other marginalized people are a human being. Our worth is just as valid as your own.
The following quote sums up the people who push for racist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, abliest policies and arguments. They rely on lies and arguments made in bad faith in order to push forward the idea that we are worth less as human being (if they regard us as equal in humanity to them at all).
Let’s state the obvious: People who intend to deliberately harm others lie to do so. They do so instrumentally, because lies are a useful tool. They debate instrumentally, for the same reason. They equivocate their lies as equal to the truth for the same reason.
Saying ‘both sides are the same,’ when one side is a lie and the other the truth, always promotes the lie and degrades the truth. Thus, attempts to create contexts in which both sides are essentially just opposite views of entirely equal value should always be understood as attempts to disguise a lie.
Put it another way: A ‘both sides are the same’ argument is never a neutral position. It is a false front disguising itself as a neutral position, and is intended, either with conscious intentionality or unconscious desire for comfortable ignorance, to elevate a lie.
So how do we support folks and fight against these dehumanizing premises and ideas?
How can you support marginalized people?
Recognition of our existence by using inclusive language.
Don’t fall on the man/woman binary that our society socialized into us. Use more inclusive language to encompass the diversity of genders. Even specific topics such as periods still affect a lot of different genders and language can reflect that to include them. Inclusive language also requires us to be cognizant of the fact people can be of any race or ethnicity; we must reflect this in our language as well. All of humanity is valid and worthy of inclusion and equality and equity.
- *Remember, no group of people are a “small enough population to ignore” out of convenience. Our lives and experiences are worth as much as a any other person. Inclusion of us into conversations will fight against the premise that it is okay to erase us.
- *Also, remember, trans people can be of any race and any ethnicity, so please remember to be inclusive of trans folks of color. Racial language that dehumanizes harms them and we need to be cognizant of this too.
Call out the dehumanizing idea/premise directly.
“So are you saying it is okay to erase an entire demographic of people? There’s millions of trans people who are affected by this too. I choose to include them as their humanity is valid and equal in worth to any cisgender person.”
Or: “I will end the discussion if dehumanizing language is used to describe people, gaslighting happens, or other harmful rhetoric. Marginalized people’s identities are not abstract ideas to be debated. Their experiences matter and are valid. Their experiences of oppression are real and valid and deserve to be heard.”
- By doing this, not only does it call out the transphobic argument, but it also gets right to the heart of the argument being made in bad faith. We want to fight the idea that erasing people from discussions is okay. Love cannot be realized if that premise is allowed to foster in the discussion. Root it out, lay it bare, and lay down your boundary. Don’t allow the dehumanizing idea to stay.
- **Remember, any idea that dehumanizes an entire demographic is often an argument in bad faith. The person’s intention isn’t to try to find a solution or to listen, but instead to push that idea that a group of people has less worth and less value than them.
- By allowing them to voice their opinions, we give validity to that idea made in bad faith, and we normalize their dehumanizing belief into our societal norms. Their dehumanizing ideas are killing people, so we must protest and fight against their normalization.**
Hold firm your boundaries.
This may anger people. They may try to sugar-coat their words to twist the conversation to make it seem like you are the bad person for not “tolerating” their dehumanizing ideas. Don’t let them. Hold firm your boundary: “I will only allow ideas that are rooted in viewing all of humanity as worthy and valid of inclusion in this discussion. Any argument that runs counter to this premise is harmful, and I will not let it foster and cause harm in my conversations. This is not something we can agree to disagree on — as a person’s humanity is not a disagreement, and their lives are not worth less than us.”
By laying out firm these boundaries and by getting straight to the root of these conversations, it provides a stark contrast to the people who — unconsciously or not — try to push forward the idea that people’s humanity, people’s worth, people’s lives are up for debate and are up for disagreement about whether they are valid in our society and discussions. Don’t allow this idea to fester.
Some ideas do not deserve the light of day. This is one of them. If you care about the diverse folks in your life, then please fight this battle with us.
Let us create a new story for our society. One where the root of our story is that ALL people are beautiful works of art, worthy and valid just as they are.
The stories that are made in bad faith often have the following:
- any story that seeks to diminish and destroy people by dehumanizing them through language
- by calling an entire group of people a “problem” or using another word that denotes them as “bad.”
- by using racist or transphobic or homophobic stereotypes to describe an entire group of people.
- by calling them “illegals” or “transgenders” or “n****rs” or turning an adjective into a noun to describe a group of people
- by arguing against inclusive language
- by treating people as things to be discarded
- by treating people as inconvenient
- by erasing people’s stories or engaging in gaslighting
- by oppressing them through discriminatory acts and policies or advocating for such policies
- by arguing that people are too sensitive or too politically correct
- by arguing that people “can’t take a joke”
- by arguing that discussing oppression or people’s experiences of oppression is “identity politics” and being dismissive of their experiences
- by turning people’s identities into a political debate topic
- Biological essentialism — (this is the claim that there can only be two genders despite biology disputing this. Often when presented with evidence that there is more than just two genders, the person turns to gaslighting and logical fallacies.)
- by claiming they are “color-blind” or that we progressed beyond racism.
- by using death threats or threats of harassment
All of the harmful actions bulleted above must be dismantled by being mindful of how people approach the conversation, their intentions, and the language that they use. Then we must establish our hard-set boundaries and hold firm to our new story that is rooted in love and justice.
We must be guarded against these arguments in bad faith (the art of many white supremacists), as at the core of those arguments is a dehumanizing premise. Even if they paint it in glitter by saying “oh, we can still show them compassion but…” or by holding polls asking if “diversity helps America,” by allowing that to exist in our conversations we are normalizing the idea that it is okay to debate and disagree on whether a group of people’s validity, worth, and humanity.
Love cannot be realized if we allow dehumanization arguments to exist within the marketplace of ideas. Please folks, I really want you all to understand this.
My therapist reminded me this past week that the dehumanizing arguments are an act of trauma as they are rooted in a violent destruction of people that person has decided is worth less. To minimize and heal this trauma, we MUST be cognizant of our language. We MUST protest any conversation that has at its root a premise of dehumanization.
Love requires action, and this means we MUST act. We cannot realize social justice without this important work of dismantling and rejecting all ideas that dehumanize, destroy, and turn people into abstract things to be debated.
As the article I linked in the first sentence reminds us:
And then remind them: Every human being is a unique and irreplaceable work of art carrying unsurpassable worth. Let them argue against that, and in so doing let them reveal the un-artfulness of their positions. They’ll try to dodge, and distract, and change the subject, but you know the subject is justice. Don’t forget it. Stay in it. Hedge them into it. They won’t want to go there. If they join you there, so much the better. If they won’t, abandon it and them. People will notice the geography they refuse to vacate, merely by the contrast you provide, and you will have saved valuable time and energy.
Please add tips on how to do the above in the comments to help support one another on this journey of justice and love.