Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Brenan Riffel is a graduate student in higher education administration at the University of Kansas, where she serves as both an academic advisor and deputy director of the complex.
I’ll be honest – a lot has happened since I last wrote Kansas Reflector. We have seen a great victory in protect the right to abortion, and it is an ongoing battle. Rep. Cheryl Helmer, who attacked Rep. Stephanie Byers, myself, and the trans community via email in April lost his main race.
For me, the August 2 elections were a tremendous victory. However, they are just one step in a long fight to protect us and other Kansans. We must continue this same type of energy in November and beyond.
However, I also have to be realistic. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The fact that we fight for these rights is worrying. The fact that I personally receive almost daily messages on my Facebook or Twitter accounts attacking me for my identity is tiring. After the the story is out about my communication with Helmer, I received a lot of hate messages through Facebook. These posts declined on Facebook but shifted to transphobes on Twitter.
I shouldn’t be desensitized, but I am.
I want to talk today about how ignorance and willful ignorance perpetuate hatred.
I can’t blame anyone for being ignorant. We live different lives. We can share identities; we can have different identities. We may have grown up in different times and in different communities. We may understand technology differently and have different spiritual beliefs.
The last time I wrote how important it is to show compassion before necessarily fully understanding someone. However, there is a difference between not understanding and not wanting to learn. Often those who refuse to learn use their ignorance as an excuse for their hatred and prejudice.
That’s why I want to separate someone who is really unaware from someone who makes a conscious decision to stay in the dark or only receive information from sources that they know will appease them. .
Ignorance equals an opportunity to learn – to grow.
Willful ignoring is a conscious effort to shut down and signal that you don’t care and are willing to perpetuate the hate. I mean, if the hate you show doesn’t affect you, why should you care? Because these are people’s lives We are talking about.
Willful ignoring is a conscious effort to shut down and signal that you don’t care and are willing to perpetuate the hate. I mean, if the hate you show doesn’t affect you, why should you care? Because it’s people’s lives we’re talking about.
We do not live in silos. Our inaction, our refusal to learn, or our willingness to ignore hurt people affect others.
Something I hear a lot is, “Hey, I don’t agree with you being trans. It makes me uncomfortable.
You feel uncomfortable with my trans identity enby does not justify putting myself in danger.
There’s a huge difference between being uncomfortable and making someone feel unsafe. I explain this when I lead workshops here on campus, but it’s usually in a different context.
Often when we feel uncomfortable, it’s because 1) we don’t understand something, 2) something is new to us, or 3) the thing that makes us uncomfortable forces us to really looking at ourselves and we have things to consider.
When I hear messages like that now, I just ignore them. Not because I don’t think education is important, but because those who reach out to harass me don’t come to me with an open mind or an open heart.
If you’re not comfortable with me being trans, it’s probably because you were taught that being trans is bad, being trans is just a “choice” or that you have never heard a trans voice because our voices are often silenced.
I’m lucky. I only received messages. From time to time, I notice people staring at me. Sometimes people in person called me a “thing” or “it” right after. I live in Laurent. I don’t feel safe all the time, but I have it safer than others.
I was not physically attacked. I was not forced to use the bathroom of my biological sex and then be attacked for it.
I’m not doxxed. I have not been crushed and held at gunpoint because transphobes on online forums decided to write threats impersonating me and send them to politicians.
Keffals, a streamer and trans rights activist, has – all because she stood up and said enough was enough. Her whole life has been uprooted because she stands up for trans kids and speaks out against bigotry when she sees it. Keffals was not only smashed and doxxed, but she also received pizza from online stalkers stating that they had doxxed her again.
I wish I could say this story ended after that, but no. Even after using a third party to book another Airbnb, and despite using VPN to do so, Keffals’ Uber account was hacked, hundreds of dollars were spent sending food to him on his Airbnb.
According to the CBC, she is now planning to leave her home country for a while. Others, targeted by relentless harassment, died by suicide.
I’ve been lucky so far. I only had words thrown at me.
I don’t have a single solution for willful ignorance. We must continue to use our voices to create action. We must extend our energy to those who are ready to listen and disempower those who are not.
I’m proud to be myself, but I’m exhausted from intentional attacks. I will not be silent. I’m sick of the trans experience being overshadowed by the hate thrown at us and the discrimination we face. I strive to resume my story, to write my own story. When I say I’m trans, I want people to associate that with the love of being myself, not hateful rhetoric or the latest story of a hate crime.
ad astra by aspera.
We must dismantle the barriers and obstacles that prevent Kansas from being a safe and free state for all before we can reach for the stars.
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