Should we challenge the validity of our feelings?
We're in an interesting time socially and politically. Many people called it divided, but I would say that the divisions are just more visible now. Two, three, five years before, the type of conversations that are being held on race, class, religion, gender, culture would never have been a part of public discourse. Not because these issues weren't there, but because there was this idea that we were "past" these things as a society.
Obviously, that isn't the case. But something that I find most interesting, or actually, frustrating is the idea of both sides being valid. Or people that demand that we should respect both sides. On the surface, of course, this seems like a good thing. But so often, I feel as though it is just a way to ignore what the core problems are.
On the Fusion Network on Youtube, there is a video of a group of people discussing HB-2 in North Carolina. For those who don't know, this was the bill that would prevent transgender people from using the bathrooms of their preferred gender. Instead, they would be obligated to use the gender assigned to them at their birth.
Opinion vs. Lived Experience
I've watched the video over and over again. Each time, I've witnessed Calvin, a trans-man, grow increasingly frustrated. The tension builds so high until he actually breaks down in laughter at the sheer absurdity of the arguments being made. While Calvin and Candis, the other transgender person at the meeting, shared their personal experiences, the two conservatives gave straw man arguments about how people—namely children—were at risk if people just choose a restroom at random.
Meanwhile, Candis, who I believe is a professional activist, was clear to keep reassuring those on the other side that they were nice people. She added that she was sure that they didn't mean any harm. But she said, underneath Steve a conservative radio host speaking over her, but they were being harmful.
I watched this video again with my roommate at the time. He said he liked the video because it was fair, or balanced in its perspective. But keep in mind that we are both cis-gendered (non-trans) heterosexual people. Neither of us nor the conservatives would be affected by that bill or any other type of anti-LGBT legislation. And yet, we both feel as though we have a right to our opinions on the matter. But do we?
One common refrain children hear when they are growing up is that our feelings are valid. I, myself, have written volumes about the negative effects of having my feelings invalidated during my childhood caused a lot of harm. And I still don't dispute that.
But I still believe that some feelings, emotions, reactions can be misplaced. Especially in regards to circumstances and experiences that are outside of ourselves. And in those cases, maybe it is important to consider not only what you feel, but why you feel that way.
Quench Your Thirst
Let me give you an example. I watched a documentary a few years ago where a psychologist put a plastic cockroach into a cup of water. He explained that due to our Western views on hygiene, most people would no longer drink it after it was removed. We would know that the water wasn't contaminated, yet, our sense of disgust would supersede our logic. So, should we then question our feelings of disgust—especially if doing otherwise would leave us thirsty?
Though our emotions may be real, our perceptions can be anything but. As it stands, trans-people in bathrooms pose as much threat to anyone as plastic cockroaches in water. But if we keep allowing ourselves to make decisions based on our fear, ignorance, or self-righteousness, we may be denying someone a vital resource.
Maybe that person is us, maybe that person is a stranger whose life we don't fully understand. Either way, it seems that the right thing, the logical thing, the kind thing would be to drink the water. Or at the very least, let them use the bathroom.