Imperfect ally.

Part one of a two-part post, which was written second, but which needs to come first.

I fuck up. Often. And on many levels.
I get defensive.
I try to recognize when I feel defensive, so I can check myself. Defensiveness is often a sign that my privilege is leading the way.
But I don’t always see it.
Sometimes, I don’t realize that I’m being ableist, or racist, or transphobic, or otherwise Othering.

Sometimes, I learn this by being on the sidelines of a conversation that could well have involved me. That always feels a bit like I’ve dodged a bullet: if I had said that thing that that person said, which I would have said if I had been a part of this conversation and not just observing, then I would feel defensive and also like a horrible person. Now I’ve learned that that thing is not an okay thing to say, and also why.

But sometimes, I am the person who says the thing. And I can beat myself up about that for days and weeks and months after I’ve learned why it was a terrible thing to say and what it really means for me to have said it, but I can never take it back.

I’m trying to learn how to lift up the voices of communities to which I do not belong, in spaces where I have privilege they do not have. I am trying to center those communities rather than speak for them. And as I was typing this, I realized that part of the problem is that, I’m not asking them how to do it. And that’s in large part because I’m afraid that I will be told that it isn’t up to them to teach me, because haven’t they got enough to do just trying to survive in a world that wishes they wouldn’t? And it is 100% valid for them to say that.

I don’t know how to fix the disenfranchisement, discrimination against, and outright slaughter of people I consider community and family. People whose lives I value. People whose fate could be mine, if the bigots of the world could see past my presentation, which they perceive one way, and know me for the perverse individual they would think I am if they knew my truth. But I want to. Maybe not “fix,” but “work toward a fix for.” Whatever I can offer, but don’t know how to give.

Knowing “just enough to be dangerous” has greater consequences in some situations than others. How can I be a better ally now, and continue to grow in that capacity?

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