Alongside the idea that you cannot fight fire with fire, exists the idea that you must extend tolerance towards those who despise and loathe you in order to make any ground. You need to love your oppressor in order to get them on your side (implying you wish this anyway). Tolerance breeds acceptance and thus, you must play nice with those who wish you dead and gone. You absolutely have to play nice or risk being the single person who brings the entire movement down. We treat people like Jenga blocks, one wrong move and everything you’ve worked for to get ahead is gone.
This is a simplification to damaging degrees. It implies that the reactions of one person represent the entire group and that for oppression to be gone, one must be tolerant and accepting of said oppression. You are in the spotlight at all times. Every move you make must be calculated or else, not only do you lose, you bring everyone else under your banner with you, whether they are actually with you or not. One wrong step and your entire label is tainted. It all comes down to you. Don’t rock the boat, or else you’ll cause everyone to drown. You must nod you head and bow to the status quo, hoping if you dance well enough, you will be granted a token of basic humanity, if they even see you as human at all.
CW: Mentions of rape, murder, harassment, and assault.
It’s like the idea of “we’re all human”. They truly believe that these people who tell us we are disgusting, deny us our rights, rape, murder, and assault us, see us as humans. For us to be reach equally and be seen as humans, devoid of labels, we must first reach the status of humanity. Even then, humans, by their very nature, are diverse. We speak a multitude of languages, have different customs, languages, identities, genders, sexualities, and so forth. No two people are identical and to embrace difference and thus labels, is to embrace humanity. By erasing these differences, we are erasing humanity as well as setting a standard for default as opposed to opening to difference. When we are told that we are “all human” and thus, need to embrace the humanity of others, we are being told to be tolerant of the denial of our own humanity. We are told to respect others as human and different, while these same people tell us we are monsters, subhuman, and should be denied life.
These people believe that showing tolerance towards intolerance shows you are above these people. They believe the aggressions in response to oppression are equal to that of the original perpetrator. If a trans woman calls a transmisogynist disgusting, she is the one who has failed, not the person perpetuating the already widely held belief that trans women are unloveable, unfuckable, and all around not worthy of humanity. Her response is the problematic one though because she should be acting kindly towards these beliefs, these very beliefs that get her harassed, assaulted, raped, and potentially murdered. We are being told to be tolerant of our lacking of rights, freedoms, and autonomy. It is not the system that is inherently broken, it is our lack of tolerance for the system.
Extend kindness to the people who wish to harm you, physically or emotionally. Be understanding of their hate. Accept their hate and rise above it. This is the idea that is being perpetuated. These people, so devoid of any understanding of oppression, believe that the oppressed have the power to turn the conversation into one where they are the oppressor on a grand scale in society. Be nice, they say, or we will not grant you basic humanity. Play our way. Deny me and be doomed. It’s almost as if society wishes us to have Stockholm Syndrome in a way, create an environment of abuse and contempt, and pretend that it is something that we can simply ignore and pretend doesn’t harm us. Pretend that if we are nice enough, beg enough, we will be granted what we wish.
We are expected to hinge our rights and our humanity on the acceptance of those who despise us. We are expected to play trick pony for these people, while not shitting all over their parade, and if you’ve ever seen a parade with horses in it…They shit everywhere. We are expected to be kind to them while they beat us, call us names, deny our bodies and identities. We’re expected to remain kind and smile through out all of this, but worst of all, we are expected to not react in ways that show our humanity. We are not expected to react to pain, hurt, and suffering. We are expected to act exactly as we are seen, inhuman. We are expected to be robotic servants, devoid of all emotion, beside the will to serve. Explain to me how this is supposed to dismantle the very systems that cause these pains and sufferings as opposed to reinforce it?
Intolerance of intolerance does not beget acceptance. Fighting back does not get you your way. I often find the people who say these things, especially queer people who say these things, to be humorous. The pivotal point for queer rights (though usually just considered gay rights now), in the United States, was born out of violence, out of reacting, out of proclaiming enough is enough. Bottles were smashed. Shoes and bricks were thrown. Riots erupted in the streets. I am speaking of Stonewall, a movement, a centerpiece, started by trans women of color, born out of violence and bashing back. Before even Stonewall there was the Compton Cafeteria Riots. More anger. More violence.
These actions are always forgotten, simply ignored, in favor of the be tolerant of intolerance motto. If we are tolerant of those who wish us harm, clearly we will be the superior? With queer rights, especially trans rights, becoming more popular in the public eye, clearly we must be seeing some improvement, especially as more people are becoming tolerant of intolerance. Surely Transgender Day of Remembrance must be on its way out. Cities and states must be passing protections for ALL queer people at record numbers. Violence experienced by queer folk must becoming less targets for hate crimes and violence. I mean, if the tolerance for intolerance motto is what works, this must be happening. right?
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence reported 2,016 LBGTQ related hate crimes in 2012. This is a 4% increase fro 2011. This is of course only reported hate crimes. Many go unreported due to bias and stigma. In 2013, New York City, a city usually prided on how tolerant it is, had seen 68 anti-gay assaults by August. This was already 14 over the number for 2012 and that was before the year was over. Of course, this does not account for transphobic attacks, like the murder of Islan Nettles outside of a police station in Harlem. This also does not count the hate crimes committed against queer people by the system itself, such as placed trans women in men’s prisons or the laws attempted being passed in multiple states to deny bathroom access to trans people or allow businesses to deny services to queer people.
I fail to see how being tolerant of intolerance has gotten us anywhere. Being tolerant of intolerance has left us with people who believe it is ok to openly attack and discriminate against queer people because if we act out, we are the ones to blame. Those who fight against oppression, tooth and nail, can then be blamed for lack of progress as opposed to the rampant oppressions that we face in society. We can shift the blame to queer people, as opposed to those in the majority enacting their power and their support of the status quo. It’s clearly not their fault! It’s the angry queer who finally had enough, lashing out. It’s the angry trans woman trope, obviously so overcome with self-loathing that she must be off her rocker. It’s those ‘other queers’ who the tokens can say they are nothing like in order to sit at the table of ‘allies’. We become pitted against ourselves, fighting for scraps, as opposed to flipping the whole damned table over.