I’ve seen a lot of well-meaning people throw their entire apologies to the wind through one mistake. While some of these apologies are sincere, others are non-apologies meant to try and appease those they’ve upset as opposed to actually learn from their mistakes. So, here is a little guide to help write a sincere apology and avoid those tropes and pot holes that may make your apology, no matter how sincere, bunk. This is aimed at more mass apologies as opposed to personal ones between one or a few people however that does not mean certain key points here are not applicable.
“But I have Black friends!” “My cousin is gay.” “That’s not true! My uncle is transgender!” We’ve all seen it before, the tokenization of relationships in order to prove a fact. Someone with friends, relatives, or ever partners who belong to a marginalized community cannot be against that community or hold ideas that are oppressive against them, right? Of course they can. The tokenization of relationships to prove a point even solidifies this point. How?
We’re all the same.
By saying you are friends, related to, partners with, etc. X marginalized group and thus cannot hold beliefs that harm other members of the group, you are saying that all members of the group are like your friend, family member, partner, etc. This is erasive and simplification of the complexity and variance of the group. In order for you to be supportive of the entire group, you are saying their identities and lives are just like that of the person you know.
Get Out of Jail Free Card
This tokenization also uses said relationship as an object, proving that there is nothing you can do or say that would be problematic because you have some relationship to this marginalized group and they have never said anything. This goes back to the fact that it holds the idea that these groups are all the same and cannot hold varying, let alone conflicting ideas or beliefs. If one person of a group believes something, all other beliefs must be incorrect. Interesting how this only applies to the ones who agree with the person who is defending their actions, beliefs, thoughts, etc.
I often see people complain about the human need to categorize and thus, label people. It is often surrounded by people decrying how they do not see race, gender, sexuality, or any other labels. These people proclaim that they only see people, and do not see the labels that describe people. Think of this thought exercise, it is a simple one, try to describe someone you know, anyone you know, without labels. Can you do it? I bet you cannot or, if you could, you forgot that words like nice, silly, goofy, annoying, spiteful, loud, and so on, are labels. In fact, another word for labels would be adjectives, words we use to describe a noun, like a person. By removing labels, we effectively erase humans as the diverse and amazing animals we are. By removing labels, we silence ourselves, our histories, our experiences, and most importantly, what makes us, well, us. Without labels, we cannot exist, not in a world that honors people for their humanity anyway.
Removing labels is not only impossible, but dangerous and harmful. As mentioned, we would have to effectively remove adjectives from our vocabulary, or, never apply them to people. If we only applied them to non-human animals or objects, why should they be afforded language that shows how wonderfully diverse they are, but humans are not? To deny labels is to deny diversity. It is to deny human experience. In fact, to remove labels is vastly anti-human in a way. It removes the very things that make up each unique (another label) individual. In fact, I cannot hold a conversation about labels without using labels. They are not only ingrained into our language, but help define it. In fact, studying how other people use language and labels in other languages helps broaden our own sensory perceptions. Understanding how other people see color and define color allows us to broaden our ability to see colors and understand them.
Listen up cis people, I want to talk to you today about intent. However, not in the intent isn’t magic sort of deal. Well, that might be a lie. I want to focus on compliments though, especially the one that goes a little bit like, “I would never have guessed!”. I get it. I understand the intent. It’s meant to be a compliment. Now, I want to address that this is my opinion on the subject. It may not be shared by you, and that is ok! I just want people to know that there are many people who take offense to statements like this and other statements like it.
By telling someone you would have never guessed they are trans*, you tell them they are passing. That’s great! Many people want to hear that. However, you are also implying that being visibly trans* is a bad thing. That to be visibly trans* is not how that person wants to be seen. That being visibly trans* is something that no one wants. You also enforce the idea that cis is the norm and the default for people. There is another companion to this quote, one just as well intentioned (insert quote about Hell and good intentions), but infinitely worse.
There seems to be a trend among those who are interested or uneducated in feminism and other social justice movements. This need almost always comes from those who are from the majority (thus, generally white, straight, cis men) who feel that they can demand education from those who are knowledgeable in the subject. They get angry or upset when someone refuses to educate them or does not want to answer their many questions.
Often, the questions that are asked are easily answered via Google. There are many, many 101 courses that people have written to cover these questions. Many people have to answer the same questions, repeatedly, and it can get quite annoying. For example, I often get asked what the asterisk in trans* stands for or what does queer mean. These questions are easily entered into Google with hundreds of resources for people to look into.