Pridefest: If it is a campaign of conversation “Stop It” is no way to begin it

When you constrict the tongue so too does the mind. The community of London is being encouraged to pledge to not be bystanders to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language. In reference to this pledge the slogan is “If I hear it. I will stop it.”

If it is a campaign of conversation “Stop It” is no way to begin it. ‘If I hear it. I will explain’ seems a more attractive slogan. ‘If I hear it. I will speak.’ It is easier to start a conversation than to institute a conversion.

I don’t have a problem with the tone of this endeavor but I do have an issue with the type. As an individual who experiences a double stigma any effort in the direction of civility and ending stigmatizing language has my support. I also support any and all sexualities and points of gender in or out of a parade.

I was told I could research before I went down to Pridefest so I would be informed enough to avoid being “stopped”. Should people need to be educated to attend an event or should the event educate people? You can’t control ignorance. Stigma does not disappear with the end of insensitive references and terminology. Much of the stigma I experience has nothing to do with insulting words.

We have to let people catch up with their minds before we can make a lexicon let alone enforce it. Not every tongue is tied to the same point of appropriateness. Why would a celebration of variances of sexuality and gender want no variance in expression? This campaign creates a barrier for mindful experimentation in exposing old ideas and perceptions to new information.

Having a faction who has declared to “stop” some hurtful reference or word erodes the inclusiveness LGBT… are trying to create even for themselves. Isn’t not tolerating intolerance, intolerance itself? The individual who may not be up to speed risks some form of public correction of what in essence is a collection of experiences, upbringing, exposure and more.

It seems Londoners are being called to conform to some yet unidentified lexicon. To unleash even a small team of enforcers to the vagueness of insult is worrisome if not more. I don’t think you can argue that an acceptable reference to LGBTQ…“members” is an evolution. The problem with offensive language is it can be anything to anyone. Further it is always changing. It wasn’t many years ago that LGBT was an appropriate short form. Today I don’t even know since it has been altered to be more inclusive. I’m not sure it progresses dialogue to point out a failing of being up to date with each sensitivity in a group of individuals with differences themselves.

How do you define let alone defend a collection of varying sensitivities? It seems this campaign will have an array of individuals with a series of sensitivities correcting and “stopping” an array of individuals who may voice beliefs that have been determined by circumstances they may have not chosen. In essence the most sensitive individual dictates discourse and dialogue dies.

I don’t think you can take a point in time and expect the linear processes of thought and thus speech to equally reflect some unidentified line of right or wrong. You are essentially pulling a rope that will miss those who are better informed while sweeping the feet out from your fellow citizens who may not be at the point you desire.

I don’t get out much but my impression of this festival would be one that allows. Are we at a point where groups demand tolerance? For some Londoners the LGBT… community would be one they know little about. Is it much of an invitation to them to expect each and all to know the parameters of some code of language? Is it fair for those not in the know to research to find your demands? Can’t they just show up? Why throw a wall up for someone who does not totally understand you? Shouldn’t individuals who misperceive be welcome to express themselves freely? The police cannot “stop” what can come from our mouths other than what is codified as improper. The rest falls to free speech.

LGBT… reality and references cannot be imposed on people. Stigma comes from the mind not the tongue. Some Londoners may have more experience in past prejudices than present progressive phrases. Some Londoners are not up to speed with what might be appropriate presently. Should we expect that individual to conform with language that others institute as not publicly permissible at LGBT… events and across the city? Surely with this petition those who sign their names are given a list of what exactly they intend to “stop.”

If you are inviting Londoners to witness your humanity so must you witness the visitor’s. If there is a group in London that is walking around scouting sentences it is a duty to provide a list of what it is this force deems as inappropriate. If such a list has not been compiled already then what is being enforced is at the discretion of each individual pledged. This is unfair. Have the pledged been informed officially how to respond? Have they been told to ask questions first or simply correct? Are Londoners to expect a defined response to something they could invariably say or is that at the discretion of the pledged? If the parameters are black and white they should be printed. Promising to point out offensive remarks on the spot is only fair if the attendee is aware of what is considered offensive.

This campaign focuses on the tip of the iceberg. The tongue is built on a mass of information, experiences, exposures etc. If you cut a person’s tongue out they can still bleed hate. This seemingly innocuous gag order will provide an illusion of respect but create little. If we keep our streets safe for any terms presently legal the opportunity to make an impact on the submerged portion of the iceberg is possible. The tongue is only the tip. Change people’s minds and you don’t have to change what they say.

In my own experience with mental health I have experienced terrible insults but I cannot control where an individual is at. I cannot change their childhood. I cannot change the year they were born. I cannot change what they witnessed or did not witness in media, school etc. The insults I hear are connected to years of misinformation and correcting a word or phrase does little to alter the mass of misunderstanding. It stifles the dialogue when we pounce on phrases and there is the risk the offender will retreat and we will never learn about each other.

Are the pledged pure of speech? Has a lesbian ever made a demeaning remark about mental illness or one with it? It becomes a maze of sensitivities for us all to wander through. There is a point where the offended must provide an element of resilience. To single out an individual for their perceptions, prejudices, and experiences is also unfair and slightly counterproductive.

Individuals who use inappropriate language are often a product of society. Perceptions and prejudices need to be altered before language evolves to the point where it reflects inclusiveness and acceptance. If you want others to accept where you are at then it is only fair to accept where others are at. Insults often arise out of fear and a sense of being threatened. I see this pledge as creating more of the same. When language and opinions are tolerated they can be changed. When you attempt to “stop” language it curtails having opinions and in some cases ends the conversation.

What if an individual with mental illness is at your event and speaks inappropriately? What if this or any individual does not comply? Are there instructions to walk away? You know, enjoy the parade. If you’re looking over your shoulder at what I’m nattering about you will miss seeing the floats. Some of these individuals may be part of your community or transitioning into it. You are going to scold them on the street? I was assured that intent would be taken into consideration but I was not set at ease imagining each and every pledged being a mind reader. I don’t believe you can uncover intent on the sidewalk or at the mall. Legally it can only be proven in court.

If you want others to be tolerant so must you be. Open dialogue is preferable to vows of intolerance. It is unfair not to accept Caitlyn Jenner but it is equally unfair to expect people to transition mentally and socially overnight. If someone I have been exposed to for years showed up as a different or altered gender would it not require time and dialogue to adjust to the new information?

Creating an open and accepting environment becomes difficult when people sign a contract to “stop” anything. It would be hypocritical of me to sign such a pledge without also ensuring I am sensitive to every other individual who is different from me. I would need a PhD just to keep track. It is impossible to end intolerance and stigma by attempting to ban it.

For some Londoners attending Pridefest requires leaving their comfort zone. This pledge is a poor replacement. We all have prejudices however slight. Much of a prejudice is not intentional thought. People don’t purchase “Intolerance for Dummies” and study ignorance. It stems from a lifetime of information. I’m not sure we should fault people for what they may or may not know.

There may come a day when everyone is sensitive to TGBLQ… individuals but to force it will only create a semblance of change rather than real change. My sense is that Pridefest has changed and evolved as have Londoners in general even over the past five years. Did this evolution occur with a pledge campaign? Will it not continue to evolve without a pledge?

LGBT…individuals have millions of supporters, are organized, have political influence and presently a friendly government. Many in our community do not have any of these things. Celebrate what you are but be grateful for what you have been able to obtain. They are privileges some do not have. As far as this pledge I would firstly question my own mouth before I vowed to refashion someone else’s.

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