Hum along

I had a job interview recently and in it I talked about introducing processes into places that might not have had them before. It was in the context of publishing but I figured that managing change is a transferable skill.

My pitch to people goes like this: we introduce processes so that you can focus on your true job. Process, once you’ve learned it, hums pleasantly in the background while you edit your book, design your cover, brainstorm marketing plans. You can rely on it to be there to carry things along, smooth the way, not slow you down.

Today, I read an article that looked on the face of it to have nothing to do with process but as I continued reading I realized it might. The article is called “Guy Talk: Why A Straight Man Like Me Cares About Transgender Rights.”

That’s right, it’s called “Guy Talk: Why A Straight Man Like Me Cares About Transgender Rights.” The article is a response to a column in the Observer about transgender people that was condescending at best and deeply offensive at worst, so much so that the Guardian, having reproduced the print version online, took it down. Why did a straight guy take the time to write a response? An excerpt:

Here’s why I take transgender issues personally…

Because I or someone I love might get cancer at some point, and a trans person who is capable of discovering the cure is otherwise occupied defending their right to exist.

I live in a world that needs leadership, and a smart, tireless trans person who should maybe be President is busy arguing that they deserve basic human respect.

I want to drive a fucking flying car someday, and the trans person who might invent it is stuck responding to Guardian editorials that treat them like they’re subhuman.

These are examples of active prejudice against transpeople. Transpeople can pinpoint them and, though transpeople should never have to as far as I’m concerned, they can make equally pointed rebuttals in return. They’re distracted from doing good work by having to defend themselves.

But it’s not just overt; it’s insidious, which in its way is even more distracting. Prejudice like that doesn’t hum at pleasant levels in the background, it hisses at levels you’d think only dogs could hear. Imagine the distraction. At work, out in the world, at home. The exhaustion, having to defend your right to exist against something so quiet but insistent.

I’ve never had to deal with such overt prejudice, nor have I had to deal that degree of quiet but equally pervasive prejudice. I do have to defend my orientation against both the zeroes and sixes who cry fence-sitter and whatnot, but I’ve certainly never had to defend my right to exist, argue that I deserve basic human respect, or counter contentions that I’m subhuman, like transpeople do. Every day.

Some describe etiquette is a social lubricant. (Allow a moment for your inner teenager to snicker.) Civilized society runs on principles of respect and etiquette but respect is the bedrock: it’s the pleasant hum in the background that allows us focus on being our unique selves, lovable selves, human selves. Everyone deserves to rely on that pleasant hum to be there to carry things along, smooth the way, not slow them down.


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