Something happened yesterday. I did not think this would happen in the time I have been writing this blog. I had an ally ask me an earnest and honest question that led to a great conversation. Instead of making assumptions on my positions, she asked honest questions. It gave me a second wind here and that had an effect on how I deal with trolls.
Here’s what happened. In response to the blog I wrote the other day, “My Frustrations and Reasons I Stand on the Right Side of Wrong“, an old friend I have known for a long time wrote this to me:
Thanks for writing this, Pat. If I may, can I sheepishly raise my white liberal progressive ally hand and ask a question? (A question I sincerely ask and want to listen to and learn from the answer).
This line in your piece really struck me: “I get bad ally apologists and defenders of various religious figures. They are so ardently defending them while saying they support trans rights that they completely miss the fact that virtually all the transgender readers as well as parents and partners of transgender individuals are in agreement with me on the harm these voices create. The comments of the voices that matter are ignored and silenced.”
In what way did Rachel (or others like her) cause harm in the way they attempted to be a public ally? I ask this not in defense of Rachel or others (though full disclosure, I like and admire Rachel), but I am asking because I don’t want to unknowingly contribute to the harm of a community that has suffered enough I want to be an ally that is helpful and not harmful, so I ask about what specifically was harmful and why, so I can learn to be a better ally that is helpful and not harmful.”
What she wrote here resonated with me. When my son first came out I wanted to be the best ally ever. But I kept on hurting him and I kept on putting my foot in my mouth. I persevered and kept on learning. She is persevering and learning. This made my heart soar.
When I left progressive ministry and Christianity I stopped associating with most of the people I knew from that world. I kept a few. She was one of them. She’s had a few messy experiences that has made her a survivor I truly respect. I have known her through the emergent village, the outlaw preachers, and the wild goose festival. She is an editor/reporter in the newspaper industry, has an amazing mind, and I have gotten to watch with great joy the path her son and her new husband have taken in life. She is a friend.
In the time that I have been writing the blog and being a parent online of an out teenager, I have never once been asked this question and I have often been vocal about how I wish we were all better allies. I wanted to make sure I got this right. So when the discussion was had I included a mutual friend that used to be a part of those circles as well. The mutual friend is a part of the queer community and was a lifeline to me when my son was coming out. I just wanted someone there who actually had the life experience so it was not cis het to cis het with no proper context.I wrote very openly and honestly about the refreshing parts of Rachel Held Evans’ path the last several years. Then I brought up and celebrated the good things she has done and the things she has done right and well. Then, I brought forward my 3 concerns on where I wish she were better as an ally and the 4th one that was most troubling. That is her response to constructive criticism she receives from the demographics she claims to represent.
When I was done saying my peace I had no idea what would happen next. What happened next was splendid. She thanked me, saw my perspective as a parent, and agreed with me. The other person who I invited to the conversation to ensure I got it right, assured us both that my perspective was spot on. Now, I need it stressed, if I had been told I had a few points wrong, I would have deferred to the correction.
Forget for the moment right and wrong. What I got was something I have wanted for a long time. An opportunity to communicate with allies on how we can all be better allies. I get it. I really do. Before my son came out I thought myself to be an ally. My perspective on what that meant changed drastically when my son came out. The whole world changed.
There are a few people in my social media circles who are no longer contacts over all this Rachel Held Evans stuff as well as the Laci Green stuff. They assumed I hated them and all they did. They went into extreme defense mode. This led to them never understanding I appreciated some of the things done. But I also have honest concerns.
When we put our love of celebrities over transgender teens and their loved ones, when we put compassion for people of color below our fandom, when we dismiss victimized women raising concerns about an advocate, we have let down the people we claim to be allies for. Love of celebrity has driven the most vitriolic responses to my blog and statements. I need to make that clear.
Progressive and liberal backlash from my expressing concerns about celebrity allies has drawn a more vitriolic response to my blog than conservative christians claiming my child is an abomination. Progressive allies, both christian and atheist, have been more viscous defending Laci Green and Rachel Held Evans than conservative republicans have been defending Trump on my blog. That is, unfortunately, a fact.
I had more to say, but I think we can all pause and just let that sink in. I did not expect that point to strike me in the writing. Allies, when challenged to be better, can sometimes be worse than the opposition.