Ignorance. This word, by definition, seems harmless enough. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “lack of knowledge or awareness”. Okay, lack of knowledge is not such a bad thing. I’m ignorant of quite a few things; Replacing the master cylinder on my car, brain surgery, how to fire a 9mm handgun, how to drive an 18-wheeler . . . I really could keep going but I’ll spare you. All these things I have absolutely no clue about. And . . . if I leave it at that, no problem.
But a problem does arise if I were to attempt any one of these things with out the proper knowledge and training; the resulting outcome would be extremely harmful.
When we rush to judgment about someone or something it can lead to a similar harmful outcome. When someone makes a conclusion or judgment about someone or something with out the proper knowledge to make such judgment, Webster’s defines that as Prejudice.
Nearly everyone I know in the LGBT community has face prejudice, in varying degrees, at one time or another. I myself have faced prejudice from several different angles, including from those I have called long time friends.
But by far . . . what hurts the most . . . is when a person faces the next step beyond prejudice, an action based on prejudice and lack of knowledge . . . . that’s Discrimination. In a survey done by The National Center for Transgender Equality, "Ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it." Another statistic from the survey states "One-fifth (19%) reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives because they were transgender or gender non-conforming;." (As I had related in an earlier blog, this was me 3 years ago.) Also "50% of the sample reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care." I have been in this situation myself. You would think that medical professionals would know a bit more about trans health.
How do you stop prejudice? How do you prevent discrimination? One simple word.. . . EDUCATION!
When I looked up the word “education” I found these definitions;
1) “The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.” Dictionary.com
2) “The development and training of one’s mind, character, skills, etc. as by instruction, study and example.” Doubleday Dictionary
I love some of these phrases; “acquiring general knowledge”. It’s not special knowledge. I read that as it’s knowledge open and accessible to all who want it. The knowledge is there for the taking. All we have to do is reach for the knowledge we are in need of.
“Developing powers of reasoning and judgment.” Meaning as one acquires the knowledge, only then can a judgment be developed. A lawyer can't pass the bar exam one day and the next be a Supreme Court Judge. It takes time to develop and know what is needed to make decisions.
“Mature life” and “Developing character” - LOVE IT. Anyone who is a parent or spends anytime around children would know that they make some pretty bad decisions from time to time and don't always consider the consequences of their actions and words.
As mature adults, we have the capability to learn, understand and apply that newly acquired knowledge.
Why is it then that when something totally new comes along, do we not look beyond our little world and educate ourselves to help us come to a clear understanding of the new idea, concept, or way of thinking?
Why is it we as mature adults continue to make snap judgments?
When I transitioned, I had people come to their own conclusions about me with out sitting down and having a meaningful discussion. I had friends rush to judge, with out a clear understanding of the fear and pain I had lived my entire life. I had people not even attempt to take the time and energy to do their own research on being transgender.
Why are so many so stuck that they can not admit that their knowledge base may not be sufficient to come to a proper conclusion or decision? People need to remember that ignorance alone is not a bad thing. Ignorance means that you don’t know everything. Our society has perverted the word to denote something negative. I say admit your ignorance and look for those around you that can help you expand your knowledge. If there is no one around you, reach out to knowledgeable people in that field to help you.
I have had the opportunity in the past few years to really open people’s eyes and minds to who a transgender person is, something they knew very little about. I have sat down with a dad of an 18-year-old girl who just transitioned. He had so many questions about being trans. We sat and talked for over four hours. When we said goodnight, his world was a lot bigger.
I applaud those in my life, which I have several, that may not completely understand what it means to be transgender, but have continued to listen, ask questions, learn and expand their own thinking. That’s a sign of maturity and character that I dear say nearly all in the LGBT community long to see.