Friday, 10 June 2011

I refuse to tolerate intolerance

This piece originally appeared at Womanist Musings where Renee has very generously allowed my random musings to appear on her excellent blog

So last week I saw another round of that old old game - “you aren't tolerating the homophobes! You terrible intolerant person!”

Because we, as marginalised people looking for tolerance to survive, are hypocrites because we don't tolerate those who attack us.

Firstly I think I need to be clear that I'm not big on tolerance anyway. I've said this before. I'm not interested in being tolerated. I don't want to be tolerated. I'm not a blight or burden for you to endure.

I don't ask for tolerance. I demand acceptance.

Now, moving on from there. When someone is homophobic they are denying me as a person. No, not behaviour, not action and it's not all about sex. Being gay is who I am.

This is an attack on me. So when you ask me to tolerate homophobia, you are demanding I tolerate that attack. You are asking me to accept that attack. You are demanding I NOT DEFEND MYSELF when I am being attacked. They are attacking me, they are hurting me, they are trying to reduce my quality of life, they are trying to pull me down and they are encouraging others to do the same – they are encouraging a society that constantly tries to do the same.

And I'm supposed to tolerate that? Lay down and take it? “Thank you sir, may I have another”? Sorry, if I were that masochistic I could think of much much much more fun ways to express it than that.

I don't tolerate bigotry. I do not. In fact, I do not think tolerating bigotry is laudable – I think it's pretty reprehensible. A bigot – of any stripe – is denying someone's humanity, is reducing a person to less. it doesn't matter why they're doing it, it doesn't matter how nice they are, it doesn't matter where their bigotry comes from – they are attacking us, demeaning us and dehumanising us.

That is intolerable. It should not be tolerated. Tolerating that is wrong and further harms and disrespects the people who are the victims of bigotry. Tolerating bigotry means you accept and allow our humanity to be denied. It means you don't think that this bigotry is all that bad.

And this is why we still have bigotry. This is why I'm still afraid so much of the time, this is why I've suffered violence. This is why legal rights are denied, this is why people lose families, jobs, homes and even their lives. Not just because of the bigots – but because of the vast number of people who enable discrimination and hate by tolerating it. Your tolerance gives it consent, your tolerance demeans us, your tolerance supports hatred – and your tolerance encourages further victimisation

So no, I do not tolerate bigotry – and that doesn't make me a hypocrite. As someone who opposes the dehumanisation of marginalised people it would make me a hypocrite if I did tolerate bigotry. Some things are not tolerated

And yes, there are a lot of back links in this post. Mainly because I found myself saying what I've already said over and over – and it's always depressing to repeat oneself when confronted with another bingo-card worth of fails. Thankfully, while we do tend to be stuck arguing the same damn thing (and the same 101) over and over, internet linking makes the process much easier.