Those trying to be inclusive embrace people of different races, ethnicities, religions, creeds, genders, sexualities, abilities, and ages. However, they usually do not include those with different ideas. In other words, diversity is great, except for diversity of thought (or, for that matter, diversity that includes “privileged groups”). Some have even chosen to sacrifice genuine inclusivity on the altar of political correctness to make others feel comfortable. This is not inclusion. This is exclusion.
Take my transgender sister. Although she used to be a self-identified Bernie Sanders supporter just a few years ago, she recently became a staunch libertarian and has warmed up to President Trump and some of his policies. My question to the LGBTQ+ and PRIDE groups out there: would you welcome my sister with open arms to your support groups and activist meetings? I imagine not, because of two main reasons: the hostility that exists between queer individuals and the broader political right, and the polarized nature of today’s politics.
I find it upsetting that basic principles of inclusion are ignored for the sake of politics; individual traits and characteristics have become so political that people who have commonalities cannot be associated with one another because of political affiliation. Personally, whenever my sister is suffering from mental health problems, I try to help her out as much as I can. Even though I have gotten many recommendations from others to get her to seek help from the LGBTQ+ community, I ignore them because I know from experience how those will go. The last time I went to a transgender group therapy session with my sister, I got tossed out of the meeting and “re-educated” for saying that I could not wrap my head around the idea of there being an “infinite” number of genders.
To whoever claims to be “inclusive,” “accepting of diversity” and “compassionate,” I ask: where was the inclusivity when I was tossed out of that meeting? Where was the diversity of thought when I was hounded and berated for merely questioning the idea of infinite genders? Where was the compassion when I had to comfort my sister during her mental breakdowns because she had nowhere else to turn?
Now, I will accept that there is some argument to be made that inclusivity’s intent is compassion. Some might argue that my words at that support group were harmful to those present, and therefore I cannot claim the mantle of being “inclusive” and “compassionate.” However, it is those critics themselves who I say cannot be inclusive. Even if it is for the sake of keeping some people ‘in,’ it is exclusive to keep certain thoughts and ideas ‘out.’
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Inclusivity comes at a price, which is often the sacrifice of the comfort that comes from echo chambers. Some people try to dismiss certain ideas to make others feel comfortable, but we do not have to set aside the diversity of ideas for the sake of inclusivity.
Some will still claim that we must fight to include certain marginalized groups. While this is true, the fight for inclusivity is not a zero-sum game. Fighting for one group to have a spot at the table does not inherently mean that another group must lose theirs. Everyone ought to have a voice. Just because one group historically had power over another does not warrant marginalizing either group. Power dynamics do not warrant mistreatment to anyone. Rather, it should be a catalyst to ensure equality among all.
Do not claim the mantle of inclusion if you actually are exclusive. Do not masquerade as something you are not. Be honest with yourself: what would an inclusive society look like? Would it include everyone at the table, or would it keep some out to make others feel safe? The former is objectively inclusive, the latter objectively exclusive. Opening up to other people of different backgrounds is the way forward. As for my sister, my advice to those who would like to help her is this: keep politics out of the conversation. If it does enter the conversation, be open-minded. Above all, just listen. I guarantee that you will learn something and be much better off if you do not jump to any conclusions.
As an aside, I will say that many conservatives and Trump supporters that I have told about my sister’s transition have been nothing but open-minded and receptive about it. Often times, they do not argue with me but just listen to what I have to say. I can name only one or two incidents when someone was genuinely hostile to me because of my sister. On the other hand, every person on the political left whom I have talked to about my sister always talks about how gender is a spectrum or how my sister is another case of the “oppression of transgender people.” Make what you will of that, but it goes without saying that only one side can really claim openness.
Not listening to one another causes an inherent lack of distrust of the “other.” You never know who has an agenda. What we really need nowadays are people who listen and are upfront and honest about what they want. When I talk to someone who might be hostile to the idea of my sister transitioning–conservatives and Trump supporters, for example–I do not take the opportunity to “educate” that person. I just talk about my sister’s story and leave it at that. If they want to talk politics, so be it; I am not the kind of person around whom others have to walk on eggshells. Still, there are times when politics and agendas must enter into the equation and there are times when they need to be left aside. Otherwise, it simply breeds mistrust, and nobody’s the wiser at the end of the day. When I do leave politics aside and just talk frankly about a sensitive subject, I find a receptive audience. The personal does not have to be political.