Have you ever wished that you knew everything about everything, so you would never be caught off guard by new information?
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to learn something new, completely new, and then realize you were stupid for not knowing this sooner?
I have. Let me explain.
There is a Facebook trend happening right now where people are applying Snapchat filters to their photos to see what they would look like as the opposite sex. To me, it seems like silly harmless fun, but to my transgender friend, it triggered her and brought to bear all the shame and anguish that non-Cis people have been put through in the name of finding themselves.
It never occurred to me that this trend could be triggering for someone else. Obviously, I’m not transgender so I would have no knowledge that this could be a problem, these filters. However, when I tried to ask my friend if she was perhaps taking this “too seriously”, she blew up at me and ended up blocking me. Instead of taking the time to rationally educate me, she let her anger overwhelm her.
I wonder how often we’re all guilty of this…taking an educatable moment and blowing it by letting emotion get the best of us. I was surprised she blocked me…I’ve always been her supporter through a lot of things she’s going through, but apparently, that wasn’t enough. My ignorance about how these filtered photos would affect others was too much for her and her lashing out the way she did speaks volumes as to the anger she carries about the transgressions she and all non-Cis people face.
I’m disappointed in myself when I have a chance to teach someone something and then emotion gets in the way and I blow it. I feel bad afterwards, but I rarely reach out again to try and correct the situation. I just promise myself that next time, I’ll do better. And I look for those teachable moments in the future.
Living with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue means I get a lot of ignorant questions. Most people are well-meaning, but they just don’t know how to ask the question without coming across in a negative way. Still, it’s not their responsibility to ask properly…as long as they’re not out and out rude, I’m happy to answer, but this is where using compassion and tact comes into play. I don’t have to answer the question in the same vein as it’s been asked…I can use that tact and compassion to educate in a way where everyone is satisfied.
I once attended Disney’s “Train the Trainer” program for customer service. One question that gets asked A LOT at Disneyland is this: What time does the 3:00 o’clock Parade start?
Now, you might think this is a stupid question (duh…3:00 o’clock!!) but it teaches us that there are ways to answer and educate others without stooping to ignorant levels. This is how the question is answered at Disneyland: “well, if you are sitting at the beginning of the Parade route, it will start precisely at 3pm. However, if you are in Adventureland, it will be 3:15pm by the time the Parade starts for you”.
That answer has stuck with me for 19 years, since I did the training, simply because it shows us that there can be wonderful ways to answer what seem to be ignorant questions. Now I didn’t think the question I asked my friend was ignorant at all, but she obviously took it that way. Could this whole thing have been handled differently if she has answered me differently? Of course. I would have acknowledged my lack of knowledge and that would have been that. I actually tried to do that, but she was having none of it. I had offended her greatly and by her choice, it was enough to block me. What a shame.
Friends, when you’re faced with a question that you think is ignorant, stop for a moment and ask yourself this: Is the person asking regularly rude? Have they supported you and your causes in the past? Is there a better way they could have asked the question, but for some reason didn’t? Don’t punish them for the asking…use it as a springboard to start a dialogue. Explain why the question triggered you and let them know how you feel, by all means, but don’t assume the question was asked just to piss you off. Take this teachable moment and teach. And don’t let your emotions override your opportunity.
I’ll miss this person now that I’m blocked, but perhaps it’s better this way, as I would have been uncomfortable about making comments of any substance around her after this. I wouldn’t feel comfortable being myself around her, and would always wonder if the next thing I said or did was going to upset her again.
I don’t censor myself for anyone…I try to ask questions in an intelligent manner, but sometimes I fall short. Still, this whole situation has taught me a few things, and for that I’m grateful. I’ll try harder to see how trends can have a negative impact on the people around me. And hopefully, if I’ve asked the wrong question, someone will take the time to teach me better for next time. Because there’s always the next time.
There is always hope.