A privilege to listen


There are times when it comes to writing a blog post that I need to walk away and do something else. Not for any drama, but because whatever is floating around in my noggin, needs a little time to settle.

Earlier in the week, I happened to be assisting in an online event about the long shadow of racism in large institutions. Being behind the scenes, I had to stay quiet (a challenge, I know 😉), but in doing so, I was able to focus and listen to the speakers. They were are women from BAME (Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic) backgrounds.

By the end of the afternoon, I felt that I’d witnessed a discussion to hear the stories first hand. Some of what they had to say was upsetting. Not just from an empathetic stance, but at the injustice of the system. We know the odds are stacked against you when you’re not a well off, straight, white man.

Did I feel that the current Trans struggle for rights is the same? No, it’s not exactly the same, but I think there are some similar outcomes. Peoples’ judgement of you based on how you look and the otherness forced by like promoting like. I’m very aware of my privilege as a middle class straight bloke, despite my trans nature.

The bit that really struck me was one panelist saying that equality is impossible while an organisation supports someone with racist views. Her tone was not firebrand radical nor other tired trope. It was that weariness of one who has seen and knows it’s a tough ask for others to accept. Feel free to nod sagely if I mention Climate Change, the science deniers, and the recent political scams in the US and UK.

I reflected on her point: is this true for trans people too? If those in positions of power hold us in contempt, how do we challenge that to change things? Is it about a groundswell of people, simply time, or a cultural sea change? Does it go further: should those who express bigotry be held to account?

I hear the rattling of the sabre around freedom to express. Perhaps, but freedom of consequence? I note a few – and I’ll use the kind term of ‘outspoken’ – pundits have been removed from Twitter or lost their radio show after the Black Lives Matter protests overseas and over here.

Where does this leave us, Dear Reader? Part of me wishes I had answers, but if I did, would have the same weariness as that of the speaker? Would I see the system as it is and shake my head at the issues I can now see?

Perhaps all I can do, maybe all of us even, is listen. Let the those who need to speak, be heard. Use our collective power to help, to build, and maybe, just maybe, the world will be a little better.

L x


  1. Xenophobia – fear of anyone outside our exact group – is complex. Nature has provided us with the reflex of pausing to assess something or someone that is out of the ordinary. It’s how we’ve survived danger and been able to evolve over billions of years. When confronted with a person who has some difference to us what happens next is up to our reason. Are they a threat? If so, fight them or back away. If not, relax and ignore or, if you’re adventurous, say hi. A person is no threat just through their having darker skin or being trans or female or poor or whatever. Maybe they aren’t after your job/purse/genitals really. But lazy reasoners and cowards abound, as do people greedy for privilege or dominance, so it’s easier/more fun to mistreat outsiders. In a melting pot of ethnic, economic and social differences that makes up the parts of London where I was brought up and worked and lived, there’s less abuse. In areas/fields where one type of person abounds you get more abuse. Is the solution mixing it up more? Or teaching people to reduce irrational fears? Sue x

    1. I think the point about familiarity helps. It reduces the shock value and as things become everyday. Interesting – if upsetting – to see some communities react negatively to such initiatives (e.g.: awareness of LGBTQ+ for primary school kids). Still, hopefully the lived experience of knowing someone outside your usual sphere helps a person question negative statements on race et al.

      I think there’s an element where Those In Charge might need to look at what they are allowing to be said. The media and tech companies giving a platform voice – and credibility – to certain views. I think it’s a difficult line to draw around not giving hate speech volume, retiring the facts, challenging fake need, and allowing hate to be seen for what it is.

      Lastly, I heard a suggestion that helping children develop critical thinking skills would help. Just because something feels right: is it? How to fact check something or read around to be informed.

  2. Firstly, I think we all need to listen……….We are far too quick to jump to conclusions or draw on our upbringing or social conditioning. So teaching, not just children (although that would be a start) to fact check and listen to all sides in an argument would be a good thing. Those in charge should tell the truth, by that I mean the whole truth. Far too often Those in Charge put forward an argument, but only promote the positives as they see it, basically telling us what they think we want to hear. Those promoting the other side do the same, they promote the positives from their side. But in all arguments there are two sides, and both sides have positives and negatives, if we are given all the facts we can make a reasoned decision.

    As regards the panellist who said “equality is impossible while an organisation supports someone with racist views” I whole heartedly support this statement. I have worked for organisations that loudly state they are all inclusive, they support ethnic workers, and do not tolerate ethnic, sexist and transphobic actions. Yet at the same time some of the senior managers and indeed Directors make ethnic, sexist and transphobic ‘jokes’………. Being racist, sexist, or transphobic is no joke to those the comment was aimed at, and these people need to understand that, sadly most think they are above all that…………

    1. Thanks Andrea. I’ve little time for spin or fake news. I don’t think it helps, well at least in the long term. I’ve seen some from various areas of the political spectrum. What’s the old phrase: the truth will out?

      I think we may be beginning to see society and technology catch up with how they were being exploited.

      I noted today that another big corporate has suspended its advertising contact with Facebook. Twitter seems to be removing people (Graham Lineham and Katie Hopkins). Perhaps with Facebook certain companies are aiming to get their message for change that hate is unacceptable by affecting the ad giant’s bottom line.

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