What Equality Means To Me

In response to a typical business email, the adviser of The Equality Alliance (The LGBT* group of which I’m the secretary at my college) asked me:

“Jessica,
Question. First paragraph, second sentence. What do you mean by “equality”?  Is it not a contradiction to seek “equality” by drawing attention to differences?
Best”

To which I responded as follows:

“Never an uninteresting question, Dr. & I thank you for it!

Equality, at least to me, means that no one is done harm based on the things that make them different.

Equality to me means that a person can celebrate their heritage as an African, or a person of African decent, but they do not have to suffer blown up churches, industrial sized hoses, police dogs or lynchings.

Equality to me means that a person can understand and celebrate her sex and her gender and she can CHOOSE the kitchen or the workplace, the family or the career, or she can CHOOSE both. And she can do that as a free and equal member of society.

Equality is also about choice.

Equality to me means that indigenous peoples to this land can celebrate their heritage, and protest the injustices brought on to them by hundreds of years of a fascist government & a complacent populace.

Equality to me means the person who is gay, or bisexual or pansexual can marry whomever they want, and they can be equal in the eyes of the law.

Equality to me means that it isn’t even a question, or ‘something to be thought about’, when the transgender student decides she wants to change the name she goes by in her byline for her college paper.

There are so many more things that equality means to me, but your point reminds me of one my British Literature professor made, that it is more peaceful if Celtic & Christian religions integrate together. It almost seemed to me to be that she was suggesting that differing religions CANNOT coexist, and of course I don’t want to put words in her mouth, this is only how I interpreted it.

I remember reading something similar about that need to integrate – that need to assimilate – in the novel ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison. And wouldn’t the white, heterosexual, cisgender society all like it if we became but a single black drop in all their pure white paint.

If we would integrate & assimilate.

This does not mean that differences won’t be celebrated, oh no! We’ll still have renaissance fairs, a celebration of euro-centric ancestry. We’ll still have marriages, a celebration of heterosexual society.

I hope you won’t take my tone as rude or vulgar, especially when I say this, it seems to me that you either have forgotten, neglected or ignored that differences are actually celebrated everyday. It is only, again, when someone who isn’t white, or isn’t cisgender, or isn’t heterosexual, tries to celebrate their differences that they become accused of asking for preferential treatment.

If a man and a woman marry, that is a celebration of differences. Now if we were all equal, then we could all celebrate our differences in this way if we so choose.

I fail to see how that celebration of differences, if offered to everyone, hinders equality.

But I suppose my meaning for equality, particularly in that sentence is a sense that people will be equal to write under whatever name they wish in their school paper. To me, that word equality is a hope that one day this club can reach out to K-12 students and tell them that they are not, by way of celebrating their differences, rightfully supposed to submit to verbal harassment and or physical harassment or assault. My purpose in using that word is in hopes of saying to my peers that they have found a safe place here to celebrate their many differences. My hope in using that word is that maybe one day we can tell an eighth grade transgirl who has just decided to celebrate her differences by painting her nails for the first time that it’s not okay if her father makes her wash it off with hot water and bleach.

But maybe that again is your point. We wouldn’t face prejudice if we just shut up and got back in line. And if that might be your point, then I have to apologize, for I will never shut up and I most certainly will never get in line. I will not live my life with the heartache of suppressing & repressing myself whilst I have to watch the pre approved members of society getting to celebrate themselves.

On that note, I was going to apologize, originally, for any pathos I might have used, but in the spirit of the above text, I withdraw my apology before I’ve even had a chance to issue it.

Thank you again, Dr. for the question. If I have at all missed the point of your question, please do not hesitate to redirect me. I look forward to continuing this conversation and taking any other questions anyone else may have.

Sincerely,
Jessica A. Fisher
Secretary of The Equality Alliance
Lesbian Trans*woman”

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Categories: Jessica Fisher | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “What Equality Means To Me

  1. Great article, and I agree firmly with all the points made. It’s OK to be different, because different does not mean either superior or inferior–it just means different. The problem, I think, is when members of privileged groups excuse oppression by labeling it as just an example of celebrating difference (e.g. the “noble savage” stereotype of Native Americans). I would defer to members of the underprivileged group by asking them, does this serve you, or hinder you?

  2. Reblogged this on brandon arkell and commented:
    I enjoy reading the Being Feminist posts on Facebook. I also appreciate the concept of intersectionality present in much of gender theory.

  3. john

    “And wouldn’t the white, heterosexual, cisgender society all like it if we became but a single black drop in all their pure white paint.” -Spreading stereotypes about an entire group of people is pretty distasteful here, especially this being the very behavior you’re seeking to combat. Otherwise good article.

    • Thank you for you’re comment, John. I understand you’re point. I shoud’ve at least said in my experience – or tried to be more level headed and academic about the point I was trying to make. I typed this, first thing in the morning, having woken up to it, on my BlackBerry – and still I understand that this is no excuse for stereotyping any group, especially an entire group of people.

      I always appreciate being called to attention when I do things like this, it helps me grow past my anger and my prejudices to better understand myself and the world around me.

      Now I can work on better expressing my anti-assimilationist views without being close-minded and without stereotyping.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece overall and I sincerely appreciate your constructive criticism.

      Sincerely,

      The LongHairedPoet

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