Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blake Lively illustrates why we must continually educate ourselves

I was trying to catch up on some blog reading when I came across a post by Monica Roberts at TransGriot about Gossip Girl's Blake Lively saying that sometimes she feels "like a tranny."

Lively will be appearing on the cover of Allure magazine in May, and she had this to say:
"I don't know, I'm…large?" she said to the magazine. "They put me in six-inch heels and I tower over every man. I've got this long hair and lots of clothes and makeup on. I just feel really big a lot of the time, and I'm surrounded by a lot of tiny people. I feel like a man sometimes."
Besides being confused as to why being taller than men was equated with being a transwoman in Lively's mind, Monica's original post really struck me.

I have been following the boycott of Feministing and Feministe started by voz, and I've been doing a lot of reading. It made me realize how much I have learned over the course of two years since I began identifying as a feminist, and how much I still need to learn.

For example, when I first started reading posts related to the boycott, I was unfamiliar with the term cisgender, and my first instinct was to do a Google search and try to figure it out. I admit that this was not always my first instinct. Sometimes (more often in "the real world" than online), if I didn't understand something, I would ask someone of what I felt was the appropriate group to explain a term, concept, whatever, to me. But through reading I quickly learned that the responsibility of educating myself is up to me.

I have not always been successful in my attempts at talking about issues outside of my own experience, especially offline. I have failed to be properly sensitive. I have used terms that I didn't realize were hurtful and incorrect until after the fact.

That's the case with the word "tranny." I now know that it is completely inappropriate coming from a cisgender woman, but I didn't know that when I was in high school. I had a friend who often used the term to refer to characters in her surrealist fictional pieces, and I often used the term in conversation with her, not at all understanding what it actually meant or that it could be hurtful.

I'm not asking for a pat on the back about this. I just want people to know that if we are not actively trying to educate ourselves, our ignorance could very easily end up hurting people we want to help.

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