I recently spoke to a group of young people at Rainbow Youth, about diversity, discrimination and choice.
Let me break it down for you.
“I am a unique individual. The way I live my life is my choice, and the way I interact with others can be positive.”
So, I drew parallels and similarities between people with disabilities and people who identify as queer or trans and the group chimed in with plenty of examples.
- Going shopping – Shop assistants not being sure whether to approach, offer assistance or just stay away. And not feeling comfortable to try things on.
- Reactions on the street – Reactions from the public, in public spaces. Either being stared at, abused, or prayed for.
- Being labeled ‘brave’ – Being called brave, courageous or special, for no obvious reason.
Yep, believe it or not people who experience disability and people who identify as queer or trans all experience these things, and plenty more.
Realising this I moved the conversation on to choice, and how choice has also impacted our lives.
Firstly, it became obvious to us all that whether disabled, queer or trans (in this life) we had no choice in these factors that are a part of who we are (unless you believe in cosmic choice).
For example, I had no choice in the events that lead to my disability. I have no choice over who I am attracted to, and I have no choice which gender I identify with/as.
Then, I introduced the concept of choosing how we react to other people. This was in no way a foreign concept, but great to discuss and bring back to the fore.
For example, I can choose not to react towards negative discrimination – when being abused on the street I can keep walking and do my best not to let it impact on me.
I can choose how I react to positive discrimination too – when told that I am brave, I can politely question why that person might think I am so, in the hope that either I or the other person will learn something.
I can also choose not to discriminate against others – if I notice that my behaviour is or could be discriminating or inappropriate I can change what I am doing. And take steps to learn more, if needed.
I rounded off the discussion by reinforcing how individual and unique we all are, how we can experience similar attitudes and discrimination, and how we deal and react to that is our choice.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed talking with the youth, and listening to their perspectives on life.
Thanks Rainbow Youth Aotearoa!