On Apathy

One of the best-intentioned phrases that absolutely drives me up the wall, and one I hear all the time, is "I don't care if you're gay." I understand what you're trying to say. You're telling me that my sexual orientation does not change how you view me as a person*, and I love you for that. But here's the thing: I care that I'm gay, and I need you to, too.

Why? Because we don't live in a world that doesn't care that I'm gay. Quite the opposite, in fact. Heterosexual people make up the majority of the population of the world, of the United States, and most specifically of the governing bodies of my country and state. Many of them, in fact, care deeply that I am gay, and are doing their best to legislate away my rights because of it. In the face of discrimination, "not caring" is not the appropriate response.

I feel the same way about people who claim to be colorblind. Isn't it a lovely sentiment? I can't begin to count how many times I've heard "I don't see race; I only see people." I think this is actually one of the more insidious forms of white privilege (forgive me my gross generalization, but I mainly hear the "colorblind" statement from white people) -- because western culture designates white people as essentially "raceless" (everyone else being "ethnic"), we assume that's how it ought to be. By claiming colorblindness, we're ridding other people of that burden of race altogether. But hold up. Race (which, let's just go ahead and acknowledge, is a cultural construct) comes with a lot of positive associations and group identity wrapped up in it. We're not doing someone a favor by stripping them of their identity. Quite the opposite. We're ignoring an aspect of their personhood because it makes us uncomfortable to think about it too much.

Well, guess what. People of privilege (be that white, heterosexual, male, able-bodied, middle/upper class, etc.) don't get the luxury of ignoring others' less privileged identities. It may make us feel good to say "but we're just the same!" -- it's the exact opposite of othering, right? -- but it discounts the experience of not being just the same as you. Until full equality is a reality, race matters. Sexual orientation matters. Gender matters. Fill-in-the-blank identity matters. Your apathy is not enlightened; it is dangerous. We need you to care. We need you to see us as equal to you without being the same as you.

Diversity is a beautiful thing. Colorblindness is not a thing to strive for. The world is a colorful place, and that should be celebrated, not dismissed or ignored. So please, care that I'm gay; also that I'm white, female, cisgender, Christian, a teacher, a singer, a math lover... In short, care about all the things that make me me. And keep on caring about all the ingredients in the identity soup until everyone agrees that all soup is just soup, period.

*Alternatively, you're saying that what goes on in my bedroom is my own business, which means that you are conflating my sexual orientation with sex, full stop, and that's problematic. But that's another issue for another post.

Edit: As it so often turns out, someone else already said it better. Thanks for the heads-up, Aadil.