I don’t understand some people’s delight in surrounding themselves with only people who are exactly like them. The declaration with beaming pride that you only associate with your own kind, that you make decisions about who to trust and who to believe and who to exclude based on identity markers.
And some of you at this point are nodding your heads in understanding and murmuring agreement — maybe you think I’m talking about racist idiots who only deal with other white folks, or rich snobs who wouldn’t dare to be seen walking in the same door as those poor working-class stiffs…
But I started writing this post because I’m sick of seeing people around me who are self-styled “progressives” and “liberals” and “open-minded queers and trans* folks” bragging about how the only people they have on Facebook are other queers, or how they don’t visit any businesses that are connected to right-wing leaders, or how wonderful it is that trans* women “all” have each other because “we” all understand the way the world works and nobody else possibly can.
Look, folks. Separatism sucks ass. Standing in an echo chamber where you can only hear your own words — or words identical to your own — just shuts out any possibility of hearing someone else, and if you happen to be full of shit, you’ve made sure nobody else can point that out to you.
I’m absolutely thrilled to have people on my Facebook, and people I interact with in meatspace too, whose ideas and opinions and worldviews are very different than mine. Some of those views I can say with absolute certainty are wrong, and are harmful to me and many people I care about — and I’d bet money that many of my own views and opinions fit the exact same description. But if I’m not willing to listen once in a while, I won’t have anything but myself and my echoes to tell me that I’m always exactly spot-on.
And I’m not saying that I’ll have my mind changed by simply listening — I don’t currently have any friends who try to tell me that the earth is flat, but if I did, it would be just another reminder that there are some people who insist on believing things that are demonstrably false. Same for other things that I do hear from friends, things that just make me more certain that I’m right when they repeat their lies. It isn’t a matter of “listening to both sides of the debate” to make an informed opinion — not when there’s only one side against a bunch of people scrambling hard to wish away reality.
And yeah, occasionally I walk away from an acquaintance online, or cut ties with a physical-world friend, when the only things I hear from them are of the “Nuh-uh, the world is too flat!” variety. I only have so much energy to spend on having that kind of silliness shouted at me. But I still make a specific effort to keep people around me who see things differently than I do — and not just “keep around” but have significant relationships with, to know them as people and not merely as props to remind myself that I’m right… because sometimes, I’m not.
So, I suppose that means that I’m not in a hurry to walk away from the many trans* women I know who only associate with other trans* people, though it does certainly irk me when I hear another hallelujah chorus about how they’re lucky they have hardly any cis* folks in their lives. And I’m unlikely to cut ties with the handful of “Guns and God and GOP, America’s the best country!” friends I have, either, though I do filter things on my own end to limit how much toxic nationalism-and-firepower-as-the-only-religion memes I expose myself to. And I won’t be saying “see ya” to most of the queer people I know who post about how they find pleasure in noticing that there are no straight people on their social media — because their voices are generally balanced out by the majority of people I hear daily discussing how “those people” are an odd minority.
Diversity in practice is a whole lot more enjoyable for me than homogeneity and lip-service to “inclusion” and “tolerance.” And I’ll probably still be your friend even if you find life more fulfilling for you in an echo chamber of clones — because my more diverse connections with friends and acquaintances means that yours isn’t the only voice I hear, and I can choose whose words I listen to.