Pick Your Battles

When I began writing as Outspoken Ally, I was a new advocate. Like many new advocates, I was eager to loudly proclaim the message of equality and speak out against bigotry at every opportunity. I wrote about it, and I did it. Every chance I got, I did it, and what I found over time was that I was wasting a lot of unnecessary energy. Many people are up for the discussion in some form or another, but some either don’t get it or don’t want to. You have to pick your battles, because some just aren’t worth having.

Yesterday, I was speaking with an acquaintance who I have known since High School. The conversation was fine, until he unexpectedly launched into a string of very hurtful insults toward gay men; his comments littered with the word “faggot.” It took every bit of strength I had, but I immediately decided to let it go. Why? Because I would have voiced my discomfort with what he said, and then been dragged into a long, drawn out shouting match that would have left me exhausted, angry, and stressed; having made zero progress. Sometimes a hateful person is just a hateful person, and clashing with them isn’t worth the energy.

Let me assure you that I am still wholly committed to this work. What has happened over the past couple of years is that I have calmed down a little bit. My anger with inequality and those who uphold it, though still there, has given way to a more measured approach. Rather than fight every battle, I prefer to fight those battles that are worth fighting. I can argue with a person who just doesn’t care, and wind up feeling like I wasted precious time, or I can sit down with a person who wants to have the debate, and walk away with a sense of validation. If my opponent is unswayed but was receptive, it was worth the time.

A case in point is Dr. Michael Brown. I find Dr. Brown misinformed to say the least, and have written about him before. In my latest post (Trans Rights In 2016), I said that he decries Trans people as freaks, perverts, and liars. It is true that on his radio show he calls them broken and unnatural, frames the public washroom debate as an opportunity for dangerous men to gain legal access to young women, and blames people like me for perpetuating the “lie” that your gender can be different from your physical sex. Although not using the words “freaks, perverts, and liars,” his message is exactly that, and he took offence to my saying so. It is unlikely that I or anybody else will sway Dr. Brown … but engaging with him IS worth it. As wrong and misleading as I feel he is, he is still capable of intelligent debate. He is a smart man who believes he is doing good, and with people like him, the argument is almost always worth having. That’s why I then encouraged you all to voice your opposition to his misinformation on his Facebook page. (Taking my entire message into account, however – my numerous blog posts speaking out against vitriolic attacks, cursing at those we disagree with, and threats of violence – anybody who reads me regularly knows that I endorse civil opposition only)

If you feel the need to take every opportunity to fight, go for it. As long as you approach it with civility, you have my support. What I am encouraging you to consider here, is to save your energy for fights that are worth having. Before engaging, ask yourself one question. Is it worth my time and energy to confront this person? If you’re anything like me, you might find it less stressful, and more effective for your advocacy, to pick your battles.

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