You Can’t See What You Can’t See

Newcomers welcome, and current readers thank you! This is the very first post that I made! (there’s one dated earlier, but that was back dated) I hope you enjoy this, and have a beautiful day sunshines!

You can’t see what you can’t see. Such an obvious statement right? The implications of that statement aren’t obvious though. You base everything off of what you do see, so when it comes to making rational discussion and having constructive debate, it can quickly become an issue if you can’t understand that deceptively simple statement. But why is that?

Let’s look at some generalizations based off this idea, and break them down one by one.

“I have excellent gaydar! I can tell you if a guy is gay from a mile away.”

“Of course she doesn’t use meth, have you seen how clear her face is? Her teeth aren’t all fucked up either.”

“I always know when someone is trans. It’s easy to tell.”

“Religious people are stupid.”

There are biases and misconceptions about in all those statements, so let’s go through them and see why.

1. Gaydar

This is based off the perception that gay guys (and lesbians) have certain stereotypical behavior types and visual cues that tend to gender bend or be directly opposite of general gender roles. Of course you’ve seen these on tv: all gay men are hyper effeminate and all lesbians are stone butch bad asses or hyper-feminine and sex obssessed. Right?

Wrong. So completely wrong.

So who is gay and how can you tell? Well… You can’t. Gay men and lesbians are real estate agents, pastors, doctors, body builders, rights activists, convenience store clerks, stuck in cubicles, working in warehouses, being dads, being moms, going to college, and a varied collection of outward expression and personality types. From hyper-masculine to hyper-feminine, sweetheart to asshole, introvert to extrovert and everywhere in-between. Funny to humorless. Immaculate to a complete mess. Well off to worse for the wear. Oddly enough, doesn’t that sound like…everyone else?

This is all a matter of not seeing what you can’t see. The only people that other’s know off the bat that are gay or lesbian are the ones that are outside our societal norms. Men who are hyper feminine with “the gay voice” etc. Women who are super butch, boys clothes, short hair, etc. (neither of which inherently guarantees anything about the person’s sexuality) There’s nothing wrong with these personality types, but they are not the only ones. What you can’t see are all the people who generally adhere to typical gender role norms. So all you base your viewpoint off of is what you can see, and you end up with a skewered view and over generalization of gay and lesbian people.

2. Meth

This is another one, there are plenty of people who use meth, addicted or not, who you’d never know use it. People who make money and have a reputation to uphold. People who use it and don’t get addicted.

Hold up! What the hell are you talking about?

Again, you can’t see what you can’t see. You’re never going to know that these people do any sort of drugs. They don’t act how you expect them to. They don’t look like the worst faces of the crowd, the continue on with their lives functionally, fully or mostly capable of holding down job and family lives.

Now, I’m not advocating to take hard drugs with this, but it’s important to understand that whatever generalization you have about, well, anything is going to be wrong, because your basing it only off what you can immediately see.

We see the commercials, we see “them” on the streets. The people who’s lives have been destroyed by meth. The twitchy, pock marked, nearly toothless, super skinny guy or gal on the street. Hair all ratty and seems kind of shady. That’s only a portion of people, those are the most visible, and they’re not to be hated, but helped, if possible. So since all we can see is the worst of the worst, all we can hear is the loudest of the loud, we assume that that is what meth does, constantly and without fail. Sure, hard drugs probably aren’t the best idea, but to say anything about the “typical look of a meth user”, you are going to be incorrect.

3. Trans

If you don’t know anyone who is trans, and I ask you to explain who a trans person is and what they look like are, I can take a good guess as to what your answer will be. The short answer is “the dude in the dress” which, by the way, is ridiculously offensive, but I will get into that in another post.

There are a couple misconceptions with this. The first one is making the assumption that all trans people are trans women (those that transition from male to female), which isn’t true. There are many trans men out there (those that transition from female to male), there are more identities then that, but that will again be in a different post. The second assumption is that all transwomen have very masculine looks, which is also incorrect. Trans people come in all shapes and sizes, just like everyone else. It’s likely that you’ve interacted with trans people and never known.

Not all trans women are visually masculine (which shouldn’t be an issue, but this is not the post for that specific discussion). In my offline life, I’m pretty quite about my transition. Nobody knows and nobody asks. They just assume I’m the cis woman next door. I have heard people tell me and been in groups more than a few times that they would know if they were around a trans person, and honestly, I have to try hard not to giggle. In my head the whole time, all I can think is “sunshine, you have noooooo clue what you are talking about.” Again, you can not see what you can not see.

4. Religion

This statement is one that some of you may never have heard. I’m active in the atheist community and I have definitely heard this before. The thought kind of goes like this: since religious people uphold a religion based off information lacking in factual content and a shaky foundation, there’s an obvious lack of critical thinking, therefore they have got to be stupid. Obviously they are all bigots, I mean look at all of them being against gay marriage/abortion/black people/Mexicans/etc. Look at ISIS, the KKK, Westborough Baptist. All religious people just want to control everyone’s life through their religion.

Well, those statements are true for some people, yes, but they are retched and inherently false statements, as generalizations tend to be.

A lot of this comes from… you guessed it, seeing only what you can see. There are definitely some shitty religious people in the world, but that’s a statement that you can apply anywhere. There are shitty atheists, baseball players, cooks, teachers, parents, next door neighbors, you name it. But there are wonderful people in all of these “categories” as well.

It’s the loudest and most extreme voices we hear. Westborough and ISIS are loud as hell. The KKK is starting to shout again too. This are extreme examples of religion used in a harmful and negative way. It can be and is used in positive ways as well. People who try their best to do no harm. Make things better. Love others. Turn no needy away. It happens, a lot, but these people are usually quiet, they live and let live. They don’t stand on the corner and preach brimstone and fire, they’re too busy helping out at the church. They don’t picket funerals, they’re at home trying to do as best as they can by their family. They don’t scream for Jihad, they’re busy trying to help people after the destructions of that call. They don’t demand their religion rule our country, they are too busy fighting for church/state separation.

It’s an unfortunate reality of religion, but the worst of the worst tend to be the loudest of the loud. They drown out the positive people who do try to speak up and bash them with calls of traitor and heretic. None-the-less, they’re out there.

So how do we fix this?

Being willing to recognize that your blind to what you don’t see is a huge start, and a hard one. It’s difficult to get rid of ingrained ideas about something, regardless of if they are valid, or terrible misconceptions, but if you can’t get over that hurdle, you can’t start changing it. Once you’ve realized that you can’t see what you can’t see, things start changing. It opens up a willingness to learn more.

and education is the absolute key.

This also seems obvious but isn’t: the more you learn about the overarching concept of something, and the individuals that pertain to whatever it is, the more you will know about it and the more you will realize how little you know. There are many questions that people ask and misconceptions people have that are simply based in ignorance of a subject. So at the end of the day, if you’re willing to learn, if you’re willing to listen and understand view points that you may disagree with, you’ll see more than you could before, and you’ll start to truly understand that you can’t see what you can not see.

Practical application:

Find an idea you have about a group of people and challenge it. Find people that are part of that group or that subscribe to that idea and talk to them. Get a wider view point. Read blogs that go against the belief you currently hold. Watch videos, find articles. Be willing to listen just to listen, not to respond. Be willing to try as hard as you can to understand things that just make no immediate or direct sense to you. Be open to having your mind changed. When you find out what you couldn’t see, I’d love to know your journey, so please feel welcome to post it in the comments below.

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