Thursday, 21 July 2011

Yucky feelings

Cross posted from my own blog.

I was in my late 20s.
I was articulate.
I had the support of my parents as an equal.
My mother and I have a strong bond of trust.
And it STILL took me two days to say “hey, does X hold you too long when you hug?”
It took me two days to figure out how to verbalise it and get up the courage to say something about this lovely man whom we all respect.
It took me two days to figure out if saying something was worse than not saying something.

And I was strong and powerful and knew my boundaries and legalities and moralities and all the players involved.

The sense of relief when Mum said “yes, and you don’t have to hug him if you don’t want to” was palpable.
Not just from me, but from everyone involved in the conversation.
Because we had all been a bit worried, and no one had said anything.
It is strange to think that even as an adult I needed reassurance that if I didn’t want to hug someone I didn’t have to.

It made me think again about how hard it must be for adults or children who are not in a position of power or trust. Such as those who are in care for mental health or disabilities, or children, who’s’ voices are not heard as clearly because of their age.

Speaking out is HARD. You risk someone else’s reputation as well as your own.
You risk hurting others.
You risk being ignored and not being able to raise it later.

Next time someone's kid doesn’t want to give you a hug or a kiss, don’t let the parents tell them to do it. Let them raise their own boundaries - because how else will they feel confident enough to say no when they need to, if they don’t practice on safe people??

So I just want to say it again.
Because some people who read here are adults. Some are young. Some are people who look after vulnerable/young people.

If you don’t like it, it’s NOT ok.
And the response to “does X make you feel uncomfortable/ touch you funny / hold you too long / creep you out” should always be to supportively listen to the person raising concern, and allow them to choose their own boundaries.

Because we have them for a reason.
And that is ALWAYS ok.


Deborah said...

Yes indeed. We are socialised so hard into being polite, and into not creating discord, that it is very hard to raise a personal issue about someone. And when I say, 'we', I mean men as well as women.

Here's a good analogy. It's really, really hard to tell a colleague that she or he needs to wash more often, and needs to wash their clothes. We don't want to hurt people, or to make them feel bad. So we just put up with it.

But your point about respecting boundaries is much stronger than just not wanting to infringe against social rules. Yes, it's very, very important to respect people's boundaries, even if they seem puzzling to us.

Great post.

Moz said...

I found it interesting dealing with an anarchist baby. She'd been raised to expect her (lack of) consent to be respected, and was only slowly becoming shy about saying so. It brought home to me just how much we deny kids autonomy and even personal space. Next time you pick up a kid, or even pat it on the head, think about how the kid feels.

Scar said...

This is one of the worst things about being trans; 90% of people having no respect for your personal boundaries or even bothering to think about them.
And it's really hard to speak out when people keep doing bad/creepy/horribly uncomfortable things to you; you want to say something but you know you'll make the cis person mad at you or dislike you for pointing out that they're being invasive or creepy.
Not only that, the often desperate desire to fit in means that trans people often comply with the creepy cis behaviour, like agreeing to reveal really personal things, or showing the cis people your body parts and allowing them to touch your body parts.
It's taken me years to get to the point where I can now say with a degree of strength and certainty "No, that is wrong. You should never ask that of a trans person or do that to a trans person because you wouldn't do that to a cis person."