Are you the reason your dad slams his fist on the table and enquires whether you can ‘just get through one nice family dinner?’ Are you the victim of suddenly discovering a friend or loved one’s questionable political leanings? Or are YOU the friend or loved one with said questionable political leanings? Do you play devil’s advocate unnecessarily in every argument you’ve ever been in? Whichever way you lean 😉 here are some fool-proof methods to get you through election szn without alienating friends, family and loved ones!
The election period can be a veritable minefield. As a side effect of that pesky human condition, we are all biassed, passionate and opinionated individuals—meaning that debates don’t always remain confined to stages between politicians. Discussions about politics can feel loaded, because for many of us, our mere existence is political. If you are Māori, an immigrant, a part of the queer community or make up a part of any minority group, your identity is constantly up for debate. When someone close or trusted expresses a view that seems to be in fundamental opposition with your own, it is natural to feel defensive.
You are at a fork in the road; you feel very strongly about the morals you live by but you also love them very much. When you find yourself here, you can decide to remove yourself from the situation; or you can do the hard, earnest work of understanding where the misinformation stems from and helping them unlearn their beliefs. Both options are taxing and admittedly kind of shitty, but take courage in the fact that it is your decision to make. You set your boundaries and you can choose exactly how much you are willing to tolerate.
People don’t like it when you call them racist (huh, weird)
They probably were being racist…or classist or sexist or whichever one of the shitty ‘ist’ things you called them out for. When a loved one is coming from a position of privilege and says something along the lines of; ‘I’m so tired of being called racist for having this view,’ it can feel exhausting—because imagine how tired the people experiencing the racism feel. But these labels can feel synonymous with ‘bad person’ and people don’t do well with being told they are ‘bad’. Instead, ask them to explain their views and the rationale behind it, and listen patiently.
Be generous but remember that you are not a free ‘intro to gender politics’ course
When you choose to hear someone out, do so wholeheartedly and without judgement. It is okay to give people the benefit of the doubt. It is your very first time being alive and it’s theirs too. Try to understand where their views stem from and try to avoid being accusatory or making them feel guilty. Challenging a loved one’s beliefs can feel very confronting so it helps me to keep a hold of their hand through the conversation to remind them we are on the same team. We are all guilty of bias, misconception and ignorance. As long as we are capable of owning our misbeliefs and remain open to learning, we are not lost causes. Keep in mind however, that it is not your responsibility to continuously educate them on trans issues or which policies in the upcoming election threaten to keep Māori locked in systemic cycles of oppression. Your family, friends and loved ones are capable of doing the same research you do to make yourself aware of these issues, and they should be willing to do it.
It’s really important to remember that it is okay to decide that someone’s values simply do not align with yours and distance yourself with grace. Not challenging them does not make you weak, and removing yourself from a situation does not mean you are giving up on someone you love too easy. Not every person is deserving of your time and efforts, and you can only challenge someone’s ideation to the extent they are willing to be challenged.
Stop playing Devil’s Advocate—the Devil fucking hates you!
Your partner might think the rousing, little arguments the two of you have are all in good fun, merely spicing up Wednesday night pillow talk. But when it comes to debates on the rights of a marginalised community, and you are a part of that community, it becomes a deeply personal matter that may leave you feeling like you have to defend your right to exist. It is important to distinguish between the partner who is a little misguided, and the partner who lacks the humility and awareness to recognise their own privilege. I had a partner who thought Andrew Tate “had a point”, suddenly became a passionate feminist—if it meant an excuse to exclude trans women.They did not end up being the love of my life (surprise, surprise). If you have ever found yourself playing devil’s advocate in such a situation, remind yourself; it is a privilege to theorise on issues that do not affect you personally. Remind yourself that when all you’ve known is privilege, equality for other groups can sometimes feel like oppression. It is a privilege to be able to engage in a debate from a third person’s perspective, when your partner is coming from the perspective of how they experience the world, and how certain policies will or won’t affect them.
Give yourself the same patience you give others
To be honest, I cannot always bring myself to read the news or the comments underneath every article. Of course, I want to be informed. I read about three Indian women in Manipur; stripped, paraded and gang-raped in the streets, while protesting for equitable quotas in land and education for the minority Kuki. The next day, I read the US Supreme Court ruling that businesses can refuse to provide service to queer people in the name of ‘free speech’. Of course, I want to stay informed; It’s just hard for queer brown girls to leave the house when they know all the ways this world can hate them. When you engage in these conversations, remember that it is okay to feel emotional and keenly invested in the outcome. Where others are dealing in hypotheticals, you are dealing with your day-to-day life. If your partner or friends are the type to say ‘don’t take everything so seriously!’ instead of trying to understand why the topic at hand affects you so much—cut them loose. You do not have the privilege of deciding which family you are born into; patiently educating parents out of religious and cultural beliefs that they were raised upon is one thing; But when it comes to choosing friends and partners, you have the privilege of deciding who will become your family.
At the end of the day—do you want to surround yourself with people more interested in getting some tax removed, than in equitable outcomes? Make sure you choose people willing to do the hard work of being empathetic, kind and educated on issues that affect marginalised groups—even if, especially if, it doesn’t affect them personally.