An Open Letter To People Who Write About What Is And Isn’t Okay To Say.
Allow me to begin by thanking you for the invaluable work that you’re doing. For years I’ve struggled with my utter social tone-deafness and an almost pathological inability to judge interpersonal interactions, so your insights have been life-changing.
In particular, I can’t thank you enough for your assurances that it’s fine to “Just Say Fat” instead of overweight or plus-sized or any of the countless other phrases I’ve heard fat people claim they prefer. Or for painstakingly enumerating the “5 Phrases Your Black Friends Wishes You Would Stop Using” which I — as a black man — will now know to ask my friends to stop using around me.
Imagine the pain I might have caused if you hadn’t patiently explained that referring to trans women as transwomen is problematic. I’ll be sure to leave at least a ten second pause between these words when speaking so as to avoid any suspicion that conjunction was implied. Now that I have direct access to someone able to speak for your entire community, I’m more than happy to take you at your word.
I just have one small favour to ask. Can I have your full name and home address? And perhaps your phone number? Just so that I can refer those fat or black or LGBTQIA+ people that haven’t gotten the memo directly to the source?
Perhaps you’d be kind enough to explain to them that the language I’m using has now been officially added to a vernacular whitelist (wait sorry, is it still okay to say that?) and that they’re obviously still operating from an outdated copy? I’m sure that once you’ve cleared up the confusion, any pain and offence that the injured party is feeling will be soothed.
Could I also ask, and I know that it’s a bit of an imposition, that you keep me updated about what it is and isn’t appropriate to say to people of your weight/colour/sexuality? You see, it’s so exhausting weighing the specifics of each situation. It’s so positively gruelling to treat each person I meet as a unique individual. It’s so liberating to be able to treat them as part of a great, hulking monolith that I can learn how to “manage” by reading your blog post.
Perhaps you’d be kind enough to follow me on Twitter and then I can just @ you whenever I encounter somebody who is offended because they aren’t up to speed on how we’ve all agreed to refer to them now (it’s 2020 so I imagine that there are going to be a lot). I’m sure we’ll all have a good chuckle at how foolish it was to be upset with me once they see that you’ve written 2000 words about how those words make you feel.
Personally, I’m as flabbergasted as you likely are that your eloquently expressed feelings and strongly-worded blog posts haven’t already eliminated the possibility that anybody could ever feel offended again. How could the words and behaviour you personally find acceptable be anything less than the perfect blueprint for an entire society’s reaction to those same words and behaviours?
We shall probably never know. I guess some people are just looking for a reason to be offended.