Pride and Prejudice: As a Last Resort, Respect is Always Good

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Hello Blogosphere! My name is Isaiah Frisbie and I am honored to be the writer for Pride and Prejudice. As a freshman myself, I came to Brown with a number of questions, many of which were answered within a matter of weeks while others remain open-ended. Perhaps one of the more enduring questions, one that may continue to be answered throughout the entirety of my Brown career, is how my own sexuality will affect my college experience. So, I have taken it upon myself to use this blog to contribute any kind of insight that I can about LGBTQ life at Brown and hopefully, in some way, help any student, prospective or otherwise, put some of those nagging worries to rest.

So over the past week, I’ve been periodically filling my friends in about all things IvyQ and have come to realize that I have been repeating myself when it comes to one point.

Now, please stop me if for some strange reason, I am the one ridiculously inconsiderate person who sometimes feels this way. For most Ivy Leagues, and I’m assuming for many other progressive institutions, there is such a strong degree of open-mindedness and liberality that most people always strive to “say the right thing” when it comes to the LGBTQ community. Because there are so many ways in which an individual can identify themselves, and rightfully so, no one ever wants to accidentally say something that could potentially insult someone simply because they were unaware of a derogatory connotation behind whatever phrase or word they happened to use. Sometimes, it feels as though, at least in certain situations, you’re constantly walking on eggshells. 

When I was at Dartmouth last weekend, I was honestly made aware of all the different complexities of gender and sexual identity. Though the conference was exceptionally enlightening and beneficial, I was nevertheless left with a handful of questions that remain unanswered.

What is the difference between transgender and gender-nonconforming? Does this person even identify with any kind of sexual or gender label at all? What are all of the gender pronouns and which do I use in this specific instance? More importantly, which does the individual, themselves prefer? 

These, I believe, are all valid questions and deserve answers. I didn’t expect one conference to solve every conundrum I encountered when it came to the LGBTQ community but I do expect that there will come a day when I can confidently explain these differences to anyone who asked me about them. However, at this moment, I am not that person and I am sorry to say that I still have many questions.

Perhaps it was because I was at a conference specifically dealing with these issues that I felt a greater pressure to get everything right. However, coming back to Brown, I realized that I had never before felt that kind of pressure. Do we have these kinds of issues or at least similar ones on our campus as well? I’m sure we do and the answer is that I simply have not come across them yet. I’m sure one day I will and perhaps I’ll find myself with my foot in my mouth sooner than I expected.

The main point I’m trying to make is that you may encounter such worries or concerns anywhere, especially where there is a great emphasis placed on the LGBTQ community. It’s great to see such an emphasis but I know it can be stressful at times. However, if there is ever a time in which you don’t want to assume anything and consequently offend someone because of such assumptions, at the end of the day just show respect!

If you see that you may have assumed something too quickly or incorrectly, just apologize and convey that you legitimately didn’t mean to do so. Do you not necessarily understand or even disagree with the way a certain individual identifies? Pick your battles! This is a matter of someone’s understanding of themselves and thus no amount of debating or arguing will change it. Just respect it and move on. It’s not worth the turmoil to create a dispute over something that will not get resolved with opposition nor is it something that necessarily needs some kind of resolution.

If you don’t understand how someone identifies or are simply unaware of how to address that person (which I have seen happen on a few occasions, especially in the case of pronouns), it will honestly be okay. Just be tactful and eventually you will come to understand what that right way is.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about what I should post next, please don’t hesitate to email me at isaiah_frisbie@brown.edu.

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