Let me just start off by saying emphatically: I know y’all don’t need straight / cis-gendered people’s approval -- I just want to let you know you’re always welcome here!
Right! Now, that the disclaimer is out of the way we can get down to it. ;)
I have no intention of disclosing my sexual identity as I consider that very private . . . but I want to advise you when you are in the forums to resist the urge to assume that all the people you are talking to are straight, cis-gendered, or ignorant by default. No good can come of that!
I am telling you this in advance, because everyone in these forums will have a story to tell. Some are going through similar things to what you may be going through or have been through. Others are holding it together in the face of chronic debilitating illness or terminal cancer. You won't know what private hell someone is facing down just by what they’re posting about their hair.
If you want / need to set someone right after they've given an indiction that they don't know what they're talking about, then you're best bet is to appeal to them in a humane, sympathetic level. Talk to them how you'd want to be talked to in a similar situation. We've got generational and geographical gaps in knowledge here on the internet that can make for some real learning opportunities for everyone involved if you approach it with an open mind.
This message goes both ways. My hope is that the people you're talking to will be equally respectful. If they can't be, then I will take care of it. ;)
Tips on how to confront folks with compassion
I have always believed that the easiest way to bridge the gap between different groups is by avoiding the impulse to become defensive or preachy when things offend us and to see where the other side is coming from, and then make an argument that appeals to their needs on a human level, with as much compassion as possible. Remove any alienating factors from the dialogue that will raise their hackles. Avoid the urge to make points that will only outline your differences -- the commonalities are where all of the potential for healing and understanding live. Once you establish common ground, you will have the room to make your point and really be heard. That is the road to diplomacy, and it is something that is sorely lacking in the internet era.
Some stuff about me
My first college degree is actually in sociology (BA, University of Akron, 2010) with a strong emphasis in sociological social psychology -- in other words, the study of how culture and social norms impact the psychology of individuals and groups. (Side note: Did you know there’s a difference between sociological social psych (SSP) and psychological social psych (PSP)? There is! The former (SSP), the one I studied at great length, places emphasis on the influence of culture, the environment, social norms, and social pressures to conform and observes how these change group behavior within that society or its member groups; the latter (PSP) emphasizes what that does to the individuals within those groups. One is a little more macro, the other micro.)
Why does any of this matter?
Well, because it makes me uniquely qualified to talk about ALL OF THIS stuff! Gender issues, sexuality issues, hair loss issues, health and wellness issues, et cetera, all have a few things in common:
- They are all intimately tied to an individual's sense of personal identity (in psych terms, the “self” or “self-concept”)
- These things all have an impact on how you identify WITHIN the various groups of which you are a member: your family, your church, your work culture and its subgroups, your various groups of friends, your bowling league, your show choir, and all of the other groups and subgroups of which you are a part
- All of these things have a high potential to cause problems for you if the way you see yourself or think others should see you doesn’t match commonly perceived reality (“cognitive dissonance”)
- They all have a high potential for negative association as a result . . . but also a very large opportunity for healing and growth if we can dodge that hurdle!
I personally put very little stock in the value of one’s ability to uphold social norms, since that can only ever be a weird arbitrary virtue at best. What matters most -- at the risk of sounding like Pollyanna -- is who that person reveals themselves to be when truly tested. That’s something you can’t determine by making superficial snap judgements. That is why I generally avoid making these snap judgements . . . though it is difficult. Humans are basically hardwired to do that and refraining is a secondary, after-the-fact cognitive process for most people.
Why I put this here
I am a realist. I know that even if my intentions are awesome, there is a lot of open hostility on the internet and I cannot entirely prevent that from occasionally slipping through the cracks.
My commitment to you is that if someone brings something that violates the hate speech policy to my attention I will pull it down.
Just know that I am running a business full-time in the background and am relying upon my volunteers to help moderate this while I work. We have limitations, but will do our best to fix any issues, should they arise.
What to do if someone is harassing you
With that being said, I would also appreciate it if y’all would also help me prevent escalation of these matters by following three simple guidelines:
1. Don’t feed the trolls. (Because they want a response.)
2. Be quick to let a moderator know if something is wonky.
3. When in doubt, be nice: the Golden Rule rules. We will do the heavy lifting to make sure this person either leaves you alone or is ejected from the community.