This isn’t a post about the women using male names thing. But it is somewhat related, I guess.
I keep seeing posts and status updates and comments that say “I don’t care who you really are” and I feel like I am the only person who is offended by that sentiment. I’m almost certain the people who say it are trying to be nice. They mean that they don’t judge their friends, that they accept everyone, regardless of color, gender, orientation, etc. I feel sure the intent behind the words is a positive, inclusive one. But personally, the phrase makes me cringe.
“I don’t care who you really are”
Really? You don’t care? To me it sounds like the old “I don’t see color” bullshit. A lot like it.
I always want to speak up, and sometimes I do, but it usually ends with me looking like the asshole in the situation and generally results in one less friend for me. So I’m going to try to spell out my objections here, in the hopes that a careful phrasing will work out better. And because I don’t think I have any friends left to lose, it doesn’t matter much if I fail. So here goes…
I DO care who you really are. And I kind of hope there might be someone out there who cares who I am.
If I say, “I’m a mother of two” and you answer “I don’t care! I don’t care who you really are!! 🙂 🙂 ” then honestly, you’re an asshole. I told you I was a mother because it is an important thing to me, it is a part of my identity at this point, and I was sharing that with you. That’s how people get to know each other, right? If someone tells you they are transitioning from male to female, and you say “I don’t care! I don’t care who you really are!! 🙂 🙂 ” then, again, you’re an asshole. That person told you something difficult and meaningful, they trusted you. Dismissing that is rude.
All of those details, those things we’re not supposed to care about – race, age, gender, sexuality – those things make up who we are. They are part of us. They are not irrelevant details. They constitute our life experiences, our identity.
Some people consider their gender to be a huge and inexorable part of their identity. Some others think of it as just another personal detail, like hair color or ethnicity. Same with sexuality. Some people really see themselves as “a bisexual person,” where their sexuality comes first as a modifier for their humanity. And other people think of it as just one of their personal quirks. Either way, if I am their friend, and they told me about this detail, exposed this part of themselves, I care about it. The same way I care about which of my friends is allergic to shellfish and which has a child with autism and which is a devout christian and which lost a parent to cancer: they are the details that make up that person’s self. More importantly: they are the details that person chose to share with me.
Saying “I don’t care who you really are” might be a good thing to say before making friends, if you really want to be clear that you’ll be friends with anyone no matter their personal details or history…. But are there really people out there who are NOT going to be friends with someone because of their race or gender or sexuality or age? I hope not, at least not in the m/m romance “community.”
But saying “I don’t care who you really are” after making friends with people is, I think, really mean. However, I’m starting to think I am the only person who feels this way. So far, it has been said in two of my critique groups, both of which are fairly small and (I thought) close-knit groups. I’ve also seen it on my facebook feed at least three times, and I’ve noticed it in comment threads a lot (I didn’t count but definitely saw more than a few instances of that exact phrase.) I’ve never seen anyone contradict the phrase or question it. Am I crazy? Oversensitive? Naive?
Most of the people who’ve used this phrase are writers, and I wonder if they would be so flippant with the details of their characters. LOL maybe next time someone says “My MC, Jacob, is a gay cis white man in his twenties–” I should cut in and say “Eh-eh-eh! I don’t CARE who he really is! I don’t care about any of that! I like him 🙂 🙂 🙂 ” and see how they react. Or the next time someone says “tell me about your characters,” I should answer “well…they’re human? what else do you need to know? does it really matter???” and see how that goes over.
For now, I’m going to chalk it up to me being stupid. And I’m going to use it as another reminder that I should be writing, and selling books, and not making “friends.” Probably it is good to remember that most of the people I interact with online don’t actually care about me, and that most of them lie about their personal details. I will try!
But I will probably fail.
If you post about your cat dying or your kid being sick or your car breaking down and I comment my sympathy or commiseration, I’ll do so because I actually give a shit. And while I will never ask for personal details, I will always honor and respect the details you do choose to share with me. Because, I do care who you really are. I can’t help it.
edit: I think I have figured out this thing. So what I think is that people MEAN to say: “I’ll like you no matter what.” (I think?) and that is a nice message, but the way they ARE saying it is: “I don’t care if you lie to me.” which is a much different thing to say and I think not a very friendship-inducing sentiment.
I’m not sure what to make of it all, except that I definitely lost the last shred of hope that I might ever find a group of writing-friends. I am solo! Probably for as long as I last in this genre.