Hey kid who seems to be in every class I have ever taken in college. Stop using the word ‘weird’ to describe people of customs or ideas that are strange (meaning not of one’s own or a particular locality, environment, or kind) to you.
No matter what class I am in, there is always someone who raises their hand all the time and says “Its really weird that” in Tanzania (or China or Zanzibar or Uruguay or where-ever-the-fuck) people do X, or people say X. Or that is really weird that gay people (or women or people of color) say X. It makes you look really ignorant. And it pisses me off enough that I can’t concentrate on anything else you are saying. And for some reason, this shit pops up in Anthropology classes all the time, when in theory people there should have heard of this radical idea called cultural relativity. So stop sustaining this sense of self and other. It is damaging.
Do you hear me? This is damaging.
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines the adjective weird as “suggesting something supernatural; uncanny”. In informal usage, “very strange; bizarre.It goes on to add that to ‘weird someone out’ is to ‘induce a sense of…alienation in someone”.
‘Weird’ is an alienating word, and every time you use it to describe someone not like yourself, especially when your worldview is mainstreamed as the ‘normal’ experience, you are sustaining perpetuating the roadblocks between what people ‘should’ be doing, what it is ‘normal’ for people to do, and many peoples actual lived experiences.
Every time that you say it is weird for women not get get married and have children, you are alienating women who do not get married and have children.
Every time that you say it is ‘weird’ for a person who has penis (you suppose! Have you seen it?) to wear a dress, or high heels, or makeup, you are alienating people who have penises and want to wear dresses and high-heeled shoes.
Every time you say that Black people talk with ‘weird’ accents, or with ‘weird’ vernacular, you are alienating people who talk with a different accent or use different words then those you would choose.
Why not, rather than shutting down a cultural practice or worldview as ‘not like us/me’, you expand your concept of what us can be.
This may seem like an extreme reaction to a very commonly used word, but it is precisely these quiet, daily micro-aggressions that are acting as barriers towards acceptance of diversity.
It is these daily micro-aggressions that have me hesitate every time I have to fill out a form that asks for my gender. As a person who identifies as genderqueer, I have the choice of checking the box that fits my apparent body parts, or refusing to fill out that section (which perpetuates queer invisibility) or answering honestly and potentially having to deal with someone who thinks I’m a weirdo. Who sees me as alien from themselves.
I’ve been very fortunate in that my life experiences have been overall very positive, with the majority of spaces where I interact being ones where it is safe to be seen as deviating from the norm. But I recognize that that is not the case for many many queer people, and so my comfort in challenging people to recognize my gender identity, and very frequently explaining my gender identity, is not something I want to be taken for granted. I am pretty comfortable being seen as a kind of spokesperson for my sexuality or gender identity (although being asked to represent an entire identity of people- most of whom I have never and will never meet is pretty ridiculous, not to mention extremely problematic), but it is something that I should never be asked to do.
This concept of ‘weirding’ as an act of alienation becomes especially personal when it comes to my family. I am not out to my parents at all about my gender identity mostly because I don’t believe that they would understand at all. Not in the sense that they wouldn’t be supportive, just that they would have literally no comprehension of what I am trying to communicate. It is too emotionally exhausting and risky at this time to me to try and be all Gender Theory 101 when they don’t even really understand my relationship/sexual identity of queer. And I do not want to explain everything to them and then have them think I am weird. That I, who came from their bodies, is a person alien to them.
So please ubiquitous kid in my classes. Please stop saying that people are weird. Because people are listening, and incorporating or appropriating your words, and it hurts too much.