“Respect is how you treat everyone, not just those you want to impress.”
In light of the day I’ve had, I thought this quote was rather appropriate.
One thing I will never understand is why so many people believe that you have to like someone in order to respect them. Why do the two have to be so intertwined? Why is it we have reached this point where the two cannot be mutually exclusive? I put this theory to the test shortly after college and it was an invaluable lesson for me.
After college, I was working as an EMT for a paid ambulance service. I had started my paramedic course and I was working 24 hours on, 48 hours off. This was the shift most people wanted and I had earned. Granted, in order to earn it, I had to make a difficult choice. I could either continue working the 10 hour shifts I was working at the time with a partner who was one of my closest friends, or I could work the 24 hour shift with a paramedic who I couldn’t stand personally. I made the choice to work with the paramedic I couldn’t stand.
When I made this decision, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Everyone knew I didn’t like him. He and I never had any personal conversations. The most we would do in public if we saw each other was politely acknowledge each other…and that was about it. But when it came to paramedic skills, the guy was brilliant. He had been a paramedic with both Philadelphia Fire & EMS and FDNY. He had mad skills when it came to caring for patients and so while I couldn’t stand to have a personal conversation with him, I knew that in working with him, I would learn so many skills to help me through my paramedic program.
On the first day he and I worked together, we sat down and hashed a few things out. We both agreed that we would not be having any personal conversations. We would be keeping everything strictly professional. We both acknowledged it would take some getting used to and also knew it would lead to some quiet times in the office and on the ambulance, but we reached these agreements, shook hands and began our first shift together.
I worked with him for about five months. I’ll be honest, the first two months were not easy at all. There were many periods of awkward silence. But as I got deeper into my paramedic program, we had more to talk about and he was a great resource as I planned for some difficult classed I had to take like Stressed Intubation and Advanced Cardiac Life Support. He taught me a great deal, both in book knowledge and in practical application of the knowledge. While I couldn’t stand him personally, I respected him professionally. We found a way to make it work and we worked well together.
Why do I share this?
I share this because I know there are people who do not like me because of my journey. I know there are people, within my own family even as I have shared before, who don’t like my “choice” (as if it’s a choice at all) to transition. There are people who view someone like me as an abomination for walking this path. And many who don’t like me needing to do this, they have lost respect for me. Some of those who don’t respect me don’t even know me well enough to know if they like me.
I had two incidents that occurred today that reflect this warped and twist belief that liking someone and respecting someone have to go to together.
The first was as I was walking to my office from my car. The shuttle had dropped me off and I had another six blocks to walk to get to my office. It was in downtown and as I walked up main street, the sidewalks were pretty empty, as they have been since Covid started. I was walking along, minding my own business and this man intentionally ran into me. I say intentionally because I literally watched him as he swerved his path at the last minute and ran into my shoulder. Had I been carrying anything more than my purse, I probably would have dropped it as I almost expected to hit the ground when he walked into me.
After her ran into me, I looked at him both in shock and, I admit fear, wondering what the hell had lead him to do that. As I looked at him, I heard something come out of his mouth that I never expected to hear. Right there, in the middle of the day on Main St., this man said to me, “Fucking he-she.”
Needless to say I was floored. I mean, I know I am not always going to pass but really? This man knew nothing about me and went out of his way to create a possible conflict. Where was basic human respect?
The second incident involved a coworker. Not anyone in my office but someone I have worked with frequently and have known for years. She and I were part of a Zoom meeting today and after the meeting, she and I needed to follow up on a project we were working on together. Following the meeting, I called her so we could get our follow up done as quickly as possible. As we were going through our customary greetings and obligatory chit chat, she said to me, “You look great for a transwoman.”
Now, some may think I am overreacting to this statement but knowing the cultural diversity training we are required to go through as leaders in the organization, I know they specifically cite a statement like this as being completely inappropriate. She knew better and, especially in light of what happened this morning, her words stung and they stung hard. I already struggle a great deal, every day I leave my home, with how well I will pass, will someone look at me and think I am pretty enough to date, will someone try to assault me because I am transitioning…I think you get the picture. And, having heard the tone of her voice, I knew her word choice was intentional. Considering how forgiving I am of people for questions, statements and misgendering me…this was clearly a microagression and derogatory statement towards me.
I’m not going to lie, I was angry by both events. But ultimately I ended up asking myself, “Why is it you can be so disrespectful of me when you don’t even known me?”
Sadly, we are seeing a lot of this in the world right now, especially here in the US. Here in the states, we have become a country so divided that people are completely disrespected because they have differing political or religious beliefs. I have watched far too many people over the years put their best foot forward on the occasion they may garner some attention or glory, but then treat someone else with disrespect when no one is watching. And, what’s even worse is the currently political climate has promoted such behaviors.
Granted, respect is earned and it often is not earned easily. Sometimes, we make choices that cause us to lose the respect of people we care about and we have to work to earn respect again. But honestly, if you don’t even known someone well, what have they done to not deserve basic respect that all humans deserve?
As we look at the world and all that is going on, differences we are working to overcome, showing basic respect will be key to getting us through these dark times. No matter if you like someone or not, don’t we all deserve basic respect as human beings just for trying to make it through our days?
I sure as hell believe we do.
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Foxcity – Rich 2m