I don’t belong anywhere; I belong everywhere.
Right now I’m a voice that you’re reading. I’m human and maybe you feel a slight connection because of this simple fact. However, if I mentioned that I was a woman and you’re a man, then maybe the connection has lessened somewhat. Add that I’m Black, and if you’re non-Black, the connection decreases even further. Now, add that I’m Christian. Once again, we probably aren’t connecting as much. In fact, maybe some of you have decided to stop reading and closed this browser. And if I told you that I love sci-fi, depending on your interests, I have either further alienated you or brought you back a little closer to me.
And there lies the power of identity to connect or separate people in difference spaces. If you put two vastly different people in a room together (say an upper middle class white man and a working class Black transwoman) and expect a conversation, you’d be clinging to false hopes unless one can have a stirring conversation about being human.
However, in a scenario like this, there is one thing a person can do. Listen. When we can’t find the words, the best approach is to ask, “Who are you?” and listen and learn and process the information given. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of listening to generate conversation and onwards toward connection. And with that connection can arise empathy and possibly even love.
So let’s make an effort to listen when we find ourselves in a room full of people we believe have little connection with us. Swallow the fear, walk on over and ask, “Tell me about yourself. Your past. Your present. You struggles and hopes for the future.”
Ask. Listen. Connect. Love.