Fact: The only letter I can see during an eye exam is the “Giant E” but even that sucker is blurry to me. In fact, I can barely see the screen I’m typing onto without the aid of my handy eyewear.
I’m near-sighted. I’ve worn glasses since fourth grade and admittingly, I should have started wearing them even sooner. If there’s anything I know, it’s that I can’t see without the aid of my specs. Without them, I’m pretty blind to what is around me. Not to mention, even with my glasses on, they prove ineffective when dirty.
Everyone owning a pair of glasses has the common understanding that cleaning our lenses without the proper cloth is a big no-no. We all do it anyway – myself included – but we all know it’s not the brightest idea to clean the dirt, greasy smudges, and even rain off glasses using our t-shirts, sweaters, or whatnot. Though helpful in the moment, in the long run, we find that lenses get pretty scratched. And with scratches, our vision becomes obscured and we have to ultimately drop another dime in the bucket for a new pair. The dirt, the residue, and overall texture of our t-shirts and non-cleaning cloths only make the problem of dirty glasses, well, more of a problem.
If I can’t see clearly, I’m actually rather useless and helpless. At the very least, I can’t safely operate a car, I can’t learn or teach effectively, and I get incredibly dizzy. The reality is:
Clear vision is necessary for living proactively and solving (as well as preventing) issues and problems.
Having a clear vision – a panorama – is key.
Very recently, I learned just how important having a clear vision is within the context of social work and as a human being.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend a special event at the UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work. There was a moment in which we were to introduce ourselves and include our PGPs. Personal Gender Pronouns. I had no idea what that meant. At least, not really. This was the first time in my life, I included the pronouns “she, her, hers” after introducing myself.
I wasn’t the only one that this concept was foreign to.
The concept of PGPs and the rationale behind them stems from expressing inclusivity for the LGBTQ community – specifically that of the Trans Community. Aside from Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and awful middle school memories of a girl being bullied for having a “boy’s haircut”, I wasn’t really exposed to the Trans Community. It wasn’t necessarily because I didn’t want to know; I just honestly didn’t know anything about it because I never really had to.
After learning about the importance of PGPs and realizing my lack of knowledge about the Trans Community, I went into a frenzy of research. I wanted to learn more about what I didn’t know. What I found profoundly broke my heart:
Discrimination. Violence. Depression. Suicide.
As a mental health practitioner who openly advocates for suicide prevention, I was appalled to learn that suicide attempts are alarmingly common within the Trans Community, especially that of Trans Youth. Though the entire LGBTQ Community already has a high level of suicide attempts, it is within the Trans Community specifically, that these numbers are sky high.
I like to think of myself as a fairly open-minded and inclusive individual who is incredibly passionate about humanity. Looks to me, I still have a lot to learn but I’m willing to. If we want to better the world and help people effectively, we need to know who they are. This holds true not only for the Trans Community but for all people: the LGBTQ Community; immigrants; refugees; the mentally ill; the elderly; veterans; children; Christians; Muslims and etc. Essentially, this holds true for anyone – especially those who may hold different perspectives from ourselves.
If we want to reach our neighbor, we at least need to know they exist and acknowledge them in an inclusive manner.
If we really want to be inclusive, then we have to be aware of the oppressive systems that we may still unintentionally possess.
I couldn’t see who was standing right in front of me; a community that has always been there.
It seems I was wearing glasses but there were pieces of the panorama that were obscured because my vision was impaired. It’s time to clean off the dirt (using my cleaning cloth!) and roll-up our sleeves. There is work to be done.