“Look at me. I’m a heterosexual cisgender white American male. Under forty, even. You know what that means? It means I can support anyone I damn please. Nobody can stop me. I have a lot of fucking power that I don’t want. I’m gonna use it on behalf of other people.”
This is part of a character dialogue I wrote in August. It’s in the latter half of a book I started writing in July, which I’m nearly done editing now. I wrote it because a protagonist’s best friend behaved like a derp pretty much of the time, but he had hidden depths. In his first major dialogue, he warned one of the protagonists not to “chase after pretty boys just to piss off his dad.” Kind of an asshole about it. He’s not very eloquent usually. I wanted to clarify his behaviour, and I felt that this explained where he’s coming from. He’s a young man, married with two small children. His wife works and he stays home with the kids. He gives people a hard time, but he cares. He gives some people a hard time because he cares. This speech is simply an answer to another character’s question: “How are you so cool about this shit?”
Today I saw someone express a similar sentiment only to come under fire. Perhaps it’s easy to misunderstand–to accuse a person of creating a divide when they meant to promote unity, or to see condescension instead of love and concern. It’s a damaging social attitude, to seek negativity and to condemn without empathy or contemplation. I choose to think about what people say and try to understand what they mean by it, not just what their words mean to me. This can be difficult when communicating only through text, email, or social media posts. I think it’s worth the effort to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I think anyone who can respect someone else’s opinions or values without also sharing them is admirable.
Everyone’s feelings are valid. They don’t have to express them well, and you don’t have to like them. But they are valid. Always. Invalidating someone else’s feelings is never a good thing. I know I want to be treated with respect, and I assume all people do. Having been in abusive relationships and bullied in school, I know what it’s like to be disrespected and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. There are worse things in the world than being insulted or ignored, but scale doesn’t render small problems nonexistent or painless.
I bolded empathy and Everyone’s feelings are valid because those are things I’ve lot about a lot over the past few days. This character, as a function in the story and a fictional person, is first and foremost someone’s friend. Like any real person, he’s imperfect and doing his best. I couldn’t think of a title for this post, so I chose a positive word from a language I’m studying right now. Sorry if it looks generic or cryptic.
As a sort of disclaimer, I suppose I should say that this character doesn’t represent me and he isn’t based on anyone.