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Really Listen to Us!

Thanks, Diane,1 for your persistent encouragement to write! You asked why it is difficult to write. After some discharge, I realise it is about daring to believe I will really be listened to. So in this post I write about the following:

  • “Jeanne D’Arc’s”2 explanation—at the recent Eliminating Gay Oppression and Internalized Oppression for All Women Workshop, in New York, USA—of the limited ways that heterosexual women listen to us LGBQF+ women; the limitations of using a “frame” when listening to us
  • Recognising that as a white woman I listen in limited ways to women targeted by racism
  • The daring needed by heterosexual and LGBQF+ women in order to move forward—together
  • Why it has been hard for me to write on this topic

I write this as a Lesbian-identified woman who is white, middle class, Christian, and from South East England.

THE LIMITATIONS OF USING A "FRAME" WHEN LISTENING

“Jeanne D’Arc” spoke beautifully about the importance of heterosexual women listening to us—listening in a fresh way. She talked about how when they listen to us, they often use a frame (like a picture frame) and try to fit into it every single thing they hear. They listen to each thing we tell them and link it to their own experience.

The frame is a heterosexual woman’s frame. In using it, they compare our experiences to theirs, sometimes saying, “Oh yes, that happened to me too,” “I have that difficulty too,” “Well, I am not in a relationship with a man—maybe that explains why what I’m hearing relates to my life too.”

When heterosexual women do that, when they are so quick to relate what they “think” we said to their own experience, then they fail to listen. They miss something important. They contort what we say. They change its essence. As a result, we are not listened to and certainly not understood.

Yes, all of us women have experienced threats, abuse, domination by men, and so on, yet the essence of those experiences differs depending on our identity(ies).

THE LIMITATIONS OF MY LISTENING, AS A WHITE WOMAN

As a white woman, it is hard to allow the stories and experiences of women targeted by racism to seep into my white skin and consciousness, to allow the discomfort of not understanding, to not relate everything they say to my own experience.

THE DARING NEED TO MOVE FORWARD

We all listen in limited ways to women with whom we are in an “oppressor” relationship.

This means that you who are heterosexual need to dare not to use your heterosexual frame when listening to us, dare not to know, dare to leave snippets hanging disconnected in the air, dare not to analyse long tales, dare not to say that every element in those tales exists within your own heterosexual woman’s life, dare not to compare. That is a lot of daring!

We LGBQF+ women also have to dare. We have to dare to trust you—knowing that most of you, or all of you at least some of the time, will continue to place our stories in your own frame, alongside yours. We have to accept that it will take time, and discharge, for you to stop doing that, for you to just listen. We have to trust you. We have to trust your intention to listen. And, like Diane says, we do have to show ourselves to you. Achieving the end of Gay oppression will of course require us to do that. It is an essential part of our unity as heterosexual and LGBQF+ women moving forward.

THE CHALLENGE OF WRITING ON THIS TOPIC

It is hard for me to write on this topic, because I have low expectations of heterosexual women listening. Too many times they have made my stories into theirs, connecting them to their own lives and often laughing about them. It is hard for heterosexual women to listen openly and to leave a space for themselves not to know, to leave that heterosexual frame alone for a while. I still don’t trust heterosexual women to not take what I say and use it in ways that include distorting my words.

What I want of you heterosexual women (and of myself as a white middle-class Christian English woman) is to dare not to know and to actually listen, to listen deeply. I really want that from you. I want you not to rush to “show you understand.” There are long years of hurt, misunderstanding, and rawness between us (and love, too, of course).

“Emma Peel”

England

(Present Time 186, January 2017)


1 Diane Balser, the International Liberation Reference Person for Women and the assistant leader of the Eliminating Gay Oppression and Internalized Oppression for All Women Workshop
2 “Jeanne D’Arc” is the International Liberation Reference Person for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, and Transgender People and was the leader of the Eliminating Gay Oppression and Internalized Oppression for All Women Workshop.


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00