Guest columnist Oriel Strong: Think unconstrained thoughts




Published: 04-29-2024 8:38 PM

Mariel E. Addis’ April 17 guest column “Under siege from all sides” was heartfelt and thought-provoking. I share Addis’ foundational ethic that we must resist ranking any human being as better or worse than another. Trans and gender-nonconforming people are indisputably real people who are equally worthy of dignity and respect as anyone. We are all fully human.

Addis’ advice to be informed, kind, ask questions and listen to your heart is wonderful life advice. Asking questions is the first step on the path to sound judgment and is essential to becoming informed. If we fail to ask questions, we end up blindly following the edicts of our preferred organizations, whether they are religious, political, or based in any other kind of philosophical framework.

I wholeheartedly agree that every person should give themselves permission to make their own independent judgments; guided by trust in their own perceptions. I noticed I had stopped doing this; stopped listening to my heart’s wisdom like Addis rightly encourages us to do.

I think a large number of us who consider ourselves liberal supporters of social justice have dutifully suppressed our thoughts and questions for a long time. It’s past time to ask questions again so we can be genuinely informed. We should not merely be informed of what one organization or another would like us to blindly believe. We should be informed about reality, no matter how painful, messy or nuanced it may be.

Ask the questions you’ve sensed you’re not supposed to ask. Ask why there’s been so much pressure to not scrutinize any of the claims made about medical care for gender-nonconforming children. How do we know what we think we know? Are the claims we’re presented with really true?

Ask if radical feminists really believe that trans women are “a threat to womanhood.” Is this something radical feminists say, or is someone putting words in their mouths? Ask why there is so much effort to intimidate women into silence.

Can Addis (and others) accept that when we really think for ourselves we won’t all reach the same conclusion? This is the inevitable and good result of a liberal, pluralistic culture that permits freedom of speech, thought, and belief.

It is convenient to dismiss any disagreement with Addis’ views as simply shallow, mindless ignorance. It is much more difficult to accept that one person could disagree with another precisely because they have asked questions in good faith and found that true kindness does not mean just playing along to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

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I appreciate the example the writer gave of Jesus calling out the hypocrisy of the leaders in his own group. It probably hurt some feelings, but he was still right to take this action. I hope more members of the LGBTQ+ community and the political left can bravely speak up. Courage is contagious. It’s time to break the silence in our own heads as well as our communities and think the unconstrained thoughts.

Oriel Strong lives in Hadley.