Pigtailed Girl

(tulisan ini merupakan bagian dari serial #YourStoriesMatter. Kamu juga bisa mengirimkan tulisanmu di sini).

When the words ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, ‘homophobic’ are said, we usually like to think of the extreme. For example, the word ‘racist’ probably makes you think of an ultra-nationalist bigot with an angry face and hateful slogans and symbols tattooed on their body. You probably see them as distant, evil people that appear once in a blue moon like video game final bosses. However, for a lot of minorities, they are familiar faces.

I know mine was: she was a nice girl in my class during my kindergarten years. She told me that I’m “not a boy” because I “talk and walk like a girl”. I still remember her pigtails and her words all too well. Fifteen years after she said that, I still have anxieties going outside my home because of my gender expression. Going outside means that people will see me walk and hear me talk. All of the sudden, everybody around me is that girl with the pigtails.

Suddenly, I’m back in kindergarten all over again.

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The reason I’m telling this story is to explain discrimination in a vivid way to people that may not experience it first-hand. Most of the time, it’s not from those ‘video game final bosses’: it’s from the ‘pigtailed girl’. Most of the time, the source of discrimination is not those explicit racists – it’s familiar faces. How so? Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other discriminatory practices are systemic, not individualistic. It’s not only based on individual moral failures, but rather the environment, the institution, the society and the norms that the previous generation has collectively built. In other words; it’s not people being evil – it’s the system.

Why do I believe that? Because I personally never met any ‘video game final bosses’. All my life I have encountered a thousand versions of ‘pigtailed girl’. My own lovely friends that I care for has said hurtful words regarding my ethnicity. My relatives have made hurtful comments regarding my gender expression every holiday. And I’ve had ignorant lecturers that make jokes about my sexual orientation. And I must admit – sometimes the ‘pigtailed girl’ is probably me.

I have faith that we are generally good people. That pigtailed girl probably believe she’s a good person as well. We are discriminated against and we discriminate because we think it’s okay: because the system said that it’s okay. We still think ourselves as good and kind as we make those careless comments, or as we stay silent when discrimination happens. Clearly, ‘good’ is not enough. We have to be proactive – we have to constantly question the way our system works and challenge it; whether it be through academia, political participation, day-to-day discussions with our friends, or numerous other channels.

I don’t want the generation after me to still worry about the way that they walk and talk, about their skin colour, about who they love – about how they were born. Let my generation be the last to experience that pain.