Never before have I received so many blog views in one day. Never before has one post had so many comments and so much attention from those who are not regular readers of my blog. Never before have I logged onto WordPress just twenty minutes after I logged out, to find that there were already comments awaiting my response.
And never before have I felt the need to defend myself.
I am referring to this post. For those unaware, it has been somewhat controversial, mainly because the classmates referenced in it happened to find my blog on Thursday and reacted poorly to their presentation in it. I suppose, with hindsight, my timing could have been better — in the week of the release of St Mallory’s Forever, it’s a fairly safe bet that people who hadn’t previously read my blog might find it, and I don’t want to alienate the very people we’re hoping will buy the book ;)
However, I was not expecting to be called ‘arrogant’, ‘patronising’, ‘rude’ and ‘childish’. I was not expecting to be told that I was ‘bitching’ about my fellow students and trying to make myself feel ‘superior’. I was not expecting to be insulted behind my back on Twitter, to be told outright that I was wrong and that it was not ignorance, but opinion; I was not expecting people to hide behind the internet’s anonymity to make statements I doubt they would have done if they were speaking to my face.
Yes, I hesitated before I clicked ‘Publish’. I had second thoughts. I always do. I have been blogging since 2009 and I know that whatever I write is public. I am often afraid to voice my opinion on matters of faith or personal beliefs, in case of negative reactions.
But I was not expecting any criticism of that post to take the form that it did.
I have responded to comments on my post with all of my patience. I have tried very hard not to be short tempered with people and not to react in a way that might make me come across as overly angry or judgemental. I am trying to be tolerant.
The essence of what I am saying, in fact, is this:
I did not write a post about my classmates. The post is not about my classmates. It isn’t about their conversations. It isn’t about what I think of them. I wrote a post about a social issue, using them as an example to highlight a failing in the education system. They inspired me to speak out for what I believe.
I did not call my classmates ‘ignorant’. I spoke of their ignorance, but did not tell them that they, as people, were ignorant. They are intelligent and well-educated — and yet on this particular issue, they do not know as much as they could.
I did not set out to shame any particular people or institutions. I spoke of ‘society’ educating, not my individual school. I referred to my classmates generally, rather than naming names, and said that I could not blame them for not knowing because it’s not something we were ever taught. I used them as a springboard to discuss an issue, not as a focus for negativity.
Even if the post had been specifically about my classmates, I was not criticising their opinions. I was highlighting the fact that they did not appear to know the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, and that they did not know what ‘pansexual’ meant. I was not informing them that they had to think the same way as me — merely that they should keep it inside their heads.
I have already said that this is the first time I have felt the need to defend myself. Because I do not care what people think of me.
I have been bullied, at the end of primary school and the beginning of secondary school, because I was strange, I was an outsider, I believed — or claimed to believe — in fantastical creatures. I was bullied because I was a Christian at primary school. I was bullied because I was a nerd.
I have been blogging for years, and in that time, I have had some disagreements with people. They have always been resolved quickly and without too much ill-feeling, because yes, people disagree, but informed beliefs are very different to misinformed opinions.
I am a writer and therefore not that great at appearing normal in school. I am a YouTuber and I often make videos where I humiliate myself for other people’s entertainment. I am a cosplayer and I have walked around London dressed as a fictional male character.
I do not care what people think of me.
But I care what people think about my friends. I care when they say things that if said to somebody’s face, would seriously hurt them. I care when people do not understand that they are wrong and will continue through life with misinformed opinions that will one day seriously hurt someone.
Homophobia and transphobia kill. I read an article by Steve Chalke in Christianity Magazine a week or so ago, in which he shared some startling statistics about the number of teenage suicide victims who were gay or transgender — because they had been made to feel so bad by people that they didn’t want to live. (It was actually a very good article. I always knew I liked Steve Chalke and his sensible approach to the issue was a breath of fresh air. I believe you can find it on the website, though I don’t have a link right now.)
I will not be responsible for standing back and letting people continue with attitudes that might one day drive someone I care about to end their life, or to hurt themselves, or to hide their true identity from the entire world and pretend to be someone they’re not.
I repeat my call for society to educate.
My post was not about my classmates, but I used them as a springboard to discuss an issue that I feel strongly about. To those reading with an open mind, I hope it comes across that way, too.
It is not about them. It is so much bigger than that.
Yet I have been made to feel like a terrible bitchy person, who is arrogant, patronising and rude and has decided to write inflammatory things about people from school for — well, for what? Entertainment? You think I get a kick out of this?
I wrote because the issue is important to me. This is my blog. This is a place where I share my own viewpoint on things. Am I to be forbidden even that now? Do I not have the freedom of speech to say what I want to say?
At the same time, I am incredibly grateful to those who sent me messages of support, through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and in the comments below. The positive response has far outweighed the negative, and it’s just a shame that the negative has such a massive emotional fallout for me.
Internet, thank you for your support. I leave you with this song, because it has kept me going over the last two days, and sums up my feelings better than I can: