When a friend or family member comes to you out of the closet sharing with you that they are LGBTQIA+ you might not want to say “I have an open mind” any more in hopes they will feel better. This blog will use the responses from others to prove why.
I will first give you a solution to what to say instead, and then I will show you fifty reasons to why it would be better gender etiquette to say something more validating and respectful of their existence as a human being.
On Facebook I asked this question to my LGBTQIA+ friends and allies:
Can people share their thoughts to why a friendly person saying “I have an open mind” in regards to accepting a transgender and/or intersex person’s existence can be so upsetting to me? I Realize they are truly trying to say a good thing. Yet it still hits me wrong, and to be honest, I am not sure how to give words to this frustration I have.
I have often said in my mind (not to them):
I don’t care if your mind is open or closed, I exist if you like it or not.
What are your own personal thoughts around this?
Here are some ideas on what to say instead. These ideas were shared from me and my friends:
- It is nice to meet you!
- I support your human right to exist, and I am here for you in any way I can be.
- I look forward to learning more.
- I believe in human diversity and support peoples’ autonomy.
- I am teachable. Please tell me what I don’t know about….
- Cool, what does that mean?
- I don’t know much about this, where should I start?
- I like learning new things. The day I stop learning new things is the day that I die.
- Please guide me to things I can read about this so that I can take the time to learn more.
- I care about you and your journey, and want to learn more if you are able to share.
- I’d love to learn more about you and you’re experience of being intersex and/or transgender, if you’re comfortable with me doing so.
Here are their Fifty responses to
why saying “I have an open mind” can be hurtful:
- Sounds too much like when people say, “I’m not racist..” there’s always going to be a “but” somewhere.
- If one really is open-minded why are they singling someone out with that particular assertion? My reply: Hmmmm. Good point. If they are having to say it, it does make me wonder if they are truly hiding something.
- More of my thoughts: Here is another one that gives pause: I would never say to an endosex, cisgender, heterosexual, I have an open mind around accepting you as a human worthy of human rights. For one, they are the majority and have received their human rights. Human Rights intersex and transgender people have yet to receive.
- From a Trans Man Friend: Yes, that is the thing. If a black person was in front of you and you were to say “I have an open mind”, that would be absurd. Your existence is not up for debate. My reply: Perfectly said!
- I understand how it might be unsettling for a person to say, “it’s okay you’re [insert any descriptor here], I’ve got an open mind.”
- If their mind is truly open, they should be able to receive info on why what they just said is insulting.
- My experience is that this phase can come from a lot of very different places. Some people might use it to be dismissive of the topic being discussed and make themselves appear awoke while others are genuinely attempting to create a safe space for discussion. Because of this, rather than take issue with the words or immediate offense, I’m more inclined to interpret this kind of phrase as an invitation to find out what they really mean. That’s just me. I totally respect and understand that any use of that phrase could be unsettling.
- My first thought is you are intersex and understand the transgender experience. It would be like someone saying to me (a deaf person) that I’m open-minded about the deaf experience- I am deaf and experience it. I don’t need to be open-minded about my own experience. My reply: You hit the nail on the head!
- I have an open mind….just not an educated one, that’s why I’m here. My reply: What do you exactly mean by that? That I am human? That this is my sex? That I am truly a man? That I am gay? Please explain to me what you have an open mind about? I appreciate you, by the way. Their reply back: There is a LOT more in this big world than what I’ve experienced. We still have more to learn about each other. That things aren’t simply black and white, there is SOOOO much more
- Oh, I agree with you 100%! When I’m in similar situations, I have to remind myself that they’re trying to do the right thing, which is always better than the latter, even if it makes me wanna roll my eyes a whole 360°. XO
- I feel often offended by that statement, as well. My existence does not depend on someone’s mind being open. I exist regardless and deserve respect, whether people like it or not. I can not help who/what I am, but I am a living breathing person that deserves respect and acknowledgment. It’s completely understandable to feel negatively towards that statement.
- My thoughts: Here is another thought that compares this to other civil rights movements: We would never tell a person of another race that we have an “open mind” around them being a type of human and deserving human rights. Yet it is happening all the time to LGBTQIA+ people? A reply to this: Precisely, you don’t need their state of mind to validate your existence and experience.
- I’m open-minded buuut… I’m not racist buuuut…..
- A truly loving and accepting open-minded person who truly is invested in learning what they were previously ignorant or naive on won’t say hey I’m open-minded.
- Not to say I am not guilty of doing some of those in the past before I did learn and grew.
- I agree it sounds like a “but” is following soon.
- For myself, it feels like it’s a denial of my existence.
- I would try to explain why that is insulting, and I agree that sounds bad they way they said it
- I just wish we lived in a different existence (time) where everyone is considered equal. It’s just not fair at all. I am a very old friend of Nnaki’s who needed a lot of education. I’m not perfect, but I’m learning the best I can. Thank goodness Nnaki loves our friendship enough to be patient with me as I was on a learning curve and still am learning. I just feel everyone has the right to equal rights and not to feel as if their life is in danger because of who they are. It’s just not fair in my book that this is now the case. Makes me very sad 😢
- The problem is that people aren’t being taught that trans and intersex people exist.
- It seems you might feel about this like I feel about “tolerance.” I don’t need tolerance; I need acceptance. And, to your point, exist as I am whether someone else tolerates me or not. So accept that.
- For me, it’s like when someone feels they have to extoll that [sic] “I’m a good person.” Either A)are you looking for a cookie for doing the bare minimum requirement for being a decent human being or B)can’t you think of ways show it without performance statements? It’s one thing to say you’re an ally, it’s another thing to talk like one.
- My concern for the open-minded is that their brains may fall out. 🙄
- Being open-minded implies that one is accepting of things outside of the norm. Accepting someone for the body, identity, personality, etc, that they were born with should not be outside of the norm. My reply: Well Said!
- I think its more of a term meaning I’m open to listen but I’m not sure yet.. sometimes it’s hard to absorb the info given in large quantities I call it “steeping” or letting the info be understood
- sometimes it’s used as a “tell me i wanna know no matter how gross or weird it maybe i can handle it”
- It’s really hard to read the context sometimes.
- “God doesn’t make mistakes” can have two different meanings.
- And most don’t realize the phrase is kind of against trans/intersex people.
- But most blurt out stuff without thinking
- The other meaning of god doesn’t make mistakes is saying whatever you are god still loves you and you’re not a mistake/failure.
- Its all how you take it, but its better to ask for clarity so that there is clear understanding. My reply: I was born in the image of God, and God definitely did not make a mistake. A non-binary person’s response to this thread: If God doesn’t make mistakes, they created trans and intersex people exactly as they are, *as trans and intersex*. Including one‘s gender and one’s body, however uncommon. In fact, using this phrase blatantly conflicts with support for surgeries and other measures forced on intersex people. My reply: All adult people should be given the right to change their bodies surgically.
- I totally understand! Do you have to be “open” minded to accept my granddaughter with spina bifida? My reply: Exactly!
- I can see how that would upset you, and yes I hear the ‘but’ in there❤️
- Hmmmm, it reminds me of a person saying: I’m not racist, I accept people of any color, blue, green, pink, black, white… Except there are no blue, green, whatever skin colors! That really bugs me.
- I learned late in life about the myriad of ways we are constructed, and I find it to be quite the education and a continuing one.
- We are all Human Beings with variations in our physical makeup. Period! And how this affects our sex, gender, who we love is personal to who we are.
- I never needed to be accepted as a heterosexual female. Not up to anyone to judge. God doesn’t make mistakes!
- I suppose it would be how they said it and in what context… But by the sounds of it, they are being condescending… That would piss me right off…
- I think that “an open mind” suggests that they don’t hold a strong opinion on the subject at hand, one way or another; it could even sound like “I’m waiting to be persuaded.” Whereas what we want to hear is, “I see you, I believe in you, I’m on your side.”
- “We can disagree and still love each other as long as your disagreement is not rooted in my oppression and in the denial of my humanity and right to exist.” By James Baldwin
- So this is the (very imperfect) analogy that popped into my head after reading your post earlier: Say I am an activist campaigning around the survival of African elephants. I am objecting to them being murdered for their ivory. I also think it’s wrong (and very sad) that in an effort to stop them from being murdered, some elephants are having their tusks removed to “save” them from poachers. Someone then tells me they are “open-minded” on the issue. What are they open-minded about? About whether African elephants even exist? About whether people have the right to access to their ivory for “traditional medicine”? Or whether they should have their tusks removed to save them from murder?
- In some situations, the open-minded position becomes meaningless. Better, surely, to say “I honestly don’t know enough about this issues to have an informed opinion about it.?” And then to go and educate yourself further? My reply: Exactly!
- “I have an open mind” can sound like: I‘m not bigoted, but …“
- It’s similar to when coming out as trans and someone says “I don’t care if you identify as a helicopter I’ll always support you”. It’s nice to have your support, but are you really conflating my gender to identifying as a nonhuman nonsentient object? My reply: Well said! That one sucks and is unacceptable too!
- From an ally: I think you already said why it bothers you. You exist, whether people accept you or not. It’s a valid gripe.
- From an ally: I would be offended too. That comment is like them saying they are open to or willing to accepting something taboo. You hear that as an opener to something like this, “ yes, maybe one day I would try a threesome, I have an open mind.” However, using that term when accepting one’s gender, it’s not about having an open mind, it’s about being human, a good human. I’d be really upset too
- It is most likely upsetting because saying “open mind” indicates that they are stuck with their more closed perspective but possibly want someone to help them come to terms with intersex and transgender issues. Regressive society tends to lump transgender and cross-dressing, and this is so so so harmful to transgender people.
- Exactly, so the same shit many trans folk and I have to put up with even within our families that some say they love us but don’t agree with our (opinion) of whom we are.
- We’re not an opinion or choice. We are although, in many places, our hard-won existence is being eroded by right-wing political semi-religious ignorance. As they often say to us: “Hate the sin, not the sinner“ Another reply from a trans person: Exactly, only something a bigoted idiot would say.
Here are the comments that justified the use of “I have an open mind”:
- Everyone around you is transitioning too if you expect people to respect your change, you need to give them their time to make the adjustment. This time required for adjustment differs from person to person. Think about how long it took you in your mind to come around to your current state of mind, at least give them that much time. My reply: It took me 46 years to realize I had been erased. I don’t think that would be a good idea to give people that much time. LOL Instead, I am a gentle teacher to all. However, once they are educated, and they keep on with bias and prejudice, then they typically vanish on their own. I don’t have to tell them to leave. Good riddance! Those who stick around are people who were just as mortified as me that I was harmed by the invention of sex erasing my existence.
- The definition of open-minded is a willingness to try new things or to hear and consider new ideas. An example of an open-minded person is one who listens to their opponent in a debate to see if the information makes sense or if they can change their minds.” My reply: My human rights are not debatable. A reply to me: Exactly. Either they don’t know what open-minded means of they are throwing shade.
- I understand your position. But these people are not questioning your existence with that phrase. I think most mean that they are trying to show they are validating your existence, despite not having a direct experienced/met a person such as yourself. Definition of meeting any ‘new’ person. You’re hearing the phrase from a defensive position when it likely isn’t intended to make you feel that way. My Reply: Yes, I am well aware of everyone’s good intentions. It is still unsettling to me, and I think my friends are bringing up reasons as to why. A second response to this one: My first thought was, not everyone knows an intersex person….at least not that they know of. I say this because my sister, as she was defined by Drs, let’s no one but family knows. It’s her choice…I pray for the day that she will b her authentic self🙏🏻. It’s sad, but we as a whole..(humans) haven’t gotten to experience nor have we been educated that there is another sex out there besides male and female. I am soo thankful for your voice!! I’m sorry if what she said hurt u in any way..I get it, but I don’t think she meant it in a hurtful way.
- I think the reason we, in particular, older people say that is because when we were kids, none of the other sexual orientations bar the male/female existed. It’s as we become adults and learn and discover that the real world is totally different, so we have to ”open” our minds up to other things/people etc. than to what we were taught as youngsters. We are not meaning anything hurtful to you, it’s more about what we/us have to do to ourselves and educate ourselves that the world is not so black and white as to what we were taught to believe when we were youngsters. I hope this makes sense. I am not very good at explaining/expressing what I am really trying to say.
- Could the person not understand what they are saying is wrong? I don’t know the entire situation I would hate to think someone is hurting my friend. My reply: I am certain, if they want to remain friends with me, they are meaning well, yet this can be easily taken the wrong way and as a warning they are not truly safe.
With all this said when a person says “I have an open mind”, they typically do mean well. However, I hope we can now all learn from each other and do something different with the suggestions given in the beginning of this blog.
So, if you made it to the end, we thank you!
Here is my poem I wrote in 2018 about this concern:
Telling me you have an open mind makes you think
you are safe and that you will allow yourself to be friends with me.
I am a minority:
With a friendly smile, you tell me you have no problem with how I live my life.
It made me worry about you though when you told me this.
Here is why….
Do you need to know that I accept who you are?
You are the majority:
Do you feel safe with me, or do you just assume it?
You do not know me or my story, I do not know yours.
Like you, maybe I did not have a choice but to be who I am.
If I did not have a choice but to be born this way, am
I any different than you?
I exist even if your mind is closed.
I exist even if you hate and reject my lifestyle and my culture.
If you had simply accepted me and loved me unconditionally
as a human being would there have been the need to share that you had an
By Mx. Anunnaki Ray Marquez
March, 10th, 2018