Picking Up the Pieces One Week Later

Content Warning for Harry Potter and JK Rowling again, though this piece is more of a reflection on my experiences talking about that with people over the last two weeks than about those topics themselves.

I’m writing this the day my post about how willful ingorance makes you part of the problem went up, on a friday after a long week of trying to talk to people about why they shouldn’t continue to buy new harry potter mechandise, which also happens to be the day the latest harry potter video game was fully released. I’ve fought a lot of pointless and fruitless battles in my life, but few have left me feeling as defeated and exhausted as this past week have. After all, it has been less than a year and a half since I managed to convince myself that how I feel and identify matters. What hope did I have of enduring all of these people proving that they didn’t really care enough about me and my identity to refrain from playing a single dumb video game? I mean, some of them even went so far as to assign blame to me for how they felt like I was trying to make them feel bad for their decision. One even apologetically pitched his decision as the right thing to do for his mental health even if it hurt me.

There’s only so much callousness one can take in a week and I’ll admit to being a bit more sensitive to this flavor of social stress than I am about most because I still have to work at convincing myself to correct my friends when they use the wrong pronouns. Which feels like a silly thing to be stressed about after spending the last five days confronting all these people, old friends and new, who are willing to directly tell me that they see no problem continuing to support and platform JK Rowling despite understanding how much harm she’s done and continues to do with her money and platform. I was planning to come out at work soon (a place I expect to get a chilly reception at best, given the way diversity and inclusion efforts are spoken about by my team) and now I’m considering undoing what little work I’ve done because half my emotional support structure just vanished.

The only upside I can see to this whole situation is that at least I know now. At least I’m not finding out when I needed to lean on someone I considered an ally only to find out that the support I expected would not be forthcoming. One of the most important lessons I learned from my first long-term therapist (I saw another therapist prior to this one who was helpful, but I wasn’t really ready for therapy because I was still living with my parents and was still repressing a lot of stuff. Plus, he also briefly treated my brother and I didn’t really trust him as a result) is that when you learn something about a person that really changes how you see them, the person usually hasn’t changed over night. They’ve always been this person, or at least have been for a very long time at that point, and they’re just showing you who they really are. Even if you don’t like the person they really are, none of what happened is a reflection on you. You just didn’t know before and now you do.

It’s was a difficult lesson to learn, I’ll be honest. I was very resistant to the idea at first because I thought I understood people very well and, if that was true, how could I have missed something so major about who they were? It clicked a few years later, though, when I was working through some stuff about my parents with my current therapist (six or seven years ago at this point). She pointed out that part of the reason I was struggling to see my parents in a neutral light was because I wanted them to be better than they were. I’m a bit of an optimist when it comes to people, perhaps too willing to extend the benefit of the doubt especially after I’ve been hurt, and that can make it really difficult for me to properly evaluate what someone’s behavior and choices say about them.

As I reflect on everything that happened over the last couple weeks, I can’t help but think about all of the little things I’ve been ignoring over the past few years. The incredulity in the voices and on the faces of my close friends as I spoke to them about one of my friends who chose our other roommate over me, despite the rather awful things that roommate used to do, when we stopped living together. I am reminded of thoughts I couldn’t bring myself to express when I was thinking about moving in with someone, about how I wasn’t sure I’d be comfortable being myself in their periphery. I am reminded that I wasn’t really surprised by anyone’s choice, just disappointed. There was one notable exception to all this, but I didn’t (and still don’t) have the spoons to grapple with it, much less address it, since I barely even had the spoons to write this post.

Despite all that stuff bubbling in the background, foreshadowing recent events, I still thought these were people I could rely on. That they were worth attempting to convince that maybe it would be better if they just found something else to enjoy rather than continuing to support a bigot by playing a game full of anti-semitic tropes and a lot of increidbly harmful stuff (stuff that more tha one of them implied was negated by the devs slapping the ability to make trans characters into the game at the end of development despite the game still forcing all characters in a systemic gender binary of “witch” or “wizard”). I kinda figured this would be an easy one, but clearly I hadn’t thought it through. Turns out people see no problem with clinging to joy they once felt and the temptations of nostalgia over doing the right thing if it’s mildly inconvenient. I mean, I offered to recommend them a whole slew of other games to play, and none of them were interested.

Most of this post is written in a general sense, because I’ve had this experience with a few people. All but one of them, though, merely chose to continue playing the game or refusing to commit to not supporting the creator and her horrible platform. Everything else I’ve written about has been focused around one person. This notable example has weighed me down all week (and will likely continue to weigh me down for weeks to come) not just because of his decision to assign blame to me and to attempt to paint his choices as the only healthy option for him, but because he was, at one point, one of my closest friends. He’d been a part of my life for a long time, almost thirteen years now. First as friends, then as neighbors, and eventually roommates before we went our separate ways a few months into the pandemic.

Excising him from my life now, as I continue working to build and maintain places I feel safe and supported, feels like a messy breakup. My efforts to disentangle him from my life have pretty much just kept the pain of his decisions fresh in my mind as I find more and more stuff–streaming services, video game social spaces, and a variety of tabletop gaming spaces–that we shared. It doesn’t help that the people who I spoke with previously (generally about how my relationship with him soured over the years due to his decisions to support other people over me) are telling me that this hasn’t surprised them or that they have been unhappy with him for a while because of the way he’s treated me since I started standing up for myself. I understand that as an expression of sympathy and I understand people are doing it to be supportive of my decision to end my relationship with someone I’ve been friends with for over a decade. That doesn’t stop it from hurting as they point out that this person clearly hasn’t cared about me the same way I cared about them for likely most of our relationship. I know that’s true. I know my friends don’t mean it that way. I know there isn’t any way to proceed without feeling this pain in some way other than an unhealthy level of emotional repression. It still sucks, though.

I keep looking for a note to end on, some kind of message to highlight as I reflect on what has happened as I’ve asked for what feels like the bare minimum of human deceny from people who absolutely won’t give it to me if it means missing out on something they think they’ll enjoy, but I’m drawing a blank. To be entirely fair to myself, I’m so worn out from all this that I keep needing to fend off the creeping voice of doubt that is telling me that maybe I’m the one who is wrong. Which, you know, is the same voice that will immediately tell me to go back in the closet the instant it wins this battle of self-doubt about not actively supporting and platforming the person who made transphobia mainstream. If it sounds like I’m repeating some variation of that a lot today, you are correct. I am repeating it a lot because I don’t want anyone to lose sight of what they’re doing when they buy this game or any other merchandise Rowling will benefit from. Whether you like it or not, it’s actually pretty simple. If that makes you feel bad, then maybe you should examine why me pointing out your actions and the consequences upsets you so much.

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