“It’s just a difference of opinion,” she said. “People are allowed to have opinions. It doesn’t make any difference.”
Except it does. Every online voice is a person; a cashier, a doctor, a lawyer, a mechanic, a landlord. They don’t solely exist in the void of online. And when they have a negative opinion on trans people or the LGBTQ community in general, it makes a difference in real life.
The woman ranting that trans people are mentally ill is the doctor who says she “isn’t prejudiced but…” before denying services. The man who claims gay people are perverts is the lawyer who won’t take that adoption case because children need a mother and a father. The person who talks about “trans freaks” is the manager who looks at a trans person’s face then their ID before throwing the resume in the garbage. The couple, complete with conjoined Facebook names, who lament the lack of a straight pride parade are the landlords who suddenly doesn’t have an apartment to rent… at least not to them. The anonymous account spouting hatred is the politician forming laws regarding bathrooms, adoption, and outright approval of prejudice. The lady sharing awful trans “jokes” is the children’s aid worker harassing this family.
We need to stop pretending it’s just an opinion when that opinion has body counts. I’ve seen people say “it’s just an opinion but I think trans people should be gassed to death”. There’s no ‘just’ in that sentence, with any meaning of the word. Opinions are “I like chocolate ice cream better than vanilla” not “I think my neighbour should be exiled to a rocky island to die”. That’s hate speech, not an opinion.
People talk about free speech as if it’s sacrosanct, meanwhile they have no idea what it means. In both Canada and the United States it was created to allow you to freely criticise the government without being arrested. It was not written into law so you could talk about killing your neighbour over their gender or who they love.
We need to stand up and against the people who spout hatred. Call them out. Point out the hatred in their words. Maybe they’ll learn something but, at the very least, maybe they’ll simply shut up. And, more importantly, the people on the fence will get information they need to form a real opinion, one with facts.
And we need to keep doing this until hate laws stop being presented, all families are considered equal, and it’s not considered shameful to share age appropriate information about the LGBTQ community to children. Until it’s recognised there are LGBTQ children.
We need to keep fighting until there’s no longer a body count.