Being binary can be incredibly insidious. My feeling is that the black-and-white, this-or-that, with-me-or-against-me mentality is a big contributor to today’s socioeconomic and political problems. But that’s changing. You see more coverage of non-cis communities, and thanks to the GOP becoming a parody of itself, third-party movements and nonpartisanism are actually being considered by some as a real alternative.
I feel most authentic when I am not binary about life. But there is one thing I get binary about, and I couldn’t find the words to articulate it until recently. I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown’s work (and her modes of sharing this work). To me, Dr. Brown seeks to fill in the mental gaps binarism has caused us. But she had this to say during an interview with Jonathan Fields.
“I hate to get binary because it’s who I’m trying not to be, but I really do believe you’re either making the world a better place or you’re making it a worse place. I don’t think there’s a lot of neutrality. Our choices have a huge impact on people. We’re responsible for the energy we put into the world.”
The relief I felt when I heard this quote through the context of her work was a little life-changing. I gained insight into individuals with strong values, yet embraced empathy, vulnerability, and uncertainty.
This is the context by which I found my response to a recent Facebook post by James Ross IV a.k.a. American drag queen Tyra Sanchez. Sanchez, who has publicly discussed her own struggles with bullying, depression, and attempting suicide, had this to say about those who take their own lives.
“I have no sympathy for people who take their own lives. I believe they are cowards who just gave in and gave up. … There are tons of organizations in the world that are designed to help anyone that is depressed in life. They didn’t seek to find help; instead they chose to give up!”
Her reason for writing these responses in the first place was due to cyber bullying she received. What also makes the issue multilayered is that Sanchez, in my opinion, does include rational points regarding families of suicide victims, the power of self-love, and the availability of resources for those who are struggling with suicidal ideation.
However, when you apply Dr. Brown’s one true binary principle, this is where Sanchez’s perspective negates itself with her writing and words. Is she making the world (and specifically, other victims of bullying who struggle with suicidal ideation) better, or is she contributing to a vicious cycle of separation and retaliation?
I consciously highlighted the fact that these words came from a drag queen. It is noteworthy that a member of a marginalized community—most of who have suffered at the hands of bullying and hate—would isolate herself in her story. Even though she admits to attempting suicide at least once, she only identifies herself as someone who is triumphant and resilient. She puts all the burdens of the preservation of life on those who have successfully committed suicide.
If someone does not see the world as she does, they deserve the pain they experience. In other words, there is no way she will experience despair strong enough to knock her back to that time in Toronto, when she thought the only solution was to end it all. Her mindset is all the protection she needs. She is safe.
Like I said, being binary can be incredibly insidious. My feeling is that the black and white, this or that, with me or against me mentality is a big contributor to today’s socioeconomic and political problems. But that’s changing.
So it’s our choice to join that change or not. That’s kind of binary. And I’m okay with it.