Empathy

I went to an Anti Trump gathering tonight.

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It was heartening, seeing that one is not alone in knowing that the Executive Orders that the current POTUS are abhorrent. We just need to make sure not to lose this momentum, or our empathy.

Terry Pratchett said that “Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”

I believe that that is true.

One way of treating people as things is by treating them as labels, which is something that seems to happen a lot these days.

It’s very easy to lump a group of people into categories. The dichotomy of creating this “us” and “them” vibe can even be comforting. But I think that it is also intrinsically damaging.

People can belong to a religion, but they are not just their religious beliefs, any more than people with green eyes are green eyes. It is a part of what makes up their being, sure, but not all of it. It’s the same with gender, or sexuality, or race.

People may be many things, but they are always, first and foremost, people.

Once you begin to ignore this and start to classify certain human beings as “other”, it is easier to ignore and excuse injustices made against those “others”, because they’re not like us, right?

Except they are. Everyone is human.

And once you ignore injustices happening to one group of others, it becomes easier and easier to ignore injustices happening to other groups, too. And others.

This is why it’s important for everyone to speak up against cruelty towards any group, but especially those most vulnerable. It’s most important for those in positions of power or privilege – white people, men, cisgender, heterosexuals – to speak up for other, less privileged/powerful people. Because if you don’t, who will be left to speak up for you when your time comes?

Because that’s the tricky thing about ignoring violence against groups. One day the group being targeted could be yours.

So say it with me folks: people are not their nationality. They are not their religion, sexuality, gender, or any other character trait. They are other people, just like you, looking out with terror and wonder at the world from the dark place behind their eyes.

We all need to practice empathy to remind ourselves of this fact, and then do whatever is in our power to help our siblings, and treat them as people, not things.

 

Gender neutral pronouns: THEY’re not so bad!

I’ve seen many tabloids today decrying the General Medical Council’s guidelines for practitioners regarding gender neutral pronouns being used regarding pregnant people, and I am baffled by the visceral response it has generated.

For one thing, a tabloid newspaper denouncing and contradicting the governing body for medical practitioners is worrying. Do these newspapers believe that they know how to care for patients better than the professionals who have gone through countless years of training, exams and learning to gain the qualifications to treat said patients?

I for one would like to see these journalists’ credentials before trusting their opinions.

The disregard for peoples’ choices is also frightening. Misgendering has been found to be linked to many psychological problems as well as reinforcing sexism and cisgenderism (source 1, source 2). There is no danger in referring to someone in a gender neutral way; misgendering someone is genuinely dangerous.

Not only is ignoring peoples’ chosen pronouns cruel and dangerous, it is also illegal. The Equality Act 2010 gives everybody, including transgender individuals, protection against discrimination and harassment. Intentionally and knowingly misgendering people definitely falls under this umbrella. Medical practitioners refusing to use the patient’s preferred pronouns are breaking the law.

As medical practitioners, one of the most important areas of expertise that are used is putting the patient at ease. Any medical situation, including pregnancy and birth, have the potential to be extremely stressful. If the medical professionals around you, who are supposed to be helping and supporting you, are constantly using the wrong pronouns when referring to you, this will only add to an already stressful situation. It is the practitioner’s duty to ensure the patient’s experience is as stress-free as possible. If this includes using gender-neutral pronouns, then that is what they should do.

If a patient does take exception to being referred to in a non-gender specific form, they can always ask their practitioner to use their preferred gendered pronouns, and the practitioner will comply. You can still be called “mum” or “dad” if you like!

And finally, if the “millennial” generation of “special snowflakes” is causing you this much anger and anxiety over pronouns, I put this to you: maybe you are the special snowflake if you can’t handle people you don’t know being called by their preferred pronouns.

Thanks!

P.S. sorry about the bad pun in the title. I couldn’t resist!

How to stop abortion

I’m probably going to be unable to say anything that you haven’t heard before, but nevertheless, I feel it needs saying.

This anti-abortion article on abortion was shared on my facebook feed and it made me. So. Angry.

For one thing, the article itself is abhorrent. Comparing black women to the KKK and people who lynched people of colour is disgusting in the extreme.

Women do not want to get abortions. I guarantee that no one has ever set out to get pregnant just so that they can have that pregnancy terminated. The process is upsetting, uncomfortable and, at times, expensive. To imagine women who have abortions as callous, unfeeling people is unfair and cruel. One cannot know another’s experiences; do not judge someone who has had an abortion. You cannot know their circumstances or reasons.

For one thing, you can never stop abortion. You can stop legal abortion, and relatively easily. But you cannot stop abortion. People have been performing amateur and unsafe abortions almost as long as they have been conceiving.

The methods for amateur abortion are almost always unsafe, often causing an infection at best and death of the woman at worst. And any woman, desperate enough for whatever reason to perform or undergo these unsafe practices, may then be too terrified to seek medical help for their condition.

If life is sacred, then what about the right of a pregnant person not to die?

Legal abortion cannot be stopped, for that matter. There will sadly always be women who, for whatever reason, are incapable physically or mentally of carrying a baby to term and/or delivering it. in this case, it is a medical necessity to perform an abortion, even if the baby is desperately wanted. Any and all “no abortion is okay” rhetoric is extremely upsetting and cruel to people who cannot physically bear children.

There will also be foetuses that will not survive out of the womb. Abortion is a choice that some parents may make to spare their child the agonising minutes, days, or hours which would otherwise be their only experience of life.

Rape and incest are also, horribly, things which cannot be eradicated. But safe, legal, supportive abortion can help minimise the consequences for the victim.

There are some women, unfortunately, who are not in the financial or social situation to safely raise a child. To knowingly bring a child into a world where their most basic needs cannot and will not be met could arguably be called child abuse or neglect. Forcing women to have children that they cannot support forces more children to go through ill-health and suffering.

No one is required to risk their life for another person in any other circumstance. If someone is undergoing chemotherapy and needs a bone marrow transfusion, you cannot force a matching person to donate their bone marrow, even if the other person will die. If someone cannot be forced to donate bone marrow, a short and (now) mostly painless procedure, how can someone be expected to carry a dependent organism inside them for 3/4 of a year and then deliver it with no choice in the matter?

Anyone who is anti-abortion and reading this, I do however have some good news for you: abortion can be minimised. The number of them can be reduced dramatically, and easily.

Access to and education on contraception reduces the rate of teen pregnancy. Sources: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1400506#t=article

https://reproductive-health-journal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1742-4755-11-1

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1054139X13001213

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/5/886.short

So there we are. How to stop abortion!

Even if you don’t agree with any of the above,