There’s always the moment where I think, ‘that’s not what I meant’ but it just costs too much energy to correct it. And we just let the conversation float to somewhere I never would have thought to be, because that’s an awful place.
By habit, I often start the conversation with something I read about somewhere which I find intriguing or worth thinking. Although, it does require particular audiences with whom I should have something common. The idea sometimes lingers on too intensely, I can associate that topic with almost everything – gay rights with toasts, trees with emotions – while not realising who I’m talking to.
One day, I was talking with someone who used to be an athlete when I happened to gabbled about my then current interest: equality issues for transgenders which I read from “The Politics of Bathrooms.” It was a great piece to make me think about something we all could easily miss, by the way. I talked about typical things like difficulties of using public bathrooms and getting equal chances for transgenders. She said she didn’t realise their pain. I felt content that I could share a good story that’s worth changing somebody’s thought, right?
Then she said, “we should have a special Olympics for transgenders.”
“We could certainly think about gender categories for entry,” I said.
“I think I can suggest the special Olympics idea to the committee,” she said.
That’s not what I meant. In the conversation, I became the person who thinks transgenders are the kind of people who need special help for functioning and I was too appalled to reset the conversation. Though, this is one of the comical situation when I recollect.
Photograph: Ugur Akdemir
When I was almost walking past him, he looked at me and said ni hao with his hands politely folded. His smile and polite gesture pleased me, and yet I said “Oh I’m not Chinese.” After a moment, I started thinking why I had to say that. I could have greeted him nicely because I kind of felt pleasant with his gesture somehow.
What we say and what we mean does not share the same path anymore.