It's been a while since I had a good ol' rant on this blog, so apologies if you feel the need to just reply TL;DR, I get a bit frustrated discussing this topic, so I may have rambled on too far.
Yesterday, I had an unfortunate run-in with an old acquaintance, someone I hadn't seen for a few weeks purely because I hadn't left the house for a few weeks. Someone who turns up when I least expect them to, and causes a ridiculous amount of emotional damage when they do. I'm talking, of course, about discrimination.
I'd just left my favourite alternative store and on my way I saw a girl walking towards me, not much younger than me, pale, black hair, black eyeshadow, black corset dress and black lipstick, walking with her dad. Frankly, my first thought was 'marry me, marry me now' so I gave a little smile as she caught my eye, and she smiled back. I don't often come across other goff detectives in my city, so I respond warmly and let them know I'm an ally, even if it's just a smile of acknowledgement, but this rare emergence of other alternative kids would probably explain what happened next.
I saw a woman walking in front of me, the typical middle aged woman in a fleece and baggy jeans, who had felt the need to stare at this girl, so much so that she even craned her neck to look back at the girl as she walked past, and I saw the girl hang her head and stare at the floor for the next few steps.
When I see a younger version of myself being treated in the same way I am, I'm not one to stand by and let it happen. If only someone else had been there to do the same for me, but I'm happy to start the chain if nobody else is.
So I quickened my pace and overtook the woman in question, and proceeded to stare right back at her, in a bid to make her feel just as uncomfortable as she had made that young girl. Needless to say, she avoided my eye contact, instead she stared at the floor.
What right did she have to purposefully stare at her because she looked different to her? Just as much right as I had to purposefully stare right back at her because a middle aged woman looks different to me. I see girls like that girl every day because I see one in the mirror, so does it make it okay for me to go around staring at everyone that doesn't look like me?
The problem with this world is nobody quite notices the damage they can inflict on someone with the smallest of actions. My little smile and nod in the direction of fellow Women In Black is intended to undo that damage, because I had to undo that damage on myself. There wasn't a friendly smile to help me, I had to build a thick skin by myself, which hasn't even fully generated yet, so if my small effort can help others, then it in turn helps me. This society we live in creates infinite repulsive insecurities about weight, height, fashion, degree of tan, hair colour, hair style and makeup. I'm just trying to do my bit to unravel those insecurities.
We've seen the tragic conclusions to discrimination here in the UK through the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, and we recently received the fantastic news that Greater Manchester Police will now hold crimes against victims from alternative sub-cultures as hate crimes. This should be implemented nationwide as a matter of urgency, because it's happening on a daily basis and still going largely unnoticed by police.
Of course, I'm not suggesting the scene I witnessed was a hate crime, but felt it necessary to address the darker side of intolerance and discrimination.
So the next time you see one of us out on the street, and not just us black wearers, but anyone who looks different to you, for instance those with disabilities - smile and nod, undo some damage, you have no idea just how much you'd be helping.