Lewis Raven Wallace is an award-winning independent journalist based in Durham, North Carolina, and a cofounder of Press On, a Southern collective supporting journalism for liberation. Their book and podcast is called The View From Somewhere.
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ZAK: Today on The Best Advice Show, we're gonna talk about boundaries with Lewis Raven Wallace.
LEWIS: I'm a writer, journalist and podcaster. I have a book and a podcast called The View from Somewhere about the myth of journalistic objectivity and how that myth has been used to uphold racism and transphobia and the status-quo. I have a piece of advice that I give myself a lot but also that I started giving, sometimes, in work shops and sometimes to editors and just in general, which is, why don't you just google it. So, for me the context typically has to do with gender and sexuality issues. There's a lot of terminology around being trans and that terminology changes a lot and there are lots of interesting debates in the community about the terminology, but pretty much all of it is google-able. What does F to M stand for? I don't understand what trans-feminine means. I'll get into a thing with an editor or just a person in my life, who, their reaction to a piece of terminology that's really well known in the trans community is like, but I don't know what means.
ZAK: And they come to you and tell you that?
LEWIS: Right. Or, they have this idea that trans people specifically owe them an explanation and what's funny about is...the conundrum about it is is that there's not one definition for these words. There are all these different understandings. And so, if you google it, you can find out what the debates are and what the different opinions are and you and kind of get up to speed and asking your one trans person to explain it to you, first of all is kind of weird and tokenizing but second of all, it potentially limits your understanding, you know? Cause I feel like people are really afraid and I'm afraid too sometimes if I don't know something and as a white person about race I'll be like, oh gosh, I don't know.
LEWIS: Like, for me, it's like this practice of boundaries, right? I'm 36. I' came out as trans when I was 16 so more than half my life has been as a very visible gender non-conforming person. And that started at a time when it was a lot less known about it and a lot more questions and just so much of my personal energy has gone to explaining myself to people and especially when I was younger and trying to explain and trying to be understood but at the end of the day all I'm asking for is for folks to just respect my self-determination and self-identity and that has nothing to do with how much information you do or don't have and so I think often too that people pose this sort of, well I don't understand as a defense. It's not a desire to understand. It's an excuse for not understanding and I learned that over time and became very frustrated and angry and realized that I needed to have better boundaries with that and just be like, you know what, I'm not here to help you understand. You can choose to respect and accept me or not and that's your decision AND you can use google for like, 90 percent of these things and then come and talk to me when we're close enough to where it would actually be appropriate to ask me that question. So, as you can see, there's some bitterness but also it's been such a healthy practice for me to set that boundary and to suggest that to other people and its been empowering and clarifying and clarifying for me in other areas of my life where I might have that same fear or guilt or weird navigation and then I realize, oh, I can just google it. I can take my own advice and not be that guy and just use the google before I'm like, I don't get it. I don't understand.