Last month, I interviewed some students at the University of Washington discussing identity in the context of the recent debate over bathrooms. It was published in video form as College Kids Say the Darndest Things. The response to this video has been diverse, as you would expect it to be.
Today, however, I received maybe my favorite response of all from someone named Katie W., who claims to be a graduate student at the University of Washington.
Here it is.
To Whom is [sic] May Concern,
I am a graduate student at the University of Washington. I recently viewed a video in which the director of your ‘institute’ interviewed students on my school’s campus and was extremely disturbed. I came to this website to read his bio and was further concerned by the work that he and this group are attempting to accomplish.
Perhaps you should take another view of your own video, 5’9 white guy, in an attempt to hear what these young people are trying to say about identity, their opinions are much more developed and thought out an than your fixed idea of how people are allowed to be.
I’m unsure if you have taken any kind of history class, or learned about how Western civilization has been developed, but white dudes like yourself have been attempting to control and fix identities for a pretty long time. And this video is a clear example of the anxiety they begin to feel when human beings push the borders of their attempted control.
I would encourage you to do some anti-oppression race and gender training, maybe led by someone who in not a straight white man. There are other people in the world that have allowed themselves to think outside your boundaries. Even though that gives you extreme fear, anxiety, discomfort, they still get to be alive, and surprise: their lives and being are still valuable.
The questions you pose in these videos deserve thought, attention, and reflexivity. The way you present the issue of identity is a reductionist attempt at control.
The thing Katie and I agree on is that we were both “extremely disturbed” by what we witnessed, but for different reasons.
It appears that merely questioning the wisdom of logic that allows anyone to be whatever they want whenever they want is simply a “reductionist attempt to control.”
Apparently, this is what we learn in grad school.