You are changing. We all are, all the time. You’re not the same person you were 5 years ago. Hell, you’re not the same person you were 5 minutes ago. Growing up, I was a right cow. Sometimes tweets appear on my Timehop and I’m dumbfounded at how casually racist and homophobic I was in my teens – because I simply didn’t know any better. I hadn’t yet discovered feminism and had no interest in equal or human rights. I was selfish and awful and nasty. But that’s who I was back then, and I am who I am now. I don’t believe in having regrets. If I were to go back and change any minor or major details of my life back then, I’m sure it would mean my current presence being completely different. Maybe I never would have changed for the better. Maybe I would still be in that horrible cycle of hate. But I did change. I realised the error of my ways, started thinking about other people and completely turned it around.
So am I any less of a feminist because I used to be a shitty person? Because I wasn’t able to understand the ins and out of prejudice and discrimination? Because I was a selfish teenager? Is my current work and activism cancelled out because of how I was in time gone by? I believe that giving people the chance to change and better themselves and embracing a willingness to learn is a part of intersectional feminism. I think, instead of shutting those who have wronged us out, we should invite them in and encourage them to change. Now I’m not telling you to befriend every racist/homophobic/sexist/ableist/fascist/discriminatory bigot out there, but when they come back and ask you questions, showing openness to listen and eagerness to change, then you should at least point them towards someone who could help them. Without people like this, and their kindness and willingness to be open minded, I would definitely still be the little fucker I was at 17.
So I believe in change, but I do also believe in certain behaviours that cannot be excused. For me, it was using incorrect terminology and accidentally being offensive, merely because I was too oblivious and self absorbed to ever think of my actions having an impact on others. And so I ask for those in a similar boat to be excused, should they show appropriate remorse. Obviously this is a very tricky topic to navigate. I resonate with anyone who has been on the receiving end of such negativity, but I cannot speak from experience or from a place of oppression, and I know that my asking such questions may strike you as incredible offensive and unsympathetic, but that is not my aim. I am on your side and I want more than anything to be a part of a world where EVERYONE is accepted and respected. But I do think we need to open our minds to change for this to happen.
So absolutely push away from negative people. Alienate people who compromise your happiness or make you feel uncomfortable, inferior or unworthy. Cut out anyone who doesn’t acknowledge and respect your opinions and choices or those who try and belittle yours all the while forcing their own upon you. But from those who have previously shown these attributes and then request acceptance after evolving? Accept them. You don’t have to show them the way. You don’t have to involve yourself at all. But forgive and accept, and wish them successful learning from afar. We need more people on our side, and can’t keep distancing potential allies because of something they tweeted three years ago.