Everyone Needs a Safe Word

I’ve spent the past few months writing a series on reading challenging books, all of which you can find listed at the end of this post. In my fervor to make the point, I’ve come to realize that something essential was under-emphasized in my previous posts.

I am a survivor of ex-gay therapy. My time in the ex-gay world has dealt me severe psychological scars. When the documentary Pray Away came out on Netflix, I got numerous requests from friends to give my perspective on it. I graciously declined. I don’t want to watch it, because the wounds are just too deep. I don’t want to go back into that space. Even a documentary that chronicles the fall of ex-gay therapy just hits too close to home.

Reflecting on this, I think I could probably have been more gentle in my series on reading. I can see how someone could take my words to mean that the strong, noble, righteous thing to do is to engage in challenging literature no matter the cost.

Jordan Peterson is a powerful cultural force, and I think it is important for me to reckon seriously with his work. But I’m also not trans. The discourse over trans issues is so fraught, and Jordan Peterson has been such a seminal figure in that fight, that I can understand how engaging with his work publicly, as I have done on this blog, could just rub salt in those open wounds in a way I don’t fully grasp. I’m not saying I was wrong to explore his work on my blog, but that I could have been more careful and sensitive while doing so.

So, before I move on to another topic on this blog, I wanted to conclude this series with two important clarifications. First, I think it is important for people to have the freedom to engage with problematic literature honestly, and to not be moralized for doing so. And second, everyone needs a safe word. We must all have the option of opting out of a discussion, topic, or challenging book. That isn’t a sign of weakness or failure, but rather wisdom and care.

series on reading challenging literature:

But that’s just me. What do you think? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts. I love hearing back from my audience.

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