Against the victim olympics: Reclaiming myself from identity politics

by Karya Irgil

I fear that no matter how strong of an argument I make in the following pages, it's not going to be as important as the titles attached to its author. Me being a minority will almost always outshine my work itself. People will read it not because of the value of my ideas but to put the spotlight on “people like her (me)”. This is turning people with minority status into an object for political agenda instead of granting them the status of a subject. People believe this balances out the injustice brought by discrimination. Yet, without realizing, favoritism is the mirrored version of discrimination and only changes the form of injustice done. This is because it diminishes me as a person and limits my individuality to political categories they deem to be endangered – none of which I have chosen. I am “disabled” before “compassionate”, or “LGBT” before “resourceful”. These are things I happened to be born with. My position in a society through society’s expectations and its attached identitarian reductions are always above what I manage to make of myself through my own effort. How tragic it is that my disability outshines both my personality and my capability. It seems people don’t realize that these titles are a fraction of me and have near-no influence on who I choose and want to be. When someone sees me only through my titles, I-myself feel invisible.

And there are cultural expectations from a minority identity: to align with the appropriate political tribes based on what the “good guys” think is right. Lifestyle, politics, visibility, the very right to think and speak critically are limited, micromanaged if not completely taken away. All debates simply boil down to an absolutism in morals. I see parallels in between the religious authority I escaped and the political authority I find myself in. Such limitations broke my faith in identity politics, and at some point, I attempted to hide my minority titles with the fear of identity police.

Which revealed an even harsher and more authoritarian side of this culture. The exact same arguments and critique I raised before now were dismissed for a lack of a minority status. This time I was not even debated or heard but simply branded with completely inaccurate new titles. Meanwhile, “x-ist, y-phobic” seem to be the magic words to answer everything without even referring to the points made. It goes as far as “hetero, caucasian etc.” becoming accusations, as if these are bad things to be or somehow dis-validate someone’s right to speak. In any case, attacking someone’s identity to not hear them is as bad as hearing them just because of their identity. At times people won’t hear me out and shut me off with such ad "hominem" for so long that I just pull out my disability card or middle eastern passport. Just to be done with the “you can't talk about that”-bit. That, then, is suddenly enough to re-validate my points sufficiently for actual conversations. As if my arguments alone meant nothing. Instead, it is a victim olympics where the most minority cards stacked up win. The weirdest outcome of this is when I have to prove my capability to speak for myself even more in front of the alleged protectors of my rights than in front of the common citizen.

Those who base authority – including validity – on identity act differently as soon as they notice some victim olympics champion is in front of them. People filter their speech for me, whereas all I want is critical thinking. Then they go on to micromanage my vocabulary that I use for my own issues because someone like myself might be offended! The idea is: “We will help you and protect you. You need it. We are the good guys. For which we will choose these lifestyles that are acceptable to live, these words we deem to be appropriate, these opinions you are allowed to have…” – not realizing all I ever wanted was autonomy and freedom. To not be reduced to how I was born but live as I choose. That’s why I migrated in the first place. Why I worked so hard all through my teens to learn two languages, save enough money on a developing nation economy, keep a 96% GPA – I tore my youth apart just to come here, and my "protectors" have nothing better to do than acting as if I can’t be certain things due to my minority "limitations". I spent my nights trying to earn my place here for freedom. Only to be faced with an alternative to the indoctrination and taboos I escaped. Instead of the indoctrination of religious fanaticism stands the political fanaticism. But in the West, it wears the mask of “justice” while attempting to solve suppression with more suppression. Completely unrelated people to my life tell me they know what I need and should want. They decide who I can be. I am either their enemy in their fight to protect me or a pawn for their political voice. This West is quite the same as its supposed opposite. Except, I can wear shorts here. 10k in savings, years of studying, surviving through dictatorship, migration and 3 years of paperwork just for passing a 4 year visa. To the freedom of shorts.