Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.
I don't usually generalize any feeling I have about one person's actions to an entire population. I don't like it when it's done to me or to the groups to which I belong - and, of course, it's damaging, and it's patently untrue that any member of a group represents that entire group.
Most of the time, it's easy for me not to generalize. But there is one situation in which I find it extremely difficult, and that is with the politically conservative population. I consider myself far left politically - radically liberal, I guess. And when I hear about something appalling that one or more conservatives has done, I tend to let my horror and disgust run free, unconfined to the particular person or people who did the deed.
In the most recent scenario, several people attending a debate of Republican presidential candidates cheered when the commentator asked Rep. Ron Paul if he believed that society should just let a man die if he goes into a coma and doesn't have health insurance. According to news reports, these people in the crowd shouted, “Yeah!”
It sounds like Rep. Paul talked around the question with an answer that was similar to “Yeah,” but not quite as abysmal. But when I heard about those shouts from the audience, my immediate internal reaction was to generalize these people's responses to the entire Republican Party - or at least the more conservative wing of the Republican Party.
It was the same reaction that I had during the last presidential campaign when Sarah Palin was stirring up racial hatred among the crowds. I thought, “These people are terrible. What is wrong with this party?” My next thought, of course, was that I hoped that they all lost their health insurance. They might quickly change their tune, as the privileged often do when they are suddenly thrust into a state of un-privilege - after whining about how unfair it is that they no longer have the things that they took for granted before.
Regardless, this is when I generalize. I can deal with conservatism when I have to. In fact, one of my best friends is conservative (really). When we don't talk politics, we get along fine, and she's really far more open-minded than I am when it comes to political positions.
She feels sorry for me and thinks that I am tragically misguided, but overall, she is able to temper the disgust she feels for the whole left wing of the U.S. political spectrum. I am not so forgiving.
The truth is that there are probably a lot of conservative Republicans who think an uninsured man in a coma should be left to die. There are probably a lot of others who think he should not, including my conservative friend. And the majority of Republicans, no matter what they think, likely couldn't care less what I think or whether or not I generalize about their party.
But it's still wrong to do it. It is the last hurdle I have with regard to generalizations, and it is by far the most difficult to overcome. Whether I'll manage it in my lifetime or not has yet to be seen. We may someday find out - as long as I don't slip into a coma. In that case, I'll probably be left to die.