Last updated: 7/14/23
(This was written in regards to the plural community, but it might be relevant to other marginalized identities.)
I've mentioned before that generic posivalidation (defined here as general not-addressed-to-a-specific-person positivity like "good morning, systems! remember that you're valid no matter your origin!") is, for me, more a reminder that we live in a world where people's validity is questioned to begin with, rather than anything like... actually uplifting or validating. I keep going "well, that's probably because we're pretty comfortable in our identity and don't need strangers telling us we're valid" but on further reflection I've realized that no, this sort of blanket validation has never been validating for me, not even during the times we were newly selves-discovering and insecure.
I've been trying to poke at why that's the case, and I think part of that might be a knee-jerk and potentially unfair cynicism: "well, of course it's easy for you to say that when you don't know us. would you still say that if you had to engage with the messy reality of us rather than the idea of us? or would you decide that we're the exception to the rule because of some other trivial thing?" (This is very flavored by the kind of treatment we received from our family, which we found mirrored online in a lot of supposedly progressive places.) (Related: the more insistent someone is that they love and welcome and accept ✨everyone✨, the more I inch towards the exit.) But even without that cynicism, even when hearing this from people we knew and trusted, it still wasn't reassuring. It was like... a temporary relief, at most, and by temporary I meant that within like a minute we were back to doubting our experiences.
And temporary relief has its place, mind, especially when you're drowning in pain and priority number one is to reduce the pain so that you can do something about the source instead of spasming and injuring yourself more, which is why I try to make it clear that this is how I feel about this kind of validation, rather than "it's Bad and you shouldn't do it." But it's like, surely we can do more than that, right? Surely there are other ways we can reassure people and help them become more confident in themselves than just replying to the idea that they aren't valid?
The process of becoming comfortable in ourselves was a very gradual one, assisted by safe living conditions and other things the Internet unfortunately can't provide. There's no post, or series of posts, that can magically cure people of their insecurity. But I do think that like... normalization, in the sense of treating something like it's normal and okay rather than just saying that it is, helped a lot. Such as:
People talking about the plural parts of their lives with the same casualness as other parts of their lives
People describing their experiences in a way where they're not trying to shove it into a box (even boxes made by the community itself)
People being casually out, like having "part of a system" in their bio while their page is mostly about video games
...and doing all of this without shame, selves-hatred, or apology!
And, mind, I don't want it to be a Good Vibes Only situation where we pretend that all plural issues have been solved and that the world at large is normal about us, thus obligating people to hide when this Isn't normal for them. But it really did (and still does!) mean a lot to see people like us just Existing as part of the world. And it'd be nice to see more of that in the community at large.
I guess that also means that we really should practice what we preach at some point. (Well, I'd like to think that we have the "casually existing" part down, at least.)
All in all, that was a long way of saying "do not underestimate the importance of Just Existing."