„Correction is often heard as complaint: as being negative,assertive, demanding.“ (Ahmed, p. 119)
This quote by Sara Ahmed stuck with me while reading the book, trying to understand the many ways in which complaint works. We learn how complaint is communicative labor because you have to express what your complaint is about, you have to tell your story, making the same points and sharing them with others over and over again: „you have to keep coming out; you have to come out as somebody this happened to, to come out as somebody who is complaining that this happened.“ (p 119). You have to come out as a complainer.
Coming out as a queer person means always correcting peoples presumptions because of how „the world presumes a certain kind of body“ (gender, sex, sexuality etc). Western society presumes only two opposite categories of sex and gender exist. As a non binary person, I therefore do not fit those presumptions and always have to correct them, correcting people using the wrong pronouns or how they adress me, for example. „Correction is often heard as complaint“, as „moaning“ or maybe of just being different, sticking out. (Ahmed, p 119)
Every time, before I correct in those situations, before even expressing my „complaint“, I go through an inner process of questioning myself and contemplating, if I should even correct the person I am talking to or if I should just led it slide. Correcting them means coming out to them, and this means „to reveal something“ (p 119). „When you complain, your own body is turned into testimony, as revealing something about yourself“ (p 144). That something is a sensitive matter, my personal story, the testimony of my trans body. Through complaint, I open myself up to sensitive, often intrusive questions. I read somewhere, that cisgender people, when meeting a trans person, lose their feeling of empathy, of what is okay to ask and what not. That is my experience too. It is quite perplexing what conversations I had with complete strangers, after I unintentionally came out to them, just by correcting them about my pronouns.
Also, in chapter four, Becoming/Unbecoming a complainer, Ahmed talks about how the person complaining becomes the problem: „…as soon as you draw attention to structures you draw attention to yourself, the structures do not come in view; you do.” (P148). When correcting someone about my pronouns, I become the problem, not the constructions society build around gender norms. I am heard as being different, not assimilating to societal norms, I am the one standing out, therefore I become the target of complaint. Complaint, in this case, meaning trans- and homophobia.
Correction is often heard as complaining, therefore as something negative and demanding. I am „demanding“ them to go out of their way to use the correct pronouns, causing them an inconvienience, becoming an inconvenience.I do not want to be an inconvenience, a tiresome complainer who is always correcting. But I have to, because if I want to be seen, I have to complain.
Ahmed, S. (2021). Complaint! (1. Aufl.). Duke University Press.
Ahmed, S. (2021b, Juni 16). Complaint as Feminist Pedagogy, 06.12.2021 on https://feministkilljoys.com/2021/06/16/complaint-as-feminist-pedagogy/