Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Privacy vs. Secrecy

I often hear about how our privacy rights are being eroded and how we need to defend them, and while I agree I always feel myself bristling a bit and have been pondering why.

The reason is that "privacy" has been a way to oppress queerfolk for, well, centuries (I wish that were an overstatement). "They should keep that private." "It's a private matter." What they mean is: secret. They should be ashamed and keep it secret and hidden. The less private glbt people are, the less we're oppressed. Over the last 4 decades (in particular the last 2) societal tension about being something other than heterosexual has eased and a big factor about that was more glbt folks being willing to Come Out publically and on a national stage. If we all had chosen to stay secret and if there had been no AIDS epidemic to force the issue then it's a pretty easy bet that glbt rights would be much less further along.

Another reason it makes me personally bristle is that secret keeping has not served my family at all. My parents (esp. my mother) are hugely private people. Obviously, I'm not (though I will [mostly] respect their desires in this post.) This is forever causing disagreements between my mother and I as I always seem to trip right over some privacy hot button that had never even occurred to me.

This of course leads to situations hurtling to the absurd (in my opinion). One example was that while traveling, my mother was knocked flat by a hotel automatic door. The paramedics were called and they decided that she may have had a slight concussion but that it probably wasn't serious, but advised a trip to the hospital (which my parents turned down). So the paramedics advised her to take it easy for the evening. I immediately asked if it was ok for her to take medication X which she takes regularly. (It was.) After the paramedics left, my mother took me to task for divulging private medical information. I was trying not to laugh as a pointed out we were talking to a paradedic right after she had fallen. It seemed a little relevant - you know? She wanted to be the one to decide whether to disclose that and while theoretically I fully support that, over the years she has show positively horrible and inflexible judgment about that. She hides things that these days are complete non-issues. As usual, we just have to stop the discussion in a stalemate as we'll never agree and we don't even agree to disagree.

Privacy doesn't serve abuse victims, rape victims, alcoholics or addicts. The list goes on. It's where "Breaking the Silence" catch phrase comes from.

1 comment:

Elf said...

Not being willing to talk to one's doctor about medical issues is apparently a large problem, from what I've read. Personally, I tell them about everything I can think of until they're probably tired of hearing me talk. But I'd rather do that than die from an undetected cancer. A friend's father hates his doctor and the treatment he's getting, but won't talk about it with the doctor and won't switch doctors because "it's a matter of honor" or something like that.

People are so weird.

On the privacy thing--I had just posted my first blog post about the perimenopausal symptoms I'd been experiencing, when I read an article about how hot flashes have suddenly become OK to talk about, whereas in the past no one ever brought them up in polite company, let alone in public. I had a horrible time trying to find info about "cold flashes" I was experiencing...only to discover that lots of people were going through it and all thought that they must be nuts or sick because that's just not mentioned in any of the literature. So being more open about that, too, will probably lead to better expectations & treatment.