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Posted by Philip on 4 April 2016, 11:12 am in , , , , , , , ,

Clear ambiguity

At Be. Leadership last weekend, Joe Macdonald from Affinity Services' Rainbow Community Liaison and Training Team spoke about a trend they have seen in younger people identifying as genderfluid and/or pansexual, rather than male/female/transgender and/or gay/bi/straight. I asked Joe what dials they thought were being turned to encourage/enable this change.

Joe's answer was that there seemed to be a change in the meaning of ambiguity. Whereas previously "ambiguous" may have been seen as a synonym for "confused", now, perhaps, young people are choosing ambiguity as a clear identity — in other words, people are clear that their gender and sexual identity, as well as their preference and orientation, are, indeed, unclear and undefined.

This strikes me as an exciting way forward for diversity. As I wrote recently, we are so fearful of uncertainty and not knowing that we will go to any lengths to avoid them or create certainty and knowing.

But what if we choose intentionally to be ambiguous, or to notice the ambiguity in everything, in everyone? What if we were so deeply intrigued and curious about ambiguity that we sought it out, embraced it and explored it. What if we found certainty and knowing mundane, boring even, and we overlooked them in our search for the unknown.

If this were the case, ironically, ambiguity would become the new certainty. Imagine thinking, "This thing or person is ambiguous, I'm certain of it. And if I'm certain of it, then I'm not scared of it." What would that reframe do to our individual and collective psyches?

I think we would see a fundamental shift in society. I think there would be less stress and anxiety, frustration and anger as we gave up trying to be sure about everyone and everything. Stigma and discrimination would disappear because whatever judgement or assumption we held about people would have to be questioned. And in that exchange of questioning, we would discover things about those people that would dispel the myths and preconceptions that create bias. Sure, we would discover differences about people, but they would be balanced by the similarities that simultaneously emerged in the engagement.

We would be more open, playful, inquisitive and confident with the weight of fear lifted from us. We would enter situations and relationships with the excitement, rather than the dread, of discovery. We would begin with the one certainty, the only certainty — that everything and everyone is ambiguous — and venture on from there.

All that would remain is the anticipation of finding out just how ambiguous the world actually is.

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