I think there must be something deep down within our programming that compels us to be guardians and gatekeepers. It seems that no matter what sort of group you look at, someone has appointed themselves to be the bouncer who gets to decide who should be on the inside and who should be kept out. It’s everywhere, in religion, in politics, even in fandoms, which really don’t have any prerequisite for being a member other than “enjoy a thing.”
I admit, these self-appointed guardians annoy me. And I confess that I’ve been one myself. It is, after all, hard to feel that someone is a “real atheist” when they themselves say they wouldn’t vote for an atheist president because they don’t trust them. Generally, it reeks of someone wanting to make themselves out to be more special than they really are, to turn the groups to which they belong by chance and happenstance into a badge of honor or a mark of superiority. No, no, he’s no true Scotsman. All true Scotsman are perfect and amazing, just like I am. Not just anyone can be a Scotsman.
The most annoying, by far, of these is people who take it upon themselves to enforce thought monogamy on the entire world. When I have a partner, I’m devoted to him or her. I’m not going to cheat. But I’m not dead, either. I still find other individuals attractive, and I still want to hang out with people, too. So when I mention one of these things, for the love of god, don’t say, “What does your partner think about that?” It’s not your business, is it? If I had said, “Hey, do you, personally, want to fuck me right now, and if so, when are you free?” then yes, it’s your business what other individuals might think about the scenario. If you are a close, personal friend of my partner, then maybe you should concern yourself. But I can’t even count, or maybe I’ve just purposefully suppressed, the number of times someone just has to know what my partner thinks of the fact that I find more individuals on the entire planet earth than one attractive.
I don’t even think I understand the motivation behind it. Do they think that perfect monogamy, even up to thoughts, is the only good system of relationships? Are they that concerned for my partner’s well-being? They’ve never, so far as I know, tried to convince my partner to ditch me, so evidently not. They appear to trust me as a partner, and I know my partner does, to whom it’s most important, and who has the best idea of my qualification. I suppose they would say that they want to be sure I’m being “fair” to my partner, but they don’t actually check out my story, so they can’t be that concerned. Yes, I find people cute, and no, that doesn’t go away just because I find one person to be the most attractive person in the whole world. Yes, my partner should be aware if I’m being unfaithful, but I’m not, and I don’t see how anything else would be someone else’s business. When someone eats a donut I don’t step in to say, “What would your doctor think of that?” Do you know why? Because your health is between you and your doctor, and not me, and I’ll only step in if I see you eating syringes of heroine or something that’s actually dangerous. I trust people to be autonomous.
(On a side-note, I suspect that a respect for autonomy is why New Englanders seem so rude to the rest of the country. I don’t necessarily think that we care less about other people. It’s just that for us, being polite and respectful means letting other people do what they want so long as it affects only them and isn’t dangerous to them.)
It’s even more irritating in fandoms, where people act like some reasons for liking things are superior to others. There’s no morality in taste. If one person likes the festival of Lupercalia because they’re a pious devotee of the Roman gods, and another just likes seeing naked Romans running through the streets, one’s reason for enjoying Lupercalia isn’t better than the other’s. Similarly, whatever causes you to enjoy a show or a book series is fine. When you encounter someone else who enjoys the same things that you do, there’s no reason to challenge the authenticity and purity of their devotion. Just be happy that there are more fans of something you like. You have no obligation, nor even any right, to attempt to forcibly prevent someone from enjoying something because you don’t agree with why they enjoy it.
I understand the desire to define boundaries and set firm borders. I understand the desire to focus on your in-group only, and to go from there to a deep-seated urge to know who exactly is in, who exactly is out. I understand the desire to put everyone into a little box so you know exactly who’s what. But we need to move past it. We’re not living in tribes anymore, and the world is too complex for firm boundaries. You need to accept that people are going to live their lives, whether or not their paths take them straight through your imaginary borders or not, so stop trying to be a gatekeeper. There’s no gate, there’s nothing to keep, you don’t need to be a gatekeeper. Just be yourself.