If you're not noticing who you might be cutting off as you start to speak, you're definitely cutting someone off. I would know - I spoke instead of giving someone the time to speak multiple times today, and I saw the resignation all over their face.

If you hear the prompt, "Does anyone who hasn't spoken yet have anything to say," and you wonder if you've already spoken enough, you have. I would know - I spoke again today before I remembered that there was nothing I could add to the conversation that I didn't already know.

If you are too excited in conversation to wonder if your viewpoint is dominating the conversation, it probably is. I would know - It wasn't until after I usually finish my impassioned rants that I notice the glazed look in someone's eyes that I have to leave an extra pause for them to recover from.

If you're not aware that you are an oppressor, then you definitely are one. I would know because I spent the first 28 years of my life thinking that I was a kindhearted progressive man, and now I have the opportunity to watch the behaviors that were modeled for me by society continue to play out in my actions as I work to condition them out of myself.

In my transition I have had the privilege to see two sides of a social boundary on one side of which most live their entire lives. I was encultured to believe I was a white cisgender, heterosexual able bodied man. As a queer trans woman with chronic illness and mental health diagnoses, I now exist a good distance across the axes defined by the dominant white cishet capitalist patriarchy.

I have come to see that if you aren't aware of the ways that you are being oppressed, that is directly related to how much privilege you have. No one who is being oppressed is long confused about what is happening. That means if you aren't aware of the way you interact with systems of oppression, you are an oppressor by default.

I do not say this to suggest we are bad people. We are caught within a system that has evolved over thousands of years to treat human being as cogs within social, emotional, financial, and spiritual machines. Yet if we are not aware of the movements of the machines around us, then we do not notice as the gears we help to turn crush those in different positions.

So how do we become better allies, better activists, better people? We notice. Every time you engage with another human, are you watching for how you may be enacting power over them that is granted by your privilege? Are you watching for how your excitement, intelligence, and good ideas form a barrier to communication, empathy, and forming authentic and intimate relationships? Are you listening in hopes that your ideas will be challenged, and noticing when you are instead spending the time forming your response and waiting for your turn to speak?

Are you present? Are you watching the faces? Are you asking, what do you think? What do you feel?

Because under all of the labels, injustices, and experiences of the people around you, we are all caught within the same systems. Whose side are you on? I choose the humans. I choose intimacy. I choose love.