Your Lifestyle is High Risk

Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others

Day 4: Your Lifestyle is High Risk

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In Seattle, they work Aurora. It’s a street with cheap diners frequented by broke college students. Car dealerships and fast food chains line both sides. There’s motels, too, offices for ladies of the night. Whores. Prostitutes. Women in tight skirts and high heels.

Serial killing hasn’t stopped, it just doesn’t kill pretty coeds on college campuses anymore. It’s become uninteresting and predictable. It targets those with a “high-risk” lifestyle. It’s a concrete, murderous cost, of owning another’s name. If you kill those no one’s looking for, it’s impossible to get caught.


Labels are difficult, I will give you that. One minute, you’re supposed to use the word “retarded” and the next it’s a slur. Disabled is the preferred term for one year, and the next it’s differentially-abled. Prostitutes one minute, sex workers the next. Enough with all this “political correctness,” right? You’re always under attack for saying the wrong thing, so why not just say what you want, damn the rest?

The issue with rejecting a person’s label for themselves doesn’t so much lie in the actual verbiage. You’re right – words are just words. But words have subtle connections that create tangible problems. When I say it’s hard to call you what you want, what I mean is that I value my own tongue above your life.

And, when that happens, when I can claim my matter of speech matters more than your identity, it hurts less when you’re murdered and dumped on the side of the road. She was a prostitute after all. And a tranny. I verbally define you so that I can physically distance myself from you. By owning you, I paradoxically keep you at arm’s length. I maintain a version of you, but reject the genuine incarnation of you.

What if, instead, we let people speak their names for themselves? What if it was hard to keep up with everyone’s labels for themselves, but we valued another human’s life more than we valued the laziness of ourselves?

If you want to smash the idol of safety, it starts by looking into another’s person’s soul and not backing away from them because it takes some effort. If you want to know how we’re going to survive and unify as a country, it’s going to take stepping into another person’s shoes. You can’t begin to build empathy with someone you’re trying to control.

Political correctness is a fancy term for compassion, for learning how to listen, and giving autonomy back to bodies. We go to sleep every night next to people we’re too busy to learn their name. And then we wonder how killers go free and children walk into schools and kill their classmates. We’ve taught an entire nation that it’s too difficult to let people speak for themselves. We’ve taught an entire nation that it’s okay to own another’s experience. To be lazy when it comes to learning how to speak about someone else.


There’s a serial killer in Detroit targeting sex workers. “They think nobody cares. That is someone‚Äôs daughter and child. They are part of our community,” announced the Detroit police chief. Humanizing “prostitution” into “sex work” teaches the community that these women are a part of them, not an exception. In Chicago, dozens of sex workers have been strangled to death, their bodies left undiscovered. Until the Murder Accountability Project put on the pressure, detectives were hesitant to spend much time on their cases.

When we look at these dead bodies and shake our heads, labeling their deaths tragic, but understandable due to its high risk, we undermine the impact of their death. It’s just words, but to someone who wants to do great evil, it’s subtle encouragement that they’re on the right track. A study found that when men hear jokes about rape, it normalizes the act for them. When you call sex workers, whores, it normalizes their exile to the gutter of society.

So who’s the exception to your community? What population could be murdered and go missing without a thought? Who is hard to love and understand with your speech?

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Donate To:

Murder Accountability Project

Sex Worker Outreach Project

Polaris Project

RAINN

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