This post is X-Men fanfiction. It was written in response to the fictional syllabus “HUM 4995: Intro to Mutant Studies” by SapphoIsBurning, published on the Archive of Our Own, here.
I figure if Professor Pryde made blogging part of the Intro to Mutant Studies curriculum, it’s because she wants us to think about these issues on casual and personal levels as well as academic. So I would like this first entry to honour a light and easy blogging tradition: the list.
6 Tips for Being a Mutant Ally
1/ Do not assume my mutant power is a public matter
“What’s your mutant power?”
None of your business, mate. My mutation might be the part of my physicality you are the most aware of, but that doesn’t mean it’s one I want to talk about, and much less show you. There might come a day when I am comfortable discussing it with you, but when that happens is entirely up to me. Ask yourself why you want to know. If you think your curiosity or search for experience warrants your questions, then you’re objectifying me- no more, no less.
2/ Do not assume mutants are dangerous
“You’re not gonna break anything, are you?”
“Please don’t hurt him, ok? He didn’t mean to be rude.”
It’s not because I have a mutant power that I am going to cause damage. Not all mutants attack people or lose control of their power in spectacular explosions – that’s just the psychopaths and hormonal kids the media are keen to show you. Also, not all mutants have the potential to cause damage. For some of us, losing control or getting angry means, I don’t know, making all the flowers in your garden bloom. Not exactly lethal.
3/ Do not rank mutations
“That’s a shit mutant power.”
“Her power is much better than his. I’m totally sure she’s an Omega.”
Spare me, please. People make me feel bad enough for having a mutation without anyone judging the nature of my mutation. Ranking mutants in terms of their power is just as inappropriate as ranking people in terms of attractiveness or intelligence. Power ranking might be useful to superheroes, supervillains, and scientists (and even then I’m not too sure), but for the rest of us it’s just offensive. Perhaps most importantly, it’s that kind of competitive thinking that leads to mutant discrimination, or worse. Think about it: if you think the nature of mutations make some mutants superior to others, it follows that mutation makes mutants superior to humans. Humanity suddenly becomes an endangered species, and eliminating mutants becomes a matter of survival.
4/ Do not assume mutants use their powers to gain an advantage
“Why, of course you passed. You’re a mutant.”
“So what’s your mutant trick with girls?”
Yes, there are mutants who use their power to get what they want at the expense of others – they’re called cheats and abusers. Even if my mutant power allows me to tip the balance in my favour in certain situations, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna do it. My parents have taught me right from wrong too, you know. The fact that you assume the worst of me right off the bat is very hurtful.
5/ Do not forbid me to use my powers
“Our company is dedicated to diversity, be it racial, religious, sexual or genetic. In the interests of Health and Safety, we simply request that mutants refrain from using their abilities on company premises.”
You might as well say that a good mutant is a mutant that acts like a human. The mention of Health and Safety merely puts an official stamp on the assumption that mutants are dangerous (see tip 2/), and proves that you are more interested in preserving your reputation than in supporting mutant rights. It’s great that you accept mutants in your space, but you are not ‘dedicated to genetic diversity’ so long as you reject what makes a mutant a mutant.
6/ Do not typecast mutants
“So, are you going to be a superhero after you graduate?”
My mutation does not define me. It’s not because I have powers that I want to make them my career or my cause. You probably think of the suggestion as a compliment, and it is true that I respect the work of mutant superheroes and activists, but emulating them is not my only option. I have the same options you do. It’s wonderful that you think there is a place for me, but please remember that accepting me means you must be willing to imagine me in the same place as you.
These are my main tips, but you can find loads more around the internet. I especially recommend Tabitha Smith’s Youtube channel, infamous for its colourful exhortations on mutant-human relations (and its styling tutorials), or, if you’re more of the bookish type, there’s always the Charles Xavier essay collection “A Dream for the Next Stage of Evolution”. Enjoy!