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One Small Step: Aaron and Ellen on 'eschewing labels'

Ellen and Aaron, One Small Step Conversation Partners
Rachel Keith
Ellen and Aaron, One Small Step Conversation Partners

During this midterm election season, Cape Fear region residents can be at odds with one another over contentious issues. That’s part of the reason why WHQR has partnered with Story Corps’ One Small Step program.

It's an effort to bring strangers with different political views together — not to debate, but to learn who they are as people. And to remind us of the humanity in all of us — even those with whom we disagree.

Aaron and Ellen are two such people who had this conversation.

Aaron: My name is Aaron. I'm 51 years old. My conversation partner is Ellen, and I'm just meeting her today for the first time.

Ellen: And my name is Ellen. I am 73 years old.

I've been thinking about what our conversation would be like for the last few days. Do you think the fact that we don't take time to get to know the person but look at the label attached to the person? Is that the core of the problem?

Aaron: I think it's part of the problem. Well, we label people as male and female as boy and girl even before we're born. And I've learned that that's problematic, you know, we raised our kids with the expectation that they would both be girls because that's what we thought we had, everything we did, you know, was as traditional as I thought my upbringing was, and to hear my son describe what dysphoria is, to me, is just heartbreaking. The feelings that he's had about, you know, growing up in, in his body.

Ellen: Okay, so help me a little bit here because I’m 73 sometimes I'm not even sure exactly what the terms mean.

Aaron: Yeah, there's a steep learning curve. And if you don't have a reason to do it, you know, I can see how you feel behind the game in terms of the glossary.

Ellen: And ignorant is an okay word here to use.

Aaron: So transgender is they feel that their inner self, their inner sense of their identity doesn't match the gender that they were assigned at birth based on the visual evidence that their body presented. And I get in trouble with my kids, when I talk about there being only two genders, you know, male and female. And it's always more complex than that, in life. And I think, today, our young people are eschewing all the labels that, you know, that we've created generations past, and are just not satisfied with that.

Ellen: That's very helpful to know when, when you don't know and you're not exposed to and I'm not making excuses for myself, ‘Why do I have a reason to know this?’ I try not to be. I [can be] very black and white.

Aaron: It’s hard. Yeah. When I get into political hot buttons, that's when I don't feel I fit on the continuum.

Ellen: And the fear is, I think of getting to know what the other person's position is, so you can go away and think about it if we just take the time to listen to the other person.

Aaron: Right. And if we can see something we value in the other person, then we're more likely to be willing to compromise. Yes, but when are we taking the time to do that on a national scale?

Ellen: One small step, Aaron, one small step, you know…

StoryCorps' One Small Step Radio Station Hubs is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

To sign up for WHQR’s One Small Step, click here.

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR