Non-Fiction

We Are Allowed to Ask Questions

Photo of three electrical poles shot from below, with the one in the centre looking like the largest due to the perspective. The three are attached at the top by two pieces of wood and have wires going in all directions from them. A cloudy sky with patches of blue is above.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking questions. Asking questions is how we learn about ourselves, others, and our world.

I believe in the right to question.

I think you should question the ideologies you are presented with. I think you should question your belief systems. I think you should question how much you really know.

When presented with a claim about another person’s character, I think you should question it. I think it’s okay to not automatically accept it as the Truth about that person. There are multiple truths about every person. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie asks us to be wary of the danger of a single story. All of us contain so much more than a single story. You can be supportive of the person making the claim by accepting that what they’re saying may be true for them or that it may be one story, but that doesn’t make it the ultimate truth or the only story. All of us are complex beings that contain multitudes who cannot be defined by a single story. Reducing a person to a single story is dehumanizing.

I think it’s okay to ask questions if you are trying to learn more about or understand an issue. It’s important to be respectful about the ways that you ask them. Obtaining consent before asking personal questions is always a good idea. If someone says they’re uncomfortable with answering your questions then you need to find someone else to ask or other ways of doing your research. The Internet is a mixed bag full of misinformation and contradiction, but there are good resources out there. You could ask to be directed to some.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with questioning an ideology. If questioning is not allowed, you’re probably dealing with dogma. Be wary of this. Why are you expected to believe and buy-in without asking questions? Why are your questions a threat to this belief system?

I have never been able to refrain from asking questions. I have allowed certain ideologies to push my questions underground, to make them private and make me quiet. I have been left alone with my questions, asking myself the same ones over and over. I have found a few trusted people I can share them with. We have passed our questions back and forth in low voices. I have been too afraid to write about them, to say them out loud, to make them public. I’ve seen what happens to the people who do.

I’ve often avoided explicitly writing about my questions, choosing to hint at or dance around them instead. As a writer, it feels bizarre for me to hold back in this way. It’s like I’m stifling an aspect of my creativity.

I’ve been seeing more people over the past few years who I share community or ideology with bring their questions out into the open. There’s still a lot of backlash and it’s still scary, but it’s made me feel a little bolder, a little braver. Maybe I don’t need to keep so quiet. Maybe I don’t need to avoid writing about it. Maybe my perspective and voice have value even though I have more questions than answers.

For me, questioning looks like seeking out and listening to different perspectives, to people who disagree with each other. It means following people on social media who have been deemed “problematic” or “cancelled”. It means risking the transfer of those labels onto me. It means I don’t have to totally agree or buy-in to any single ideology (or story) I’m presented with. It means I trust my gut, which warns me when something doesn’t feel right. It means I trust my heart, which is driven by my love for people and the planet. It means I trust my brain, my ability to think critically and carefully.

I don’t have all the answers. My beliefs shift and evolve as I learn and experience more. My belief system is currently in transition, a shift partially resulting from years of suppressing my questions and being unable to do so anymore. I will always grow and change. That is to be expected. One thing that won’t ever change, one thing that remains with me at my core, is my need to question. I may have felt like I had to hide that but it never went away.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking questions. It is the suppressing of questions that I find … questionable.

We are allowed to be uncertain. We are allowed to have more to learn. We are allowed to not have all the answers. We are allowed to challenge ideology. We are allowed to be imperfect. We are allowed to change our minds. We are allowed to trust our guts, our hearts, and our brains. We are allowed to ask questions.

Aren’t we?