Thursday, April 26, 2012

A World Without Diversity

To hear a lot of bigots out there, the world would be a much better place if everyone was just like them.  And most of the time people don't fight them back on it.  We just roll our eyes and say, "You can wish in one hand and shit in the other and see what fills up faster."  But what if they got their wish?  What if the entire world suddenly became nothing but White, Straight, Cissexual, Protestant Conservatives?

On the surface, I suppose there would be no more hate groups or hate crimes.  The KKK can't exactly meet to talk about their hatred of people who don't exist. There would be no need for protests, no fighting for equal rights, no "rocking the boat".  Everyone is exactly the same, so there's nothing to lash out at.  In a weird way, I suppose it would bring peace of some sort.

But would we really want to live in a world without conflict?  The conflict within our human race is what ultimately causes us to grow as a species.  Without the abolitionists, we might never have grown to see slavery as immoral.  Without the Civil Rights movements we might continue to see others as lesser human beings.  Without the Stonewall Riots we would never learn to stand up for ourselves against bullies, especially when those bullies are an extension of your government.  Every time I feel like giving up, like my feeble attempts to change the world are only falling on deaf ears, I think about those pissed-off drag queens who decided one fateful night they weren't going to that shit from the cops ever again.  I think of the sisters before me who threw rocks, beer bottles, wigs, heels and everything they could against The Machine that continually told them they were not worthy of equal respect.

I think of Elizabeth Eckford of the "Little Rock Nine", who held her head high in the midst of an angry white mob and stood up to the Arkansas National Guard at Central High School, not far from where I was raised.  The sheer courage and willpower it must have taken to stand up to that level of hatred day after day and never let them see you break down is the kind of superhero strength that inspires me to keep fighting the good fight, no matter how futile it may seem at the time.

What if I was given a magic wand and able to change everyone in the world into the "socially normal"?  Trans kids would become cis and gay kids would become straight and never face bullying and discrimination at school again.  Everyone would become white, so racism would be a thing of the past.  There would be no more religiously motivated terrorism because everyone would be the same religion.  No one would ever have to go through a tortuous self-journey only to discover they are gay or transgender or atheist or anything "controversial" ever again.  Everyone would be happy and get along because everyone would be exactly the same.  As tempting as it might seem, I would snap that magic wand in two every single time.

To erase everything socially "unacceptable" would destroy who I am and erase everyone I love in my life.  As arduous as the journey may have been at times, I would never change who I am by magically becoming cis or straight or Christian or conservative.  It would change everything about me.  And not just me, but all of my loved ones.  It's too steep a price to pay and destroying conflict would only ultimately destroy our society.  Without conflict and struggle there is only stagnation and stagnation can only lead to our ultimate demise.  

I love the diversity of our world.  The thought of living in world with so many different voices, so many different point-of-view, so many different ideas and opinions all fighting for relevance in the public mind are what keeps me going.  Within my lifetime there will always be something to learn.  There will always be something worth fighting for.  There will always be a chance to exercise our love for each other and create something beautiful that wasn't there before.  There will always be an opportunity to make this world a better place for our children and grandchildren.  That's what gets me up in the morning.  That's what makes my life worth living.  Despite the conflict, despite the violence, and despite the hatred I could never live in a world without diversity.  A world like that isn't worth fighting for.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Secret Identities

Get to know a few trans folk and you'll notice a trend: a lot of trans people love comic books, video games, Star Trek or anime.  Or all of the above.  I'm partial to all of these, though less so with anime.  While I love comics of all genres, superheroes have held a special place in my heart since the age of 5.  Especially Batman, my first love in the comic book world.  Superheroes are our modern mythology.  Even if we're not big fans nearly every American can tell the origin story of Batman or Superman.  Like the Greek gods before them they are perfect metaphors for so many aspects of our lives.  But the one that interests me the most is the Mask itself.  The "secret identity" of a superhero reflects our own need to create a socially acceptable persona, keeping our "true selves" secret from all except a few trusted loved ones.  While this metaphor is relevant in all our lives, it is especially so for growing up trans in a cis world.

Let's take a look at Batman, my favorite superhero.  One of the biggest questions surrounding his mythology is "Which one is the created identity?  Batman or Bruce Wayne?  Is the "True Self" Batman or Bruce Wayne?  Every writers different answer to that core question will shape who their Batman is.  Now let's compare this to a baby trans girl growing up in the woods of Arkansas.

Let's go back in time.  Arkansas, year 1995, home of Dorian, a mild-mannered, bright, young man.  Dorian's parents have recently divorced and he's having a hard time adjusting to his new school, but he's a good big brother and does everything he can to care for his family.  Dorian can't seem to shake the feeling that he's not like any of the other boys.  If he was really honest, he was a lot like some of the girls, who made most of his friends.  Usually he shakes off this creeping feeling and focuses on something else, but one day while doing laundry he lingers on one of his sister's dresses.  He wonders what it would be like to wear a dress and soon feels a powerful urge to try it on.  It's so strong that it scares him and so he pushes the dress into the washer and starts the load.  Later that night while taking a bath, Dorian notices another one of his sister's dresses on the bathroom floor.  The strong urge takes hold again and this time, it wins.  Dorian quietly steps out of the tub and dries his body.  He picks up the dress and simply studies it at first.  The fabric feels so soft and delicate in his hands.  Gingerly, he pulls the dress over his head, suddenly thankful for his small size.  The dress is not a perfect fit, but Dorian is lost in the reflection in the mirror for several minutes.  He's overwhelmed with a calm sense of "right" in the world.  It's as though a huge weight has been lifted from her shoulders.  Wait, her shoulders?  Dorian quickly removes the dress and throws it on the floor.  Although he can't realize it yet, Dorian has just discovered a "super-power".  The ability to change into a girl.

There was a time in my life when I literally had no idea who I was.  Most people can fall back on a few certainties, like gender, but I was at a loss.  I could not put together which identity was the real one.  Was the "True Self" Dorian or the Girl in the Mirror?  The duality of our society, and thus our mythology, had led me to believe it was an either/or decision.  It wasn't until many years later that I realized I was both and neither.  There was no denying I was a girl, that much became obvious over time, but what did that mean?  Did it mean I needed to act super-feminine and sacrifice my personality?  Of course not, but at the time I seemed to think so.  It took me a while before I was able to merge the two into something much more genuine and real.  I outgrew the need for a secret identity.  Not having a secret identity can cause some big problems, but in a way it makes us superheroes when we start living without them. 

Come to think of it, if I was a superhero I hope the promo would go something like this:

The Amazing Atheist Trans Woman!  Fighting gender discrimination, queer ignorance and theocracy wherever she goes.  Whenever there is a transphobic slur, she will be there!  Whenever a citizen claims America is a "Christian Nation", she will be there!  Whenever a queer youth believes their lives are worth less than another, she will be there!  Tune in next week kids to witness the ongoing fight for social justice.  Same Trans time!  Same Godless channel!

Friday, April 20, 2012

End the Silence

Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies. My delibe...rate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling, and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are NOT hearing today. What will YOU do to end the silence?