I was reading along on the interwebs – as I do sometimes due to having a damned boring job sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day, five days a week – when I come across this little gem (for the uninitiated, that’s a link, you click it).
Now, the linked article itself, I’m not actually completely clear the point it was trying to make. But what it talks about is sound enough, so whatever – I find this true of a lot of Huffington Post articles, which is probably why I don’t follow them, just wander over to them from time to time.
The very good point is this: visibility is what will change people’s minds.
Really, whether you’re part of the LBG parts of LGBTQ, the TQ parts, or both the best education you can give those around you is to a) be you b) be out. Seriously. If they know you as a normal human being, as someone who has bills and family, as someone who plays video games and drinks Chai, as someone who spends every Saturday at the park throwing a frisbee for your puppy … it becomes that much harder for them to believe things like this so they’ll be more willing to support things like this.
Education is all well and good. It’s helpful to mention debunked myths with lovely little researched references and all that, but the best education is by example.
Oh gods, yes, it can be dangerous and terrifying. I mean, seriously, if you’re in a town of 75 people, and 35 of them are all members of the local KKK chapter … fuck the closet, get into a damned fallout shelter or something – or invest in some pet lions or something. But aside from that, people believe whatever data sounds good at the time and is coming from someone/something they feel is trustworthy. I mean face it, some folks believe Fox News is “fair and balanced” and that it’s a reliable source of more than just the same sort of entertainment value as National Enquirer except with anchors whose voices grate on the nerves like nails down a chalk board (honestly, that’s the biggest reason I can’t watch that channel – 2/3 of the people on it speak with harmonics where I can’t understand a word they say because I’m too busy having every synapse misfire) and those people have already been told that 99% of your reliable and understandable sources are biased with an agenda.
But you … now, they can believe what they will of you, but they work with you every day. They live next door to you. They are part of the same PTA. They ring up your groceries … You can be walking, living, breathing proof. Sooner or later they have to believe their eyes.
Thing is, don’t be an idiot. Don’t walk into the women’s bathroom and scream “I’ve got a wiener!” Seriously. You’re not Will Ferrell and this isn’t an Adam Sandler film. I mean simply this: be you.
Live your life day-to-day. Go to the mall, don’t be afraid to hold your partner’s hand or to kiss them as much as them straight folks over there by the Foot Locker. Uhmm … Well, true, trans* is a bit harder to just be Out! I mean what do you do? Get that trans symbol thingy tattooed to the middle of your forehead? Go to the ladies’ and pee standing up, or the gents and I guess squat over the urinals – can’t see that being such a bright idea unless you’re at a urophilic’s convention, I could be wrong, but I’m thinking not. No, of course not.
For trans* it’s going to be a harder win on a number of grounds. Mostly especially 1) we’re rather outnumbered – 0.3% (approximately) of the population as opposed to 3.5% for LGB (numbers from the first link, I think the latter seems a bit low but fuck it, it works) 2) well how do we show ourselves publically?
In the former, we just have to rely on allies. Don’t hide the truth from those who know and love you. Don’t be afraid to, so long as it’s safe to do so, mention at work that “yeah, my name used to be Jasmine but oh I hated that name, so when I was fifteen I talked my parents into helping me get it changed to Jerome”. If you have any kind of love and relationship in your family, don’t pretend for them; go to the family reunions and wear that dress or bikini instead of that suit or those trunks – let them see you, but also don’t be someone they never met, just be the same ol’ you they’ve always known only more so. This shows the people who aren’t the cashier at Publix that … well, that trans* is real, that we’re people too, etc. Then when they’re at work and the person next to them is saying something daft they can go, “Well, actually my cousin Heather …”
The latter … well, that’s rougher. That’s going to be up to you, how safe you feel in your community, what your legal protections are, etc. I mean, look at that … that person who won some Eurpoean version of American Idol, very pretty has that close trimmed beard and nothing whatsoever can agree if is a he in drag or a trans-she? If you’re comfortable with a beard, go on then. Are you a man with Christina Hendrix’ rack and you don’t really mind? Don’t bind them, then. Wear a trans-Pride t-shirt from … fucked if I have the faintest idea where you’d get one from … if you like. The point is, be visible where you can be. It’ll be a slower battle, but as marriage equality spreads and LGB acceptance doesn’t cause the heavens to fall down around our ears, the sun to cease it’s daily trek across the skies … sooner or later minds will start to open up. The numerous and more easily visible pave the way for the few and invisible.
There is another way: be vocal. Don’t be afraid to go to your community’s Gay Pride Month celebrations, to volunteer to be part of it. Are you a blogger? Well here, I’ll use myself as an example:
I’m a woman, a lesbian. I am a trans woman, at that. I live my life as the woman I am, and always have been. Some people understand that, others do not. When I am out of the house, when I am at work … it doesn’t matter. On my driver’s license it says “Male” and the picture is of me with a big, bushy, beard because I live in Georgia which is a fuck lousy state; I cannot change it. I go by Jaye, I sign my name the same; though my birth certificate and DL shows “Jason”, as does my debit card, because it is expensive and time consuming to change your name in this state and I’ve had those bills and other life things to deal with before I could shell out $300 for a name.
Still, my co-workers are people who have known me for years as “Jason” and “he”, but I still come to work in my skirts and blouses, the nameplate that was ordered for me when the company decided we ought to have such things says “Jaye”. Needless to say, these people know what I am. I have told my family – Christians, many of them, rural Iowans and Arkansans at that; some of the people once changed my diapers or shared a bath when we were toddlers.
I am a published author. No, not a widely known one. But that may change, one day (I rather hope so, in fact). I am a published author who, on a public blog, has made no effort to pretend that I am other than what I am. This is not the first post where I admit to being a trans lesbian, it will not be the last.
Okay, maybe I’m not great advocate. I mean the reason I put the word professional in quotes is because when I’m in the mood to Say Something, I tend to leave the eloquence and articulate statements to others and take my opportunity to just scream “fuck”; but what the hell, it works for Lewis Black and worked for George Carlin, and I find it cathartic. Besides, some people relate better to someone saying “You see this Michelle Duggar chick? Yeah, she’s a nitwit. She is engaged in the process of regurgitating horseshit – this is what happens when you consume horseshit, you vomit it back out – all over a robocall. Yeah, bitch, fuck off … oh, wait, according to Wikipedia and Google the reason anyone knows your name is that ‘fuck’ is a word you’re well acquainted with – hey, 19 kids, awesome can’t blame you … I might have that many if I could – so how about you stop fucking for five minutes, though, and try getting a few actual facts into your head!” than “Michelle Duggar’s recent activities are simply shameful. They’re rife with debunked myths about …” to each her own.
I think I did a post about representation? Hmm, yes, here, but not quite what I was thinking of. Oh well. The fact is people like Laverne Cox, Carmen Carrera, Andreja Pejic matter. They matter to all of us. They matter to the trans* community as public faces and voices – even if they’re a private person who doesn’t like to do interviews and isn’t being an outspoken anything … just by being out, and that out-ness being in the news … it gets people thinking, talking; it dispells certain notions and myths given the three I named, for example, well … they’re incredibly beautiful women who many find quite tough to reconcile with anything they ever previously thought or envisioned about transgender women. Of course, being outspoken (thank you Ms Cox) they are a voice that can be interviewed on The View and help spread awareness and fact. They help people realise what they are and that they’re not alone. All that wonderfulness.
I thought hard about the whole representation thing. I thought about my personal privacy. I thought about a lot of things. I only read the article that prompted this post yesterday, so obviously I’d long ago thought about this stuff of my own accord; but whatever … I decided to be out. Fuck stealth, fuck closets. Will being an openly trans author, an openly gay author, an openly female SF writer hurt me? Yeah, it could. It really could, there’re folks who – should they learn this – want my books banned from libraries, will burn piles of them in the street, blah, blah blah. Whatever. There’re people who may buy my books just because I’m a trans lesbian. Or because I’m any combination or single element female/gay/trans, which I think is fuck stupid, but in the end a sale’s a sale; it’ll hurt my feelings if you’re buying it “to support The Cause” or to burn it in some misguided attempt to rid the world of my horrible agenda (which is ironic since my agenda is to sell my books and you just bought a bunch of copies to use as firewood) but mostly I’d be sad for the poor wasted tree, the cup of coffee you bought me will help me feel better about myself if not so much about the tree (please, buy ebooks for that – they don’t make a good bonfire, but you could like NSA level secure wipe them with a triumphant cheer … then you could download it for free since you now own the copy and do it again! Fun times! And no wasted trees!). I digress. Still, I feel that I may as well. This is the internet. Somewhere out there is a picture of me with a big bushy beard … it’s even kind of pretty, Shannon caught the light in a cool way … or a blog post where someone refers to me as Jason or him/he. There’s 33 years of my past that’s marked “Male”. Where would I hide? Nicaragua?
Besides. Frankly, I think it could be interesting. Just imagine, if you would: Hugos awards ceremony, me in a lovely dress from http://www.utsavfashion.com/, my hair actually behaving itself because I decided to let a stylist near it for a few minutes, etc. There I am among the nominees. Maybe I win. Could you imagine those old right-wing fucks who can’t stand the idea that there’re women in the SFWA, and gods forfend black ones (see: Vox Day, AKA Theodore Beale)? (I’m not black, btw … part, yes, but distantly so, I’m just mentioning the racism to paint a more complete picture) I mean misogynists and racists and homophobes (uhmm … Ender’s Game guy … Orson Scott Card) watching me, a woman born with the world’s worst outie (don’t make me spell that out, if you don’t get it just … move along … if you do get it … Yes I went there, and no I’m not proud of it), thanking everyone for their votes and support! It does give me a kind of warm fuzzy feeling to imagine that. Yeah, really, winning a Hugo could be cool and all that, but it’d involve formalwear, and meeting with a whole lot of authors I’ve never heard of and don’t give a fuck about and having to try to be something like polite when I’m giving blank looks to someone named ‘Charles Stross’ while I’m trying to remember just why the fuck that name is familiar, and so forth. Trying not to go all fan girl on poor Seanan McGuire or Howard Taylor … knowing my luck, suddenly having to pee bad in the middle of some big speech by someone who just won their hugo for best something or other … I mean, really, to be perfectly honest while I wouldn’t have said no to a Hugo win/nomination, if I were still pretending to be of the masculine persuasion I’d probably send a note with my heartfelt thanks and best regards “but I simply don’t believe I will be able to attend” – I vowed that my prom would be the last time in the entire past/present/future history of EVAR that I’d wear a tuxedo. I like pretty dresses, though, so that’d actually be pretty good incentive alone, but the looks on the faces of the likes of Mr Beale oh, that’s a Kodak moment worth every agonising moment of long speeches heard over an aching bladder.
Childish? Yeah, probably. I can’t help it, I’m a redhead, we have sadistic streaks a mile wide when provoked.