Standing on the outside looking in ~ a TDoR post

It’s been suggested to me that this would be an appropriate post to cross-post from my blog. For those unfamiliar with great Australian rock bands, the title is a Cold Chisel lyric.

Somehow I let this slip by (TD0R is Nov 20) despite the fact that I read some related posts from other bloggers. Given how much I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon (transgender or GID) this year, I wanted to acknowledge the day. This year I think that some people who are transgender have taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. And it’s going to sound ridiculously simple in my head as I type it, but here goes: We don’t need to understand something to accept it.

I used to think some things were wrong, based on the fact that they didn’t fit the ‘natural order of things’. This attitude was also guided by religious belief and it was a narrow view. What I had failed to realise is that a certain percentage of anomalic difference IS natural. Though it manifests itself in a much more serious and life-altering way, transgender is no more unnatural than a birthmark, or a hereditary propensity to type 2 diabetes. Not only that, developmental anomalies are not harmful to others ~ they just exist.

There is one hugely important lesson I did learn from my church, and that is a unalienable respect for the truth. I can’t ignore the fact that the doctrines of the church, despite numerous references to the eternal nature of gender, offer nothing in the way of explanation for why some people are born with indeterminate physical gender and why others are born identifying with a gender that does not relate to their physical body. In spite of this lack of clarity in the doctrine, transgender people who choose to have gender-reassignment surgery cannot receive the priesthood (a male gender privilege) or receive a temple recommend (the temple endowment ceremonies are quite gender-specific). I find this…inadequate. It is not enough (and this applies to the church’s doctrine and policy on homosexuality, too) to say that you simply must deal with a ‘condition’ of your life that is totally irreconcilable with doctrine that is supposed to represent eternal truth. I don’t think you can call something truth when it denies reality.

This doesn’t only apply to religion. It’s just a general fact. No matter what you believe is truth, you have to measure it against what is real. And if it doesn’t measure up, you can’t base what you do on it. Most importantly, you can’t base how you treat other people on it. You can’t deny someone else’s reality, just because doing so makes you feel more safe in your explainable world. You can’t hurt someone just because you don’t understand them. Let me say that again. You can’t hurt someone just because you don’t understand them.

All hatred based on ignorance is upsetting, but I think the reason that I find hatred aimed at transgender men and women particularly disturbing is that after getting to know a few of these people, I feel like they are facing an internal struggle worthy of a lot of compassion on the part of other people. Many trans men and women reach out for understanding and receive hatred. I sometimes see the results of this in what they say and write. Some of them stop expecting to be treated well; they express surprise when people show them respect and kindness; they are rarely shocked (though deeply hurt and upset, of course) to hear about crimes committed against other transgender people and I think it’s fair to say that many have either been the victim of harsh prejudice, or expect to be when they transition, or both.

It is appropriate for the Transgender Day of Remembrance to talk about transgendered people, but the salient point is not that they are transgender, but that they are people. And if the sampling I’ve discovered is anything to go by, really cool and articulate and funny people. They’ve been really open to me, answered some questions, and generally dealt very kindly with my naivety on the subject of transgender. It makes me feel really scared and mad to know they may be treated badly for no better reason than that they don’t fit neatly into society’s pre-determined boxes.

I watched the video (featured in the post two below this one). It was an emotional thing to watch. I linked it at the end of the post on my blog. I hope that means a few more people got to see it.

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4 Responses

  1. Hi Chosha,
    It is real refreshing to see your blog. I really wish that more people would view transgender people as you do. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she brought up several times during our conversation how she was scared for her life. She wonders if she may end up on the TDOR list one year. It is disheartening that being transgender, we have to worry so much about being attached. Like anyone else in this world, we are just trying to be true to our selfs. I do admire my friend because even with this fear she has, she continues to move forward with her transition. Like her, I find myself worried that something may happen to me, but I know in my heart of hearts that I’m finally being true to myself and this is something that I must DO. My wish would be that more people see these TDOR videos and maybe they could see the human side of us all. Thank you so much for posting this, it gives me hope the future.
    Hugs Michelle

  2. Ah, dear Chosha, your post has touched me in so many ways I hardly know where to begin to give it the praise and thanks it deserves. When I first read it yesterday, I was very moved but had to wait until this morning to collect my thoughts into some kind of a coherent comment.

    I grew up feeling neglected and mistreated, not receiving the love and validation that I needed. As a result, I grew up rebellious and angry, refusing to accept the truth of anything anyone told me until and unless I first understood it myself. It took me many years to reach the realization that you have come to in this year of contact with the transgender community, the realization that I “don’t need to understand something to accept it,” that truth exists separate and apart from my understanding or approval, that my judgment that something is acceptable is not necessary for something to be true. Coming to accept my own transgender nature and, like you, meeting many others dealing with the same issue has been a big part of that learning process for me. There aren’t many other things in life that so challenge our understanding of how we thought the world is “supposed” to be, as the presence of trans, and intersex, people.

    You also learned that “[n]o matter what you believe is truth, you have to measure it against what is rea,” and that “[y]ou can’t deny someone else’s reality, just because doing so makes you feel more safe in your explainable world.” I can only hope that others will come to the same realization, that denying the reality of who I and other trans people know ourselves to be is not the loving way to deal with things that challenge their beliefs in how the world works. For me, and I suspect many others, if they would think about it, having someone tell me that what I know to be true isn’t real brings up all those painful childhood memories of not being validated, of being told that the things I believed and the things I wanted weren’t important or simply didn’t matter. That doesn’t feel loving to me, regardless of how many times people tell me that they love me but hate my “sin.”

    You also said,

    “I think the reason that I find hatred aimed at transgender men and women particularly disturbing is that after getting to know a few of these people, I feel like they are facing an internal struggle worthy of a lot of compassion on the part of other people. Many trans men and women reach out for understanding and receive hatred.”

    I know of nothing more painful than to reach out for love and understanding and receive rejection, disrespect and even hatred in return. We know the truth of who we are to the deepest core of our being and are completely befuddled and hurt when others tell us that it isn’t, that we aren’t, real.

    Finally, you said,

    “It is appropriate for the Transgender Day of Remembrance to talk about transgendered people, but the salient point is not that they are transgender, but that they are people.”

    Thank you for recognizing our humanity. That is all we seek, to be accepted as part of the human family, each of us struggling with our own separate issues, but bound together by so much more.

  3. Yes, “I don’t need to understand something to accept it.” I was taken aback by reading this since I’d only shared that same sentiment with my spouse earlier on. From your perspective, you understand the struggle for someone who seeks a life of authenticity and nothing more. I have observed that most people, not just the transgender, have this desire.

    It is my hope that more people “on the outside looking in” are able to see what you see.

  4. Michelle: posting on my blog was more about promoting awareness; posting here was more about showing respect for TDOR. If it also made people feel hopeful and supported, I’m really glad.

    Abby: Thank you for recognizing our humanity

    Strangely that’s the one paragraph I thought about taking out when I cross-posted. It feels presumptuous to say it when I know I’m writing to an audience that is perfectly aware of the fact that they’re people, thank you very much. 🙂

    Thanks for your kind response. The one thing I do understand is what it’s like to reach out, to want to be loved, and to be rejected. It’s been a long time since I even looked for love. It’s something I struggle with a bit, being open to the risk.

    But that’s a romantic consideration and obviously wanting love is also about so much more than that. I’m about to walk away from a religion I’ve been a part of since I was six years old and my mother’s first and only response has been that she will support whatever decision I make. I know where I’m lucky as well as where I’m not and I appreciate the love I do have. I wish that for everybody.

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