On Being Offended (Stop dragging my Trans around)

I’m allowed to be offended.

I just want to state that off the bat because I’ve heard it told that I should not be offended by things that offend me and if I am offended, I should at the very least keep my mouth shut about it because the act of taking offense can make people not offended feel uncomfortable because they were not offended.

Like when a TV show reinforces trans stereotypes, I should bite my tongue when others around me chuckle lest they be forced to confront the fact that I and those like me are worthy of ridicule by the media at large. I should just smile and reduce my presence so as to make everyone around me feel better. The needs of the many to laugh outweigh the needs of the few or the one to not be dehumanized. And too often, like the good girl that I am, I sit quietly and smile through the pain and try not to let my discomfort spoil everyone else’s good time.

But I’m allowed to be offended by the trans woman at the bar who the main character mistakenly hit on. I’m allowed to be offended by the trans woman in the documentary staring at herself in the mirror longingly (and all the other items that make up the drinking game often played when watching these shows). I’m allowed to be offended and to voice my offense and to make others uncomfortable for finding humor.

I’m also allowed to not be offended. I love the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was a huge part of my life once upon a time and while I recognize that the film itself is pretty terrible, it’s still a whole lot of fun to be a part of in the performance space. This article from The Mary Sue rightly takes issue with the remake with Laverne Cox (because this is a bad idea for many many reasons most notably that RHPS should exist entirely within the midnight movie space is occupies), but goes a step further in the belief that this cultural thing should fade away because the author, who has never actually been to a live performance of the film, thinks it should. I think it is because she is offended and she wants everyone to be offended even though she says that she understands that people like it, but she knows people who don’t, so it should just go away.

She is allowed to be offended, as are others. She is allowed to voice her opinion as I am allowed to when I am offended or when I am not and I want to dance and sing along with Tim Curry (not Laverne Cox, though…at least not in this…I’ll happily dance and sing with Laverne elsewhere). And I suppose people are allowed to laugh at stereotypes of all flavors, as they do even when I am offended or others are offended. And sometimes they should be made to feel badly about it if the offended party feels that lines have been crossed. And if they are offended by my being offended, perhaps it can open up a line of dialogue about what it means to take offense or to just laugh at the absurdity of a thing.

Because really, being trans is terribly surreal and absurd in all of the best and worst ways. Unless you are trans, you don’t know what it means to be trans. You can’t hang out with us and get a sense of what our lives are really like. You just can’t. Our lives are often too weird and indescribable for you to get from a conversation. But I suppose you could say that about any group that you are a part of and others are not. Except seriously, trans is weirder.

And we trans take offense or don’t and you don’t know which way we think because we are not all the same and so if you are worried we might, you should probably just assume we are.

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Science Projects and the Problems with Believing

For the record, I’m an atheistic humanist who holds that science will someday work everything out, including the “spirit world,” which may or may not be the result of quantum entanglements and residual energy (my current unproven/untested theory of choice). I’m not a Bright. But I get them.They make a lot more sense to me than theists.

And also for the record, I generally have no issue with theists. When they pray for me or mine, I thank them. It is a positive thought action and I’d rather the world be full of positive thought actions than negative ones.

Where I do have issues is this:

I am supposed to accept that their beliefs are as valid as my reality. I do not accept the Bible as anything other than a collection of words written by a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons, many of them synchronically political, and finally compiled by a collection of clerics to reinforce their primacy in a regressive society. Anytime anyone tells me that they believe it is infallible or the literal “Word of God,” I know who I am dealing with and act accordingly. More often than not, to disengage from conversations about religion, which are dodgy at best and mostly belligerent because even Atheists fight over what it means to not believe in a deity (see the Brights).

I am supposed to accept that they can believe I am some sort of science project or my existence as a woman in negated because their deity is infallible and made men men and women women (and we won’t ask these folks to think too long on intersex people or any other non-binary, non-image-of-deity way in which people are born). I am supposed to accept their beliefs about me and other Trans folk because they are allowed to believe what they believe and I am supposed to smile and continue to have them in my life in any manner when their belief is a fundamental denial of who I am based on nothing more than their intractable position that someone who read an old book told them the old book said something that they should believe.

Sorry. You don’t get to be in my life. I accept that you have beliefs, but I don’t have to accept you in my life.

I accept that people have superstitions and need the comfort of religion. And I love many folks who are believers in deities and it may seem like I am being a judgemental ass or that I feel that I am superior having achieved a deity-free enlightenment (for the record: I am a judgemental ass and do feel that I am superior, but not because of my lack of deity-dependencies…just because I’m particularly awesome), but I can love them and have them in my life because they do not use their beliefs as an excuse to negate my pain and what I have had to do to live as authentically as I can. I also don’t talk about religion with them. It not my job to convert people to humanistic atheism (although if you are interested, message me and I will share the good word) and as long as it is not their job to try to make me believe in whatever they do, I can enjoy their company and friendship. It’s what I love about humanity at its best.

Now let’s speak for a moment about science projects.

Is my current state of being the product of scientific advances in medicine and body modification?

Yes.

You know someone who has had chemo and then a tumor removed?

Them too.

Cataracts replaced by IOLs?

Science!

Root Canal?

Yup.

The point being that medicine is the product of scientific advances that often require body modification to achieve the desired effects of a longer, healthier, happier life.

There’s a silly meme about a rapper bringing solar power to poor folks in Africa being more newsworthy than the very public transition of a formerly feted Olympian and reality show star whose primary occupation for the last decade has been to be the subject of media attention. In that meme, Jenner is referred to as a “science project” and people were offended. I was also offended, but more because a friend of mine shared the meme (he has since taken it down). The point was that there are more important things to focus on in the world than Caitlyn’s clothing choices and hair style. We should instead focus on famous people are acting more in the service of others.

Yeah. Okay. But seriously. We live in a tabloid world that revels in distractions…where people are killed because of paparazzi and those who invited paparazzi into their lives in their quest for the benefits of fame trying to escape from those people who make a living helping the famous make theirs (don’t try to make a living from fame if you’re not willing to accept that fame comes with camera-wielding lampreys who make their living from you).

I wish we lived in a world where people were more concerned with what is actually happening than what the media is doing to distract them from what is actually happening. If the media circus bothers you… If the inconsequential lives of the famous (although to be perfectly fair, for Trans folk, the coming out of a major personality is a big deal for the non-famous among us because it brings us that much further in from the fringe and more likely to be accepted without worrying about troubling legislation…baby steps). I’d rather people focus on the very terrible lives of most Trans people, especially those without privilege…heck, the pretty awful lives of most people without privilege, Trans or Cis.

If you’re truly upset that Caitlyn Jenner is pulling pop media focus from another famous person who, in an action apparently out of character for famous people, did something altruistic, then you are spending too much time looking at pop media. And, yeah, it shows up on your FB feed, but so do adds for cars or shoes or whatever else it was you were looking at and accidentally moused over a tracking pixel. You can take the click-bait or ignore it. You live in this social media world. To paraphrase Rush:

You can choose a ready guide in some commercial voice.

If you choose not to engage, you still have made a choice.

Choose free will.

The Transgender Moment™ Being Shoved In Your Face

On one level, the very public acknowledgement that “We’re here! We’re Trans! Get used to it!” is a good thing. It has begun the important dialogue that has been and will continue to move our lives in a positive direction. The more people accept Trans as part of the fabric of the everyday, the more the cis population will come to accept us and, most importantly, more trans people who will be able to accept and love themselves and live authentic lives. A good thing.

But for fuck’s sake it brings out the stupid in a big way. For every organization that becomes trans inclusive, let’s say The Girl Scouts, who have opened junior sales positions in their awesome cookie business to trans girls, there is a group of headless chickens such as The Charisma News who worry that little cis girls will be exposed to little trans girls (they say “trans boys,” not understanding the difference, nor caring really) and, well, let me share the words of officially recognized hate group leader, Tim Wildmon:

This means girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as a normal lifestyle. Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program. This change will put young, innocent girls at risk.

The risk is undefined. It is RISK! Mostly in that it fosters a society that recognizes and accepts difference. But this is the history of the Girl Scouts, who from their inception were integrated and who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called, “a force for desegregation.” This is not a group likely to bend to the will of bigots and fear mongers who do not see difference as a cause for fear.

But we happy Trans represent Risk in the same way that teh Gay is Risk. Risk that their children might be one of us and see that as okay. Young people are too young to be able to make such determinations for themselves. Instead, they must be taught to make the alternate determination that we are dangerous to the fabric of society (perhaps because we need alterations made to the fabric so our clothes fit better?). They must be taught that our existence is shameful and inherently perverted because they are not too young to be taught that different is wrong and that if they feel different, they should hide that difference from everyone around them because that difference is inherently risky.

So the risk of backlash is that much greater because rather than not thinking about us at all, the fearful lovers of a bygone era where different people stayed out of sight and mind are now forced to read about us and watch stories about us on the TV and watch the Kardashians talk about us. Our existence is front and center on the stage and they are frightened because now anyone could be one of us and if we would just wear a sign or something so they would know we were in the bathroom with them then…I don’t know, they could pee elsewhere? They are more frightened that people they know might turn out to be us or their kids might turn out to be us, their daughter’s cookie selling partner might be one of us and then they will have to explain something to their kids about the world as it is and if they say we are okay, children’s minds will shatter…or something.

The Transgender Moment™ is not a bad thing, not one bit. But it will be a dangerous time of transition for the world because the old way never goes down without a fight.

The Straw Trans Person

When I started transitioning and blogging about transitioning back in Ought-Nine, there were a lot of opinions about who got to be trans and it often seemed like if someone was not your particular brand of trans then they weren’t trans at all. They were fakers, pretenders or people who thought they were but were not what they thought because who they thought they were was not in line with what they were supposed to think they were. There was always something about how old you could be or what you had to lose or what you had to be willing to go through. You could not be this and had to be that or vice versa.

One’s personal trans identity was correct and all others were suspect. Trans people would find other like-minded trans people and would fight with one another. Some still do. But back when I started blogging about this on my old blog, which I wiped away because it became all too negative and I became all too negative (I was just as responsible for some of the flaming as others…bad habit of mine which would sometimes result in my trans identity being negated…a very common thing for people to do, negate others). Back when I started blogging, it was much nastier in some respects. I think a old of the old Sisters finally gave up and went back to being stealthy. Maybe I’m just not privy to their stealthy hang-outs where they continue to negate others to each other…

In any case, it’s why I gave up blogging on my old blog and made this blog, to give myself a place to ruminate from time to time without all the old drama.

Right now, however, is an interesting time to be trans. But interesting times are not always positive. It just feels like all eyes are on us, for good or ill. It’s the “transjenner” moment, where a very very famous person transitions publically and everyone makes that person the straw man for their arguments for or against or about trans people. (I did not make up transjenner, for the record).

One that I want to address, and I will address them as I read them in the near future, is that, as a 65 year old famous wealthy white person, Jenner’s transition is not what the average trans person has gone through or will go through.

I wrote about this idea of one-size-fits-all transitioning in one of my first posts on this blog. It was one of the first kind of fights that I witnessed and I’m sad to see it still persists. It is the fallacy that TRANS LIFE SUCKS. You’ve heard it. Trans people don’t get to keep anything. They will lose everything. Trans life is inherently tragic. Jenner cannot be a spokesperson for trans folk because their transition is completely unlike everyone else’s and, therefore, not the tragic paradigm.

Well, for one, I watched the interview and there was a lot of pain there. And while Jenner put themself in front of the camera all their life, it doesn’t change the fact that being hounded and taunted by paparazzi, being caricatured and lampooned on TV shows and magazine covers, cannot be pleasant. We all suffer differently, but not all suffering is tragic. Does Jenner speak for me? Nope. But neither does Janet Mock or Jazz or Chaz or Jennifer Boylan (although she comes closer to me in many regards).

They do, however, speak to a public that has little actual knowledge of who trans people are. They provide a brave face for all of us who are not out in front, taking public hits and their work will hopefully keep us from taking physical and mental abuse, help bring the next generation up in a better world (which I believe they already are as far as acceptance is concerned…it’s a world where Bruce Jenner can transition publically and receive some measure of positive public support…and it is not all positive. It’s not too hard to find the relative shit ton of negative press. I won’t link to it. But it’s there I promise you).

We are not all the same. We have differing levels of privilege and a wide variety of experiences. both common and unique. You may reject Jenner for whatever reason you wish, but don’t discount what makes them the same as every other trans person. You don’t have to like or respect the person, but don’t negate their trans identity.