Is it OK To Be Trans-Negative?

In the last meeting of the local Trans Advocacy group, the organizer read a letter to the editor from a local paper.

Transkids were on Katie Couric, the writer said, and that was awful.  These poor kids shouldn’t be exposed, their parents shouldn’t let them make queer choices about their life before puberty, and by the way, anyone who makes a choice to express transgender is not right, because they don’t understand the truth of how sex and gender really works and are just indulging their own sickness.  Beyond that, the media shouldn’t be so politically correct to give these people a platform and the state shouldn’t be considering a non-discrimination act that would make speaking up about this truth a crime.

The consensus of the meeting was clear.  This was transphobic speech, which some wondered why the paper would publish, and needed to be rebutted.

As for me, well, same old, same old.

The writer saw some kids they thought were being allowed to endanger themselves and the parents were enabling a wrong-headed notion.  If the kids could just be kept on the straight and narrow until he desires and peer pressures of puberty and adolescence kicked in, the kid would probably come to their senses.

And the reason this was happening was because those people queering the sex-gender system, those TGLBQFU people, are forcing the media to take them seriously, rather than being stigmatized, ostracized and forced to the margins like they should be.  They are even getting the government into the act, and that will limit all good people who just want to enforce the right and proper way of dealing with queers.

When I look at anyone’s fear based speech, I look for what they fear and what that tells me about them.    ACIM reminds us that we always choose between fear & separation and love & connection.  When people speak for either fear or love, they tell me who they are, what they value, where they live.

On the last espisode of  The New Normal, one of the two expectant gay dads gets back into the Boy Scouts Of America.   He loved being an Eagle Scout, and is great with the kids, teaching them what he learned from men about how to be a good man.

He is outed, though, to BSA leadership, and as an out and avowed homosexual, he is removed from the Scouts.

The parent who did that comes and speaks to him.  “My boy loves you and you are great, but I want my kid to grow up normal, and that means I don’t want him looking up to people like you.”

The show left it there, with no rebuttal.   A story choice, I am sure, because a strong response would have lessened the character’s emotions about the removal.

My rebuttal takes from the work of Leslea Newman, who wrote Heather Has Two Mommies.

“When I was growing up, I looked up to, respected and even admired hundreds of good men who were avowed heterosexuals.  They offered a great role model of a heterosexual family to me.   But even being exposed to so many strong, heterosexual role models didn’t turn my love into heterosexual love.  And I am sure that even if your son is exposed to strong homosexual role models, it won’t ever change who he is inside either.”

That’s fine, as far as it goes, but the real answer is quite a bit messier.  Kinsey had a scale for hetro/homo desire from zero to six.  If you were zero, you would never engage in homosexual relations and if you were six you would never engage in heterosexual relations.

What that means, of course, is that most people interviewed turned out to be somewhat bisexual.  A one might only accept fellatio in a stressful circumstance, and a five might have tried a woman or two over their life, but threes and fours, well…

The old plan was simple.  Dump stigma all over the sixes and you might be able to scare the threes and fours into normative heterosexual relationships.

The conservatives are right.  Accepting queer behaviour, making it mainstream, will result in more queer behaviour, more people who experiment and and may make non-normative choices.   That simple.

And they want their kids and grandkids to have a normative life, if at all possible.   They would call it a “normal” life, of course, but there is a wide variation in normal in any population, so the conventional expectations are just normative to me, not normal.

The truth is that they aren’t alone in this fear.

While the professional organizer wanted the idea that the non-discrimination act contains provisions against hate speech (it contains provisions against hate crimes, which are actions, not speech), they weren’t so sure they wanted anyone to get into the messy area of trans-kids.

See, the statewide group doesn’t yet have a policy on how much parents should be supported in their care of children who express as trans.  It’s one thing for a person beyond the age of agency and consent to make decisions about their life, but children?   What if parents are exerting some pressure on the child?  What path has been shown to create a good outcome?  No one knows.

No, they understand why people are a bit queasy and divided about children being able to demand gender protection and even medical intervention.  They understand why it’s an emotional and a hot-button topic and why it can create fear in people that makes it harder to push their non-discrimination agenda.

One person at the meeting was peeved that bathrooms are always made an issue by those against trans rights,  especially when they aren’t an issue in reality, with virtually no reports of people posing as transgender to find prey in bathrooms.

“They said that the ERA and equal rights would lead to a bathroom crisis,” this person said.  “That hasn’t happened.  That’s preposterous.”

Except that Minnie-Bruce Pratt, the femme partner of Leslie Feinberg, in her powerful book S/HE talks about her experience fighting for the ERA and how she dismissed the bathroom question.  And she also talks about how she eventually came to understand that removing barriers is removing barriers, that equality is equality.  She saw that yes, bathrooms needed to be opened, and in the end it is a non-issue.

One challenge for queers is that we don’t just have the obligation to call for the dismantling of conventions that prop up the structure of heterosexist compulsory gender conventions, but rather we have the obligation to replace them with something new that serves the purposes of gender, and the key purpose of gender has always been protecting children and other vulnerable people.

That’s one big deal with the push for marriage equality.  Lesbians and Gays are saying “We want to take on the family values that are designed to support and protect children.”   They are signing up for the conventions that enforce family life.

Now, some fear that this cheapens the true meaning of family, while others feel it reinforces and extends that meaning.

But the people out there shouting that conventions need to be respected for the protection of the children, well, they have a point.

Now, I don’t agree with the idea that fear based compliance to norms, based on the avoidance of stigma & oppression, are the best way to empower people and communities.  But I do agree that people should feel some obligation to respect not just law but also some kind of social norm, some kinds of convention that support graceful, functional communities that support vulnerable people, especially children.

We can’t just be for tearing down every norm.  We have to also have to be in favor of making good places.   I just want our norms to be based more on love and connection than on fear and separation.

So that’s why I don’t get all crazy when someone speaks their fears.

I just don’t want social and legal policy to be based on aggrandizing fears, the fears of anyone from the very conservative to the politically correct.

I want social and legal policy to be based on considered respect, empowerment and connection.  For example, a transperson marginalized by society can never get a good job and become a productive member of society, so employment non-discrimination brings them into connection with the community where they can be assimilated, rather than separating them to where they have to work on the margins of propriety and law.

I understand fear.  I think it needs to be surfaced to be addressed.   Love can create connection and respect in the face of fear.

I don’t want my world to be limited, proscribed and constricted by the fears of others.  I don’t think fear is a good reason to silence, marginalize and disempower anyone.

Even people who still fear people like me.