For the vast majority of trans activists, the movement they imagine is reactionary.
In some ways, that is understandable. There seems to be an unending supply of people who say and propose very anti-transgender things, wanting to marginalize and erase transpeople from the public square as sick, perverted and inhuman things.
Having a strong reaction to these cruel, ungracious and ill-considered comments is very easy. Why not just react strongly to these people, calling them transphobic haters, bashing back and trying to get others to pile on your politically correct attack?
Defence is attack according to ACIM. The minute we shoot back we begin playing their game, begin striving for separation and spreading fear. If it becomes a battle, everyone gets shot. What they say is about them, but what we zing back always says more about us than about them, even if we believe we have aimed it fairly.
Turning the other cheek isn’t easy, but there are good reasons to make that choice. By not attacking back we open room for compassion, understanding and connection. We stand for positive building of coalition rather than for being at war with “them.”
For me, teasing out the concerns behind the fears of my challengers is the only way to start to create common ground with them. In sales you learn that every “no” is an opportunity for moving the deal forward, surfacing issues that can be addressed in a positive way.
I would rather open to other people, hearing what they are trying to say, than attack them, demanding that they only say what I want to hear. I know that silencing someone does not mean you have converted them, it only means you have ended the possibility for meaningful dialogue and finding accord.
Taking every comment personally is a horrible, immature way to view the world. It even keeps people who want to be your allies walking on eggshells and avoiding your immature, reactionary attitude. It means you are coming from your wounds, not your healing, trying to break reflections that challenge you rather than using them to guide your growth. Pain always tells us where healing is required,.
When I hear someone say something about transpeople, I often think “Yes, I have seen that kind of behaviour too, though I understand where it comes from. I just need to work hard to avoid those kind of choices in my life. If we work together, we can all help people get past that.”
It’s very easy for transpeople to always feel under attack, very easy for us to believe that the only good option is to attack back even more fiercely and aggressively than we have been attacked. It is easy to see hatred in every word of someone else, even when they are just raising concerns or confusion.
If the only real political power transpeople seek is reactionary, coming together over slights, indignities and pain, then we have already lost. We end up playing the game of those who attack us, those who have used shame and stigma to keep us isolated and marginalized for so long.
The political power to come together over positive choices, though, is much more difficult. We may all agree on what we fear and loathe, but finding agreement on what we love, what we prioritize, what compromises we are willing to make to get good things to happen is hard, hard work.
It is especially hard for transpeople who know much more clearly what and who they are not than what and who they are. So much about transgender emergence is about rejecting what has been imposed on us, claiming freedom from that push for assimilation, rather than about coming to our own identity, one that gives us peace & empowerment, allowing us to stand gracefully to people who make choices that we would never make for ourselves.
Getting out from behind our own pain and fear is hard, but if we don’t do that, we will always be letting that past drive us, always be looking for people to punish, people we can act out our own discomfort and internalized shame towards. Until we unwire our own buttons we will always be slaves to them, ready to lash out anytime they are touched.
It isn’t really fair that we have to do the healing while others stay ignorant and reactionary, but until we do that, we cannot transcend the heterosexist mess that keeps everyone down.
It may be easy to imagine reactionary politics, shooting back at those who push our buttons, those who we feel are attacking us, even if they are only acting to speak their own truth.
That kind of politics, though, cannot lift us to the next level, cannot create real coalition and create great new things.