Earlier this week I read about Chaz Bono’s newly released documentary on his gender transition from his former public identity as Chastity Bono. I was aware that this documentary was soon to be released, but hadn’t given it too much thought until I saw a little transphobic rant by Camille Paglia posted on Queerty’s blog.
In 55 seconds Paglia hit on just about every transphobic meme there is out there, every argument if you will that gets thrown onto the table when people start attempting to determine whether or not people with diverse experiences of gender identity can be counted among us humans.
It is amazing to me that we as a society are willing and even eager to destroy lives over our arbitrary markers around sexuality and gender variation within our own species. I know I sound like a biologist when I say that but for goodness sake our simple biologic variation is profoundly diverse, adaptive, and a fundamental survival mechanism for our species. In a global interconnected human species sense, that amazing and vast variation which makes us different absolutely makes us stronger.
Yet that same human diversity and variation within the context of gender and sexuality justifies all sorts of hate and violence within our culture.
But I digress. What I really got to thinking about after watching Paglia’s trite, predictable, and violent transphobic quips was how necessarily brave Chaz is for offering up his story to the public.
I guess I think of it as necessarily brave because one does not have too many choices when it comes to living.
When the lines of gender and sexuality human possibility are so clearly and violently marked by society and you are born or discover yourself outside of those rigid lines… necessity quite simply demands bravery of you to walk out your front door each day.
And how you decide to step off that porch is a risk, no matter how you attempt to manage your difference from the dominant community. You may opt to blend or pass for heterosexual or cisgendered, you may opt to cloister yourself as best you can among other outsiders, you may opt to bridge build and educate, or fight and rage, or to die inside and numb yourself … hell in a given day you are quite likely to take each of those possible paths in turn at one point or another. And countless others I cannot know or name.
The one option that isn’t readily available is for you to simply live your life within the larger society in peace or even in relative safety.
And so you must be brave.
Taking that bravery the next step and intentionally offering your life story to make the world perhaps safer, wiser, and more humane as Chaz has done by sharing his journey is such an act of faith in people.
And for all the snarky transphobic Camille’s of our society, so many other lives are touched by not only the survival but the successful and ultimately proud stories shared by folks like Chaz.
Life Doesn’t Frighten Me at All by Maya Angelou
If you want to learn more about transgender lives and work to do less harm you could start here:
Listen to transgender stories:
This American Life’s: Tom Girls Lilly and Thomasina have a lot in common. They’re both 8 years old. And they were both born boys, although it became clear pretty early on that they’d prefer to be girls. There aren’t all that many kids in the world like them, but recently, at a conference in Seattle on transgender parenting, they met. (17 minutes)
Here is a great book list – my favorite among these was Whipping Girl
And thanks Cath for reminding me of this with your posting yesterday.