Another week, another clever “think piece” by someone who feels it does the world a real service to explain why transgender people aren’t who they say they are; or aren’t entitled to the same fundamental kindness and decency you’d accord any other soul; or who have yet another brand new crazy-ass theory about why their own fears and ignorance about us can be forgiven.
This week sees a major essay in a major publication by a woman who — call her a TERF or not, I don’ t care — has it out for me, and people like me. A hugely popular TV comedian’s talk show features a guest by someone who allows as how what precious, endangered trans children actually deserve is scorn and laughter. No, I’m not posting the links.
I used to engage with these screeds, patiently, one by one, countering their arguments, explaining with Trans 101-living-color exactly how much more complex gender is than they might have at first expected. I used to parse the differences between “transsexual” people and genderqueer people and drag queens and kings and cross dressers and gender nonconforming persons of every stripe. I figured it’d be helpful for people to understand the wide diversity of our community, to understand that the many different ways there are of being trans were one of our strengths.
And I still do believe that it’s helpful, sometimes, for people to know about the many different ways there are of being us. That can be helpful, sometimes.
But I’m so over defending my own humanity. I’m so over providing a power-point presentation about the fact that I exist. And I’m completely done with engaging with anyone who has a clever theory explaining why they actually understand my soul better than I do.
I’m so over providing a power-point presentation about the fact that I exist.
To be blunt: if your crazy-ass theory of the world doesn’t ease the suffering of people whom you do not understand, maybe what you actually need is a new theory.
Look, I’m going to continue all of the work I’ve been doing these last 15 years talking about identity and story and love. I’m going to try to support other people in the community whose work I admire, or find challenging or engaging.
But in creative writing circles we have a saying: Show, Don’t Tell. In writing, that means that a scene — with dialogue and texture and character — is much more convincing than narration — explaining and lecturing. And it strikes me that this is true of our movement now as well.
If your crazy-ass theory of the world doesn’t ease the suffering of people whom you do not understand, maybe what you actually need is a new theory.
It may be that all of the explaining we do of our own lives — all our impassioned speeches about what it means to be trans, what it means to be this particularly complicated and gifted form of human — are less effective than simply being, than simply living in the world and having people understand that we’re here, that we’re not going away, and that we deserve, same as everyone else, equal protection under the law — as well as — who knows? — maybe even a little human kindness.
So the next time another one of these clever screeds appears in print, and someone asks me to provide the counterpoint, I’ll gently stand down.
You want to know how I’d refute them? Look at me. I refute them by living. I refute them by celebrating this life. I refute them, every day, by getting up and stepping out into the world and by refusing to be defined by any one or any thing other than my own heart.
I was warned. I was given an explanation. Nevertheless, I persisted.