I have so many different identities. I am pretty sure that everyone has this experience. Being transgender is but one of them, and despite the fact that I am open and public, and speak and teach about gender variance, I do not think that my transgender identity is my most important one.
In fact, I do not think that any one of my many, and intersecting identities is more important than any of the others. After all, I speak and teach about many other topics also, and I would not say those take precedence on any of the other ways I see myself, or the variety of “tribes” I belong to.
Over the past few weeks, I have been fascinated watching, what I call the “Re-education of Bill Maher.” Now, truth be told, I usually consider myself a fan, although there have been plenty of times that things that he has said, make me angry, trigger the hell out of me, and that I also disagree with. Yes, sometimes I like his consistent use of – shall we say foul language – and sometimes I think it just does not belong. He does seem capable about making significant points without the use of that language, but that is usually in his closing moments of a serious message, without fishing for any kind of laugh – which of course would not bring him the big bucks.
Many of you may be aware that he has been taken to task for using the “n” word in a spontaneous “joke” a few weeks ago. The outcry was huge, and even as he stated he helped take Kathy Griffin’s faux pas off of the front pages. (Maybe a picture is not really worth a thousand words, but that’s another story.) The following week Maher brought on both Michael Eric Dyson and Ice Cube for a combination of a lengthy whipping/re-education.
I found both of these segments fascinating and learned a great deal with Dyson’s discussion on privilege and when Ice Cube talked about how the use of the N word by whites would “cut right through you.”
It has taken me a bit of time to let those conversations sink in, I mean really sink in. Then yesterday, after the Sessions testimony, one of the Republican talking heads described Senator Kamala Harris’ s questioning as hysterical. Although there are – like all words – many definitions, one common definition of hysteria is behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess.
However the root of the word was for centuries used to describe multiple undefined symptoms – both emotional and physical of women, and became a catchall term for any of a woman’s unidentified or un-diagnosable complaints.
However if you might be in a tribe called FEMALE, you may well understand that the word being used to a member of this tribe, is used in a negative and pejorative (expressing contempt or disapproval) manner.
So, it is now starting to make more sense to me how much power some words have within certain tribes, and how what can be spoken within a tribe, takes on so much power coming from outside the tribe.
I am beginning to get it….
The white “tribe” should not ever use the “n” word, as that word can cut right though people
The male “tribe” should never use the “h” word to someone in the female “tribe.”
And then I realized that the use of language that crosses tribal boundaries is pretty far reaching, and even though I myself intersect so many of these tribes, sometimes it is hard to fully understand how triggering some words can be to others.
Another example, dare I say it that the use of the word tranny in the cis-gendered gay male and drag community means something different to many in the transgender community and the triggers, anger and verbal wars have been rampant. So perhaps I can add that the “t” word also not be said.
We have learned that words have power. Whether we can speak them or not has been arguable over all time. Can we say out loud Lovecraft’s Cthulu or Rowling’s Voldermort? What is the risk, the danger, and of course the consequences. Is speaking it, worth it all, or can we realize that no matter what tribe you are in, respecting the others and their tribes will always lead to a better ending.
Words can hurt!
Words do hurt!
Sometimes when we use the words to separate and make ourselves or our “tribe” look better at the cost of others, it gives us a moment of feeling good, but we do not recognize that there is a cost to this. Is our feeling good worth triggering some one else’s anger and pain, that we may know nothing about?
I think that perhaps the “Re-education of Bill Maher” has also helped me a bit to get re-educated also, and now learn that I have so much more to learn.
I hope that it may help me too, to take my tongue off the trigger.
Grace Anne Stevens inspires people to find their truth and live their authentic life!
She is the author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, and Musings on Living Authentically. Grace is available for speaking to all groups who would like to learn the values of, and how to live authentically. Workshop descriptions can be found at her website.
Grace was selected as an Amtrak Residency Writer for 2016; you can share her experiences on the rails on her website https://www.liveurtruth.net/amtrak-blogs.html.
She was also selected as Person of the Year (2017) by New England Pride TV.
Visit her website at: https://www.liveurtruth.net/.
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