Reverend Meg Riley, senior minister with the Church of the Larger Fellowship, said in a column at Huffington Post today regarding Trans Day of Remembrance, “First and foremost, transgender people model embodied courage to me. Their very bodies carry their commitment to themselves, to their own truth, costs be damned. They can’t board a plane, fill out most forms or go to the bathroom without diminishing their complexity.”
I appreciate her words but I really dislike statements like this. Yeah, I’m transgender, and yeah, it sucks when I am selected for a random pat down at the airport and it takes them a minute to figure out which TSA person to call over. But I am no more, no less, no better or worse, more or less courageous than my cisgender peers. I have a different life experience, but not one with value attached.
My body and my identity are just that – mine. If I outwardly express something, whether with words or deliberate actions, then you are free to comment on it. I am putting it out there, and saying “hey, society, over here! Talk about this, won’t you?” But when I am simply filling out a form, walking into a bathroom, getting on a plane, or any of the other mundane things I occupy my time with then I’m not being complex, courageous, or different. I am filling out a form, walking into a bathroom, or getting on a plane. Nothing more, nothing less.
When I want you to learn from me? When I have something to contribute or when I am hearing stuff that is wrong, hurtful, or just factually inaccurate? Then I will speak up and then you get to learn from me. But I am not being more authentic to my body than you are to your body. My living as outwardly and openly genderqueer is no different than you living outwardly and openly as a woman who was assigned that sex at birth.
I am speaking at the Trans Day of Remembrance in Bangor, Maine this weekend to a place that actually qualifies as a city. I will stand in front of a church, share my thoughts and feelings. I will represent my transgender community. I will speak, most likely, of the violence against transgender people because of their identity and their willingness to live openly and honestly. I will say something about past generations. I will say something about future generations. I will say something about myself. And I do hope that people learn from me. But what I want them to learn is that everyone, no matter their identity, should live openly and honestly and that society should accept who they are. I don’t want my take away message to be, “transgender people are great.”
I want my take home message to be “people are great.” or perhaps “authenticity is great.” or “Love is great.” A society that loves all the various components that build it up is a society that thrives. Loving all the components means that you don’t love or revere the gay couple raising a child any more or any less than the straight couple raising a child, providing both couples are doing a good job of it. Loving all means that you are grateful for the gay, gender-bending 14 year old in your 3rd period algebra class to the same extent that you are grateful for the straight cheerleader with a million friends.
Sometimes certain communities need everyone to rally around and say “enough!” to the violence, the hatred, the negative rhetoric. But when that happens what we need to remember that we are rallying for love and acceptance NOT for “special” rights or “special” treatment or “special” anything. I don’t want to be treated as some font of knowledge because I happen to like my hair short, my pants baggy, and my chest flat.
When you are planning your TDoR rallies and getting speakers don’t make the goal to have a trans woman, a trans man, a genderqueer somebody, an ally, a clergy, etc. Get speakers who want to be there, who want to speak on behalf of love and acceptance.