a little east of reality

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

transgender day of remembrance

Somehow I let this slip by (TD0R is Nov 20) despite the fact that I read some related posts from other bloggers. Given how much I've been thinking about this phenomenon (transgender or GID) this year, I wanted to acknowledge the day. This year I think that some people who are transgender have taught me one of the most important lessons I've ever learned. And it's going to sound ridiculously simple in my head as I type it, but here goes: We don't need to understand something to accept it.

I used to think some things were wrong, based on the fact that they didn't fit the 'natural order of things'. This attitude was also guided by religious belief and it was a narrow view. What I had failed to realise is that a certain percentage of anomalic difference IS natural. Though it manifests itself in a much more serious and life-altering way, transgender is no more unnatural than a birthmark, or a hereditary propensity to type 2 diabetes. Not only that, developmental anomalies are not harmful to others ~ they just exist.

There is one hugely important lesson I did learn from my church, and that is a unalienable respect for the truth. I can't ignore the fact that the doctrines of the church, despite numerous references to the eternal nature of gender, offer nothing in the way of explanation for why some people are born with indeterminate physical gender and why others are born identifying with a gender that does not relate to their physical body. In spite of this lack of clarity in the doctrine, transgender people who choose to have gender-reassignment surgery cannot receive the priesthood (a male gender privilege) or receive a temple recommend (the temple endowment ceremonies are quite gender-specific). I find this...inadequate. It is not enough (and this applies to the church's doctrine and policy on homosexuality, too) to say that you simply must deal with a 'condition' of your life that is totally irreconcilable with doctrine that is supposed to represent eternal truth. I don't think you can call something truth when it denies reality.

This doesn't only apply to religion. It's just a general fact. No matter what you believe is truth, you have to measure it against what is real. And if it doesn't measure up, you can't base what you do on it. Most importantly, you can't base how you treat other people on it. You can't deny someone else's reality, just because doing so makes you feel more safe in your explainable world. You can't hurt someone just because you don't understand them. Let me say that again. You can't hurt someone just because you don't understand them.

All hatred based on ignorance is upsetting, but I think the reason that I find hatred aimed at transgender men and women particularly disturbing is that after getting to know a few of these people, I feel like they are facing an internal struggle worthy of a lot of compassion on the part of other people. Many trans men and women reach out for understanding and receive hatred. I sometimes see the results of this in what they say and write. Some of them stop expecting to be treated well; they express surprise when people show them respect and kindness; they are rarely shocked (though deeply hurt and upset, of course) to hear about crimes committed against other transgender people and I think it's fair to say that many have either been the victim of harsh prejudice, or expect to be when they transition, or both.

It is appropriate for the Transgender Day of Remembrance to talk about transgendered people, but the salient point is not that they are transgender, but that they are people. And if the sampling I've discovered is anything to go by, really cool and articulate and funny people. They've been really open to me, answered some questions, and generally dealt very kindly with my naivety on the subject of transgender. It makes me feel really scared and mad to know they may be treated badly for no better reason than that they don't fit neatly into society's pre-determined boxes.

This video was prepared by some people in the transgender community for Transgender Day of Remembrance. I hope you'll take the time to watch it and acknowledge and remember the people who died.

Cross-posted at TRANScendGENDER.

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