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Is Trans Activism Even Useful?

transactiveYou know those crappy dreams where you are back in school? Being part of the transgender community often makes me feel exactly like that. It’s not really all that bad and way better than those dreams where you really have to pee and finally find a toilet only to wake up in a mad panic, sometimes in warm dampish pajamas. By the back in school analogy, I’m talking about college, but not where there is a big exam you didn’t know about because you blew off the last 4 classes to sleep in Lockwood library. I mean the near constant cajoling to get off your fat tuckus and get involved already.

Being part of an often misunderstood minority, there is an inevitable call to activism if you choose to become affiliated with any type of support or advocacy organization. Counter to my lifelong resistance to joining anything unless intending to destroy it from within, I found myself showing up to the local group, Spectrum, and raising my hand to volunteer a lot. This too was counter to my philosophy of personal responsibility by having other people who would probably do it better raise theirs first. It really worked out better for all of us that way. For some reason by changing or affirming or confirming my gender, I felt the need to make changes in this area as well. Out of nowhere I went decades without ever knowing who the state senator for my district was, and now I find myself arduously working to really make him hate me. Why? Why am I doing this?

From the very moment I stepped into a room where other trans people happened to be, there has been a nearly incessant call to arms. We must fight the good fight. We must force change. We must guarantee the rights and equality for ever single trans person, as well as a chicken in every pot and a sock in every shoe. I quickly agreed, castigating my old lazy ass apathetic self. The stories of grave injustice, persecution and downright craptacular treatment were too much. Batgirl wouldn’t stand by and put up with this shit, and neither would I. It wasn’t long before I realized that this was a little more than pestering curmudgeonly old Mike Ranzenhoffer with pissy emails and unrequited entreaties to call me back (you think he would pick up just once, but no). People were organizing things, making long smelly bus rides to Albany, forging deep collaborative ties with other support groups to achieve political might, and so on. People get overwhelmed when faced with something that looks more like a full time job, or even career.

It’s easy to see why the question of ‘why’ will pop up on an increasingly frequent basis. Really… why? Even if GENDA passes, it really won’t be much more difficult to fire me, decline to hire me, refuse to rent to me, or even provide inept medical care if they happen to hate the trans folk. They will just find different reasons that are legally sound and easy to back up. In fact, it seems likely that I will face more opposition on account of the perception that I’m receiving some form of special treatment through legal protection. You know how it is in this country. God forbid anyone has anything they don’t, even if they don’t need it or want it. It’s like an child stuffed to the gills getting the raw end of dividing an oddly numbered bag of M&Ms with another who is near starving. So why bother trying to tackle the impossible?

The why is actually very easy. Even if any type of legislative solution turns out to be a paper tiger at best, it is the fight for that tiger that generates awareness. It’s the action of trying that creates the real value in making change. Most people are and will remain blissfully unaware the law as it is, or what it will be, but they will hear of the efforts to make change. Resistance to our existence, aside from some notable exceptions, has far more to do with ignorance than understanding what we are and opposing us anyway. The legislation, when it passes, is unlikely to truly protect anyone. The knowledge and awareness, however, is what changes hearts and minds. This is what will put us on equal ground with everyone else. If I get a new job in the future, it won’t be because GENDA tells them they can’t immediately disqualify me, but because my being transgender will not be a factor in their hiring decision. All the legislation will do is benchmark where we stand with the population in general.

As for the overwhelming enormity of it all, after time I realized people, myself included, will do what they can. There will be super stars out there who make every event, organize rallies, and muster the troops to glorious battle. The rest of us will follow when we can, contribute when we can, make calls when we can, or even scribble our little blogs in hopes that some cisgender readers wander over and leave with an expanded perspective. I didn’t realize in college that ‘getting involved’ didn’t necessarily mean joining every club and leading a bloody coup against the student council or hiding at home doing nothing, so I hid. The trumpeters never said that just showing up, and not even every time, can also make a difference. It’s not go big or go home, but a simple entreaty not to hide there.

PS – you can also just click the link and give Ranzenhoffer a hard time for opposing GENDA. Love ya bunches if you do. 🙂

PPS – On an unrelated topic… I just drifted back to find that my last post was ‘Freshly Pressed’ by WordPress. As a result, lots and lots of people came by and the number of people who subscribe to my posts pretty much doubled. Holy shit. It’s like going on stage to allegedly present to just a few people and having the curtain lift to a massive auditorium. Seriously, holy shit. Not going to lie; got a little touch of the old performance anxiety, so here comes the part where I babble for a few about how I know today was not my best effort, but I promise to grease up my elbows and crank out some kind of masterwork after they finally coax me out from under the bed. Why didn’t I poach a more clever picture? Really, swear I’ve done better in the past, and if you check out my grand and nearly comprehensive list of topics (dammit, I knew I should have updated that thing more often, but still it’s most of them I think), you might find something worth reading. Stop panicking Michelle. Seriously, stop it. It’s just a blog. The bar is set really low. You can do this. Just breathe.

Love to all and thank you!!!!!

The GSA is AOK!

I decided to take it easy today and pick a topic I think we can all agree on. The Girl Scouts of America totally rock. Well, the majority. What prompted this post is my sense of outrageous disbelief about what I have been seeing in the news lately. If someone were to predict even two years ago that America’s little darlings were going to be the target of the almighty wrath of right wing fury we would have laughed and laughed at their clever little joke. As it is, I’m still having a hard time believing these stories are not originating with the Onion.

In case there is anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, the Girl Scouts, a venerable all-American institution devoted to inspiring empowerment, charity, good works, accomplishment, excellent manners, and waist busting cookie sales, are now under attack. The initial crime was the inclusion of a young trans girl who wished to participate in this noble tradition. Oh, how the blood began the boil! “If Jesus were here right now, why he’d turn into that Narnia lion and disembowel not only that little pansy, but all the whoring Jezebels who accepted Satan’s own bugle boy into their midst!” I don’t think that is the direct quote from anyone in particular, but it’s also not very far removed either. For anyone new to this blog, I’m not against people of faith, just the whole concept of employing their god to smite people they happen to disagree with.

Immediately a schism formed after another little girl, also a scout and presumably with great parental encouragement, denounced the GSA in general for their devilish compassionate inclusion and urged us all not to buy cookies. In short, the anti-Scout has arisen among us, dedicated to fear, intolerance, and whatever the opposite of charity is. And a cookie boycott? It would be like Ronald McDonald urging us all to go vegan. I’m pretty sure they would make him give the costume back, so not too sure what is happening here. Even if it doesn’t hurt sales, it’s pretty antithetical to the mission. The GSA is big on heart, maybe not so big on business strategy. They are probably just too nice to give her the boot and make her join the Sunflower Girls with Peter Brady.

A snotty tween mouthing off on YouTube isn’t really such a big deal. After the shocking failure of her pissy rant, the real puppet masters came out, infuriated that the GSA continued on doing exactly what they were founded to do, and sell cookies. Clearly the GSA had been hijacked from a merit badge motivated organization to the powerful enforcement wing of Planned Parenthood dedicated to ensuring that each and every member achieved a viable pregnancy and quickly aborted it, preferably in the third trimester. I don’t even really know how to express my feeling about such absurdities without resorting to even more absurd cliché expressions. Yeah, it’s trans people who exhibit delusional instability.

Naturally I have to give the GSA huge kudos for doing the right thing by supporting a kid who wants to be a scout and learn from the principled traditions of the GSA. I wish it happened much sooner. I was subjected to the Boy Scouts; an experience only made bearable by my father’s presence at the majority of the camp-outs. The few times I ventured on my own were not exactly comfortable. My pack was inhabited by a lot of violent little monsters who liked to issue grave threats midway through a “nature hike” when the whiskey and weed came out. And true to the stereotype, my Scoutmaster was brought up on pedophilia charges, although I have to caveat that by saying I was neither victim nor witness. Getting to the point, being ‘not a boy’ in Boy Scouts was not an enriching experience. I would have been much more comfortable with the GSA, and felt a hell of a lot safer as well.

At the last Spectrum meeting I attended, the subject about honoring the GSA as the theme for our next Pride float came up. I completely agree they should be thanked and honored, but giving the matter further thought, I’m not sure having a bunch of middle age trans women dressing in tween and teen girl uniforms will send the message we want received. Given that I imagine we can only find adult sized scout uniforms in the same sort of store that sells ball gags, and that everyone knows this, the whole honoring concept can easily be taken the wrong way. I think the better route might be to issue warm and heartfelt thanks, and support those Girl Scouts who stood to be counted for doing the right thing in the face of adversity. Nothing says thanks like picking up 7 boxes of Samoa’s.

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