Thursday, May 02, 2002

Never Enough Reaching Out Department

Excerpted from an e-mail I sent to Abigail Garner of Families Like Mine, a site for families with LGBT parents:

I've long felt that trans liberation movements would fail as long as transgendered persons do not present themselves as being fully human--and this means reaching out to others. Unfortunately, reaching out is fraught with perils.

Transfolk of all genders and originating sexes seem to be polarized in terms of if and how they come out of the closet. Many seek to pass as their presenting gender to such a degree that they become invisible--or "stealth" as many transpeople say. A very small number can, and never have to deal with transphobia as long as they remain in the closet. But sometimes we are outed before we are ready, and the revelation that "she used to be a man" or that "he is really a she" fuels rumors and other abusive actions--including rape, assault, and murder.

On the other end of the spectrum are those whose gender presentation, intentionally or otherwise, draws attention to themselves. They draw a lot of prejudice even among other transfolk and are usually quickly categorized as boisterous even if they try to maintain a low profile. While they may be out of the closet as a matter of expediency, there remains a lot of presumptions behind their motives and self-identity. And of course, they find themselves larger, more obvious targets of transphobia in all its forms.

And yet, in my experience, most people have no intrinsic prejudice against the transgendered--just a lack of experience which leads to misunderstandings. Communication, as always, is key to resolving this lack. This means we transgendered people must not be afraid to make friends outside the transgendered community. We must reach out to all, even those who might consider us enemies. We must show compassion towards their misunderstandings, even as it hurts to face them, so that we may in time resolve those misunderstandings and find compassion in others. Above all, we must not be afraid to show our true face.

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