Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why Is America So Afraid of Me? A Blog for Suddenly Fem by CiCi Kytten

I’m a pretty nice person. I work hard. I raised a family. Paid my way (or should I say, “borrowed my way”) through higher education. I vote. I recycle. And I often give to charity when I’ve got a little extra in my pocket. I’ve rescued strays. I have no criminal convictions more serious than a traffic ticket. And I often let people with one or two items go ahead of me in the grocery store line. 

When I was a kid, I always went to the local fireworks on the 4th of July, always marched with my Cub Scout Troop in the Memorial Day parade, and I’ve stood in the hushed silence of the Viet Nam War Memorial and rubbed off a copy of the name of a very dear family friend.

All-American Girl

I’m far from perfect. I’ve battled my share of demons. Broken a few hearts. Made some bad decisions. And generally acted in ways that were wholly selfish and thoughtless.  But all in all, I’ve lived the majority of my life as a very conventional, traditional American citizen. And here’s the real key. I still do.    

I’m not a rebel by nature. I’m generally pretty shy and quiet. I don’t go out of my way to challenge authority or upset the status quo. That’s just not my personality.  It’s not something I enjoy.

But one thing I do enjoy is dressing like a woman.  I don’t know why. I’ve actually stopped questioning why.  I just know that I enjoy doing it.  And I really enjoy hanging out with other people who enjoy doing it.  And while I can’t vouch for everyone that self-identifies under the trans umbrella, most of the trans people I’ve met seem like pretty decent folks.  Sure there are few assholes here and there... maybe even a few felons... but that’s true of any group in America.

For most of America’s 238 years, trans people and cross dressers like myself haven’t had much of an impact.  We’ve hidden in closets, lurked in alternative clubs, and hooked up in dark alleys.  But those days are over.  We’re getting stronger and braver and more self-confident -- as a community and as individuals. And the numbers of openly proud and unashamed trans people are only going to grow in the coming years. 

So I thought I’d take a moment to reassure the rest of America. You really have nothing to fear. Cultures change and morph over time. This is just another such change. I’m not sure what awful consequences or side effects you see occurring in society just because a few individuals decide to dress in a gender non-conforming way. But, don’t forget, we as a country have been through this before, and we seem none the worse for it.  For decades now, the women of America have been dressing in a way that was once  considered masculine. It’s become so accepted, we don’t even notice it any more.

Unfortunately, all of this is happening too late to help all of the innocent trans people who have, in the past and in the current day, been abused, insulted, humiliated, assaulted, murdered, or driven to suicide. Not to mention, those who were kept from living a happy life thanks to society’s ignorance and stubbornness.

And it’s happening too late to help Chase Culpepper, a teen in South Carolina, who was asked to remove her makeup before taking her drivers’ license photo.  Apparently, SC DMV officials consider her makeup a “disguise.”  How odd. Women have been wearing makeup for years in their DMV photos.  (And believe me, I used to work in Hollywood, I’ve seen many actresses and models report to the set without makeup -- and OMG... do they ever look different once they’ve been through makeup!)  Why is it acceptable for one gender to wear makeup and one not to?  In the non-trans world, makeup has been a part of the goth scene, the punk scene, the glam scene... hell, my elderly Uncle Lee used to draw on his pencil-thin mustache.  Was that a disguise?

Some of the internet commentators have compared Chase’s situation to... and I’m not exaggerating this... to showing up for your photo dressed as a clown or as a blue being from the movie, Avatar.  I’ve seen photos of Chase. She does not look like a clown. I’ve seen good Christian, church-going, God-fearing, New England housewives who wear way more makeup than Chase.  Are they in disguise?

Chase Culpepper
Others argue if she had posed in makeup that Chase’s photo would be deceptive.  After all, the whole purpose of a DMV photo is for accurate identification. But, if that’s the case, I bet you’ll find a person like Chase in makeup behind the wheel more often than not.  So for her to pose without makeup would be deceptive. Not the other way around.

And then lastly, people point to simple biology. Chase was born male. As one particularly crude commenter said, “Take a look under your dress. You’re a guy.”  It’s simple science. Except of course that science is never simple. When I was a kid, my favorite dinosaur was a brontosaurus.  My favorite planet -- and the planet associated with my birth month -- was Pluto.  Flash forward thirty years and we’ve now learned that Pluto isn’t really a planet and the brontosaurus never existed. Apparently some scientist mistakenly put the head of a camarasaurus on the body of an apatosaurus, and no one questioned it for decades. Bye bye Thunder Lizard.  Bye bye Sinclair Oil mascot.

Science isn’t perfect. Nor should we expect it to be. Research observations change with updated methods and improved observational technology. And if errors can happen with astronomy and paleontology, they can certainly happen in areas as relatively new as genetics and genomics.  My instincts tell me we might have a very different view of gender in the years to come. A view that incorporates much more than simple physicality or appearances.

Still, none of this explains -- at least not to me -- why America is so afraid of me.  Or people like me. Or a cute kid like Chase. Why are we so hesitant to alter current standards, and even laws, to accommodate trans Americans? We’ve done it before for all kinds of different U.S. populations from the rich to the poor, from Native Americans to the disabled, from gays and lesbians to the KKK and the Westboro Church.  We defend free speech. We champion freedom of expression.  And we try as best as we can to provide equal opportunity for all.

We fail often. But at least we try.

It hasn’t been easy. And it never will be. Providing a level playing field within the world’s greatest -- and most diverse -- democracy will never be an easy task.  But I think America has much bigger problems than a brave young teen wearing eyeliner.  And much more to fear from ignorance and hate than from me and my friends pursuing our inalienable right to happiness.

Happy Birthday, America. You’re 238. Isn’t it time you grew up?

Take care out there.
Be safe. Be smart. Be sexy.



Anonymous said...

Great article girl...
Thanks for sharing and for continuing to inspire and motivate. It's not always what you do or what you say, it's the way you go about doing it that matters most. Never in anger or contempt, but rather though knowledge, love, sharing and empowerment !
~ Lesley

taylor said...

I am so much like you its amazing. I only know you from alternative sites and FB, but I love you!

Ms Kim said...

I'm confused. In the articles I have read about this situation, Chase was identified as a gender non-conforming person that uses male pronouns. Were those articles wrong?

Laura Marchetti said...

Anyone with half a brain can read this and say you're correct. The problem is people never want to admit their wrong (I mean wrong as they tend to use inaccurate references that only agree with their agendas not impartial) who oppose things, I am sure even a lot the opposition isn't even that opposed to us. Why do I think this? Because human beings tend to not want to be singled and tossed out of the group, so they fakely back something, that they may feel strongly opposed to based on peer pressure like scenarios. All it takes in the group of people that despise us blindly is the voices of a few hateful preachers, business people, you name it to make it harder for us. Sometimes there are those among us that make us look bad and just as effective as the oppositions "FEW", so does the few within our minority, thereby making it even more difficult to garner the equal rights/support/respect and to be treated as equal human beings out in the open. It will happen, NO doubt, there is just a lot of stagnation as well in politics in regards to parties(Repub or Demo, this party binary needs to split as well) which is not helping for acceptance as there are people within the community that have views that differ from the others as we are all unique and have our own ideas/beliefs.

Anyways I thought this was a great article to read. Certainly kept me reading. SO I give it a 5 outta 5. Hits the relevant points.

-Laura Marchetti

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for a lovely & honest article. I'm new to dressing up & also really scared. I live in the Mid South US & want to go out dressed up but no one I know would understand & I don't even know where to start all alone.

kellysoutnow said...

I am also (NEW) to cross dressing & still have so much to learn as far as the right make up & all things Fem. I,m not to sure ? what people will say to what I think? I too have my say: even tho I love cross dressing & being a girl at times we still have & should live under certain laws that was / is made, listen,, as far as the DMV, wanting the right info...of a gender they still have every right to stand behind the law,, they too have to go by what there BOSS tells them of the procedures if not..then they would get fired. (and) if a transgender wants to get or..reapply for a license they should have noted enough time b4 let them know...because like everything else theirs the right way of doing things its a processes a order so to speak that should take place. So I wouldn't get mad at the D.M.V. Get out and *VOTE to help change some laws...its (us) that has to take the *RIGHT Actions its still ( we the people ) us GIRLS have to stick together all of us so next time we VOTE Lets all get all dressed up in our best clothing & show who we the right-order & then....we will see changes that NEED to be made!

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