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Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Reluctant Rebels - A blog by CiCi Kytten for Suddenly Fem
Not long ago, I was having dinner with a friend of mine from Down Under, internet latex darling Nicci Tristan. We were reminiscing about our lives in tg/cd world. We chatted about our childhood, and coming out, and all of the anxiety involved.
“Reluctant rebels,” she said. “That’s what we are. Reluctant rebels.”
I think there are a lot of us in the gender non-conforming community that can identify with that phrase. Most of us didn’t set out to be social revolutionaries or gender outlaws. For most of us, that’s the last thing we wanted. We don’t have a history of political or social activism. Most of us have led fairly quiet, mainstream, hetero-normative lives.
But something wasn’t working for us. Something was off. Sometimes it took us a long time to figure out what was going on. Some of us are still trying to make sense of it all. Still trying to determine where we belong on the gender spectrum.
We never set out to cause a stir or upset the conventional “normalness” of our lives. Some say that gender-noncomformists are driven by a need for attention. (And some of us do adore attention.) But many of us do not. Many of us don’t particularly enjoy making a fuss, upsetting our friends, or causing uncomfortable conversations around the dinner table.
And yet here we are. A group of fairly conventional people from fairly conventional backgrounds behaving in some pretty unconventional ways. Calling into question all manner of social traditions and beliefs, and sometimes challenging the very mainstream values that we grew up with -- and have always believed in.
I don’t know about you. But for me, this has caused quite an emotional quandary. For me, this trans phenomenon… for lack of a better word… seemed very odd and alien when it first presented itself. And yet something about it seemed entirely natural. It seemed like second nature. But it wasn’t second nature. It was my “first nature.” It just took me a long time to figure that out.
My “first nature” was hidden from me at a very early age. Not by some insidious plot. Not by homophobic or transphobic feelings on the part of my parents. No, my first nature was hidden from me by centuries of rigid gender roles assigned long ago in countries all over the world – adopted and embraced by millions, and poured into the societal soup that became small-town America in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
What really blows me away, however, was the realization of just how young I was when my mind was shaped and my thought processes began to form. It took me until the age of 40 to realize that what I considered to be my basic gender instincts (to act and behave in a masculine way) were not actually instinctual at all. They were learned behaviors -- learned behaviors that were taught to me by my family and friends and society as a whole when I was a toddler. Perhaps even an infant.
I’m sure some gender-specific urges are hard-wired into us biologically. (I’m way out of my element when I try to talk of science.) But it seems to me that the large majority of my behaviors were taught to me. Programmed, perhaps.
No one ever presented me with a list of do’s and don’ts for my behavior. Or a list of male traits and female traits. They didn’t need to. The minds of young children are like sponges. We soak up everything. We’re learning sharks – hunting and digesting everything in sight. And everything in sight told me that I was male. I was a boy – no different than my three brothers. I had a penis. I had short hair. I played sports. I was a boy. And I would grow up to become a man.
Those lessons were not to be questioned. They were as clear and as concrete as adding 2 + 2. Factual. Scientific. Indisputable.
Or so it seemed.
Today, as we emerge into mainstream society, the world is starting to take a second look at gender and gender roles. People are calling this trans tipping point of the current trans empowerment movement. (NOTE: There were other key moments and brave individuals long before any of us. Look them up! Know your history!) But in today’s movement, the media points to celebrities such as Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner... or to the increase in trans-related news stories, films and television series... or to major strides in new legislation for the LGBT community as a whole.
But if you ask me, it all started with you. The non-famous, non-political, non-rebels of the trans community. The cd/tv/tg girls who one day decided to get off their computers and get out into the world. Or to the clubs. Or to trans events. Or Pride events. Or to the local convenience store or gas station.
I’ve heard countless stories from girls whose first nights out were nothing more than a quick trip to the late-night drive-through. Can you relate? You got in your car under cover of darkness – totally terrified – and drove around the block to some 24-hour fast food joint. You never got out of your car. You barely looked the geeky teen-aged clerk in the eye. And then you zoomed right straight back home.
And you weren’t even hungry! As you drove, you were hoping that nobody saw you -- while simultaneously hoping that everyone saw you. How good you looked! How femme you looked! How daring! It wasn’t much of an outing. Not much of an adventure. Just a quick drive around the block. But you did it. And as you did it, you changed the world.
I sincerely believe that.
Another really good friend of mine, Gina Bigham, coordinator for cultural arts at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, once told me that her activism was the simple act of stepping outside her front door. And being visible. And in a community of reluctant rebels -- a community that needed (and still needs) visibility -- that act of stepping out, showing our faces, and making our presence known – even if it was only to an unsuspecting, pimply-faced, teen-aged geek in the drive-though window at Micky D.’s - may have been the most important and most courageous act of all.
That was your tipping point. And the world hasn't been the same since.