|Do you really need to take a walk in our shoes to understand us?|
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
A Walk in Our Shoes - A Blog for Suddenly Fem by CiCi Kytten
Not long ago, my friend Melissa gathered several years of confidence, summoned every bit of her inner strength, and came out to her parents as trans. When she boarded her plane from L.A. to the Midwest, she was full of optimism. After all, her openness and sunny personality had already won over countless friends, family members, and even total strangers here in Southern California.
But on this day, her luck ran out. Her parents reacted with rejection and disgust. And she was crushed. She fears that she may never see or talk to her parents again.
Not long after that, my buddy Amy, also confident and secure in her transition, was preparing to attend the funeral of a childhood friend. Sadly, as the event approached, Amy was informed that despite a lifetime of friendship and shared memories, she would not be welcome at the funeral. Simply because of who she is.
I could go on. Stories like these are commonplace in our community. Obviously, we’ve made great strides in the past few years. But social change takes time. And when the people in your life are behind the times, the effect on you can be devastating.
Trans kids are still committing suicide, trans people are still being murdered at alarming rates, and nice people who have done absolutely nothing wrong (like my two friends above) experience damaging emotional tragedies on a fairly common basis.
And I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand.
I certainly understand the negative reaction to non-conformity. That’s been around since the beginning of time. Humans move to the middle. We embrace and protect the status quo. We are naturally suspicious of all that is different or strange or alien.
I understand the hate and the fear. But I don’t understand the degree of the hatred. The depths of the distrust. What I don’t understand is the vehemence.
Melissa said that she had never heard such hateful words come out of her father’s mouth. And I can empathize with his feelings. The surprise of seeing his child in a whole new way. I can understand his shock. But not his revulsion.
Why so violent? Why so extreme?
I can see a situation in which if Melissa had confessed that she had committed a crime, cheated on a spouse, gambled away a fortune, or spent her children’s college tuition on crack – she would have been forgiven. Admonished perhaps. But still embraced by her family. Still forgiven.
And I wonder. In the eyes of others, is being trans worse than being a criminal?
I would understand if we had done something awful. If we had hurt someone or killed someone or denounced our country. But we have done none of those things.
We’re not anti-family. Many of us are devoted fathers, mothers, husbands or wives. And many more of us aspire to be.
We’re certainly not anti-American. Many of us serve our country, patrol our streets, and administer to the ailing and the aged.
We’re not anti-religious. Many of us remain devout – even to churches that deny our right to exist.
But mainstream America doesn’t want to see this. As though we’ve broken some cardinal rule. Some unwritten 11th Commandment.
Thou shalt not make others uncomfortable.
Obviously, we’d like to change all of this. Families shouldn’t be torn apart. Parents shouldn’t reject wonderful children. Husbands and wives shouldn’t have to break up. And young people shouldn’t live under the near-constant threat of bullying, unemployment, underemployment, assault, insult, suicide or murder.
And everyone – particularly school children – should have a safe and comfortable place to pee.
Is that too much to ask? And if it is too much, then what is the proper price to pay for the freedom to be oneself?
There’s a common saying that to better understand someone you should walk a mile in their shoes. And while I’m sure that would bring greater understanding and empathy to everyone in our community, I don’t think you need to walk a mile in my shoes to better understand me.
To better understand me and my friends, all you need do is walk a mile in your shoes.
Try it. Take a nice long walk. Slip into your most comfortable shoes. You don’t need to take anything along. Just an open mind. And as you walk, think of all that you wish for in your life. All that you cherish. And all that you hold dear. Your family. Your friends. The fact that you have a roof over your head. You wish for good health and a bright future. A good job. A nice raise. A chance to provide more for your family. You wish for love. And romance. And a good education. You want opportunities. Equal opportunities for you and your loved ones. You want your children to grow up happy. You want to keep them safe. And fed. And healthy. And proud.
Do you honestly think that I’m that different? That my wishes are so different from yours? That I don’t wish for all of those same things?
I’m not trying to convince anyone that they have to act like me or think like me or behave like me. And neither are my friends. All we want is the chance to be ourselves.
To be respected for who we are. Not disrespected for what we are.
My friend Melissa is strong. She’s not going to let anything get in her way -- not even her less-than-understanding parents. Amy is strong too. I’m sure she will find another way to grieve for her friend. Another way to say good bye. In her own way. Isolated and alone.
The place where far too many of our dearest friends and family insist that we remain.
To everyone out there. If you know a trans person. Particularly someone who has been ostracized or alienated or bullied or worse. Remember this: the greatest gift that you can open this holiday season is your heart.
Take care out there.
Be safe. Be smart. Be sexy.
Posted by CiCi Kytten at 11:07 PM