Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to make ANY group appear sympathetic: Religious opposition

Let me start off by saying that I am unequivocally for gay rights, and what so many on the Right view with such revulsion, I am simply inclined to view with a feeling of supreme indifference. Although I am not gay myself there is simply nothing in there whole "insidious agenda" that would elicit more than a shoulder shrug from me. Marriage? Are we seriously still talking about this? LET 'EM MARRY ALREADY! That's a no-brainer. Hate Crimes Protection? DUH! They're VICTIMS of HATE CRIME, so again... ARE WE SERIOUSLY STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS? Protection form discrimination in jobs, education, child raising, etc... Seriously? WTF? Someone asking that they be treated like everybody else will simply never be viewed as a radical agenda by your truly. About the only issue I'd stop short on is that I'd still allow private adoption services (church based, or otherwise) to favor heterosexual couples in granting adoptions. And the ONLY REASON I even go that far has nothing at all to do with religion or with any 'damage' that would be done to the child; which has been shown to be bunk anyway! It's simply a question of fairness: The hetero couple generally had no idea that they are infertile when they got together. The homosexual couples OTOH DID know from the start that they could not conceive. SO, from that perspective, one is making an informed choice while the other is a victim of unknown circumstances. And again: I do support striking down the general prohibition of gays adopting children.

So... why am I tooting my horn about teh gay here? Well... I wanted to buff up my liberal cred a little before expressing some reservations about another sexual minority facing the same treatment, and basically asking for the same thing: TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE.

Now again, right off the bat, let me say unequivocally that I don't personally have any misgivings about this particular group. I've never known a transgendered person personally, but have had some online friends over the years who were. Why I differentiate my feelings between the two groups is two-fold. First off all: I can absolutely relate the the idea of homosexuality simply by recognizing that you just can't account for taste, or for who you fall in love with. Your only 'choice' in the matter is whether to embrace it or deny yourself. And while I've never had the difficult personal choice of whether or not to pursue a same-sex relationship, I CAN tell you that my life WOULD be a whole lot easier if I didn't have a thing for RED-HEADS. Nothin' but trouble those auburn dames! But whatever... as long as you're not in love with the same person as I am? I really couldn't care less WHO it is.

But it is infinitely harder form me to reconcile, within my own mind, the idea that I could only be happy if my gender were different. I DO recognize that there are many people who feel this way! But it's not a paradigm that I can really understand, from my own perspective. The closest I can come is to understanding this, is from the POV of rejecting traditional gender ROLES. Which both me and the red-haired tomboy I married both most definitely do. But that's a problematic and incomplete perspective to view this from, because transgenderism HAS to be about more that just the ROLE expected by a given gender, otherwise it wouldn't be just becoming a mainstream issue at a time in history when traditional gender roles are pretty much going by the wayside faster than ever before. No matter how I look at it, I know that there's something there that I just don't understand. And that makes it hard for me to really form an opinion or a position on these issues: When I try to put myself in each person's shoes, I can only really personally relate to (or understand) those standing in their way.

Some examples:

1) Dressing for work / the office. OK... YOU can tell me that, for example, "male" is not "your identity" and I'll believe you. But I can't accept employment law that compels an employer to let you come to work that way. THEY'RE JUST CLOTHES! I don't like wearing ties - that's definitely not my identity, a tie-wearing guy! But I still had to wear one (or quit) on each of my first two "real jobs" out of college! "Golfer" is about as far as you can from my identity as you can get while still remaining a white male, and yet I still have to dress like one to go to work. Or... I can quit. (Not in this job market!)

2) Non-Discrimination for Employment: (continued from above) Let's say I own a company. And I need to hire a salesman. Now, an otherwise qualified applicant that pings my admittedly weak 'gadar' a little, has no reason to expect this to be counted against them. Most people in this country have come to accept that gays are here, and no different form anyone else, and it is a precious few customers indeed that would walk away from a sale, simply because they were talking to a seemingly gay salesman. But... how can I have any idea how my customers will react to a man in a dress, or a woman who has gone beyond simply wearing a man's suit, but is trying to pass herself off as a man? I have to believe that most customers would be rather put of by that. (OK, maybe not if the illusion is perfect, but let's face it: it usually ain't!) And seeing as how my family, and my other employers depend on my company's revenue for their livelihoods how can I be reasonably expected to jeopardize that?

3) Identity: (continued from above) How you want to live on your own time is your own business. But EVERYONE is expected to behave a certain way at work. You are far from the only people that can't "be themselves." Do you think can be my liberal self, telling off all of my Hard-Right, Conservative, Republican bosses every time I hear them bitching about "Socialism," or whatever, under Obama? HELLS NO. Now I could win the argument - but I'd be sabotaging my career. That might not be right but it IS the world we ALL live in. Who I am at home, or online, is NOT who I am at work. At work, I'm a GOOD ENGINEER. Period. That is my identity AT WORK. It merely one aspect of who I am outside of work. (Those of you who know a few engineers probably already know that we never stop being engineers entirely!)

4) Bathrooms: I laugh a bit about this, because this is an issue that I could personally care less about. And lets face it: The controversey is not realy about Women going into the Mens room. Most men could care less. This is about MEN going into the LADIES room. Women are just all-around neurotic when it comes to the bathroom. I'm not judgin', BTW. I mean, whatever. Not really my place to say one way of the other, but this kind of thing FREAKS A LOT OF THEM OUT. And I'd love to say "just go in the men's room forfucksake!" Except that I know that in some places, they're at great risk of getting personally assaulted doing that. And I don't condone, or even understand, THAT kind of behavior at all, so I can sympathize with the TG's here, but I don't really have any good ideas to offer... At least none that come close to satisfying anyone.

Now... What I HOPE I conveying here is the impression that I am sympathetic to the individuals, but that it is an issue that I just have a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about. I don't think they're doing any harm at all, but at the same time, I think that the opposition from, say, employers or the other occupants of the ladies room, are also PERFECTLY REASONABLE, even if I don't necessarily share those same feelings myself. I may not agree wit them, but I do UNDERSTAND. And, as I said when I started, transgenderism is NOT something I truly understand.

There is one other thing... Homosexuality is no longer recognised as a mental disorder by any legitimate psychiatrist/psychologist, and hasn't been for ove 35 years now. "Gender Dismorphic Disorder" however (I believe that's the official term) IS still on the books. And the treatments prescribed are amazingly dichotic: Some advise "therapy to get the person to accept their natural/birth gender" while others focus on "therapy (and drugs, etc...) to help them embrace and transition to their chosen gender identity." Obviously either is about helping the person accept themselves, deal with depression, self-esteem, etc... but there's still an obvious split about WHICH 'self' it is the better one for them to accept. And yeah... that can depend on the individual, of course, but it could also depend, rightly or wrongly, on the political, religious or philosophical biases of the psych! So, I would say that I'm far from the only one who's 100% settled on homosexuality and yet still very much confused about transgenderism.

But when I come across stuff like THIS, or [the original article that inspired this that I now cannot find!] I am confronted with so much ignorance, hatred and bigotry (all tied to "traditional values" which is thinlky veiled code for "evangelical Christianity" and/or "Christian fundamentalism") that I am almost immediately inclined to give the transgendered community ANYTHING they want legislatively, just to stick it to those abominable bible-humpers.

As I said before: It is not an issue I understand very well. I'm man enough to admit that. (Pun intended.) But I know this for sure: These people are HUMAN BEINGS. And no human being deserves to be judged, or discriminated against on the basis of who they are, or how they appear. And I'm REALLY getting sick and tired of the argument that accepting homosexuality and/or transgenderism is somehow akin to condoning pedophilia. Remember: There's no crime without a victim. Pedophilia has a VICTIM - someone who has been denied their choice. But these people have never hurt anyone. And there is NEVER ANYTHING WRONG with teaching children not to hate or fear or (for Christ's sake) physically attack people that are not exactly like them or that the don't understand. That's called: COMMON SENSE, BASIC DECENCY AND THE ONLY ROAD TO PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE. So they can cram this "protect the children" bullshit. The only children being harmed here are the transgendered ones being attacked by schoolyard bullies who learned bigotry, fear and loathing from their parents as some kind of "family value."

Bottom line: The conservatives don't even want to understand this, either as a population of human beings or as a medical phenomenon. All they want to do is to justify their desperate clinging to medieval superstition. And THAT'S not an agenda I can EVER support.


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And for the record? You can add Chris Crocker to my list of 10 Liberals that I hate. (Give him Alan Colmes' spot!) Far from being a fitting spokesman for transgendered youth or the LGBT community, I find him to be an obnoxious, vulgar, drama-queen and little more than a whiny, publicity whore. In short, he makes the list for the same reason as anyone else on it: He does far more harm than good when it comes to fostering the public's understanding of these issues.

On a different note...
Here's a somewhat amusing web-comic with a largely transgendered cast. I'm not using it as a source of information or anything, but it IS an interesting story never-the-less.

Final thing: Should any transgendered people stumble accross this, and would be interested in educating a relatively open minded person, please contact me. My understanding may be lacking, but my desire to understand is genuine!

6 comments:

  1. Hi Eddie --

    I came here from the link in the comment you posted at Media Matters re Rush Limpballs comments about Tiger Woods because I liked your what you said.

    As I read this, I was getting more and more peeved because, mostly, of your excusing biased actions by those such as employers. You do know, I presume, that everything you say about TG employees was previously used to deny rights to blacks, women, gays, etc. Even the designation of transgender feelings as a "condition" applies. It really isn't very long since "homosexuality" was considered a disorder; I am pretty sure time will change this designation for transgendered people.

    OTOH, I must say I have enormous respect for your desire and willingness to learn about the topic. As someone who has been involved, both physically and emotionally, with more than one TG person and had to deal with the rather negative feedback, that puts you way, way ahead of most.

    Educate yourself. Engage in longer conversations with those you have known through e-mail. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Ideally, find yourself a TG friend who is willing to talk about these issues. But most of all, keep an open mind on the subject -- you seem like a person who can do that, unlike folks such as Limpballs.

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  2. You're absolutely right, and you're reading this exactly the way I intended.

    And believe me, I DO KNOW that these arguments have been used to defend all manner of bigotry... I know they're bogus. I also believe that everyone should keep an open mind, and be non-judmental about ALL THINGS that DO NO HARM.(And this obviously does no harm!)

    My frustration with this whole issue (primarily with myself) is the difficulty I'm having "put[ing] [my]self in their shoes," as you so aptly put it. 99.9% of the the time doing that just comes natuarally to me. It's integral to how I think. But this is an issue where I'm just finding it uncharcharisticlly difficult for me to do.

    Anyway, thank you for your post, sentiments and advice.

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  3. Thoughtful post, Eddie, and I like your back and forth with David.

    David, hello from Hastings.

    And Eddie, you can leave the auburn-tressed lassies to me. Some folks looking for trouble join the Marines, others, well, you get my drift.

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  4. Never! I can't live with 'em, but I can't live without 'em! (And I can't dodge their right hooks too well either!) LOL. I was in the boxing club in college and the hardest I was ever hit was by the red-haired girl I ended up marrying. Maybe I'll share the rest of that story sometime... LOL

    BTW - I'm going to revisit the transgender issue... I've got to think I can be better than merely falling for the same argument used by biggots since the dawn of time.

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  5. Eddie,

    So the girl who knocked you off your feet ACTUALLY knocked you off your feet. Gotta love it.

    By the way, in case you missed my comment on the pedophile thread, you were smokin', Joe.

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  6. Thanks. That was a lot of fun. And to an extent they were right about one thing - I didn't proove a by-the-book, according-to-Hoyle "correlation"... But the basic principle was certainly close enough to show that, no, in fact, there is SOME connection between politics and sexual practice. It could be as innocent as "Troubled individuals tend to be drawn to religion." But you gotta love how instead of addressing the main point, they kept trying to argue essentially irrelevant technicalities! LOL

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