These days, as a straight ally, I’m proud of the many people I see pushing for equal rights, and by that, not just the people affected, but the sheer number of ever-increasing allies. There’s a long road to go, but standing here, looking back 15 years, it seems like the struggle is a 180 of what it was back then. Hell, I am a 180 degree version of what I was back then. Grew up small town, intelligent, but a product of my surroundings, and very homophobic. It took years, it took people who mean so much to me, friends and family, to start changing my perspective. These days, I try my best to be as strong an ally as possible, because I know that some people can change.
I find it disheartening though, when I hear news about transgender issues, and I see many of these same people, who had made me proud for their support of gay equality, forgetting that there is a T in LGBT. I try to understand WHY, and sometimes the only reason I can come up with, is that they haven’t been exposed. Truthfully, there are many people who support equality causes, who didnt before, and it was a transformation of love - a good friend, a beloved relative, someone whose struggle they personally witnessed, whose pain they could see. And I guess for many people, they haven’t encountered someone transgendered so they don’t have a frame of reference.
I wish my eye-opener was under better circumstances. Its a story that opened my eyes and opened my heart, but it carries a lot of shame for me at the same time.
It was 2004, Austin TX, and a bunch of us livejournal geeks were going to see my friend Ainjel’s going away show. At that time, Austin was a pretty fairly livejournal-connected place socially (we were constantly moving into bigger social circles, etc). There was this transgendered woman there named Beth, and my friend made a funny joke. I made it back, I thought out of earshot.
That day, after the show, there was some jokes made on a mutual LJ friends journal, about “tranny loving” and it got back to Beth.
Beth was very offended. At first I defended our humor, “hey we didnt make that joke at you” and then “it was all in good fun, it was just a joke” (all reasons that at the time, seemed rational. Present day me would want to slap the shit out of 2004 douchebag me). My friend Ainjel expressed her disappointment to me, as Beth was special to her and a good friend. I argued with Beth for a little bit online, then saw this left in her livejournal:
I have probably spent more time doing volunteer work in the past 2.5 years (since I came out) than the whole of you have done in your entire lifetimes combined. Did any of you know that? I’m a grad student and a member of two honor societies, one of which only inducted 11 peopleworldwide last year (including me). Betcha didn’t know that one either. I’m very loyal to my friends and have been known to stay out on weeknights till 3 or 4 in the morning listening to their problems. I’m a poet who was really well known (under a previous name) in the underground scene in the mid-90’s. I was one a pilot for Cinemax a few years ago. I have acted in more than 15 plays, including a charity production of The Vagina Monologues (well, some of you may know about that one because I posted announcements in Austin Community). I’m the oldest of five children from a blue collar family in rural Arkansas. I am a professional writer, and my paternal grandparents were illiterate.
But, apparently none of that, or any of the other details about my complex, and I think quite fascinating life, because to you guys all I am is a chick with a dick.
I felt real bad after that. I can be an asshole, but by nature, I don’t go out of my way to try to make anyone feel bad. I’m not a bully. I got ahold of Beth, sincerely apologized, and asked if I could make it up to her in town over a few beers. She said that would be okay.
I woke up in the morning, and checked Beth’s LJ. I was hoping for a happy entry, something that indicated that she was no longer bothered by last night.
Instead, there was a comment that Beth was dead, from her roommate. Cause not listed, I sat there for hours, horrified that I had pushed her over the edge, and weary from having to defend herself, she took her own life. (This is not about my feelings though).
It turns out, Beth died overnight, complications from a recent infection with appendicitis. And the relief from knowing I hadnt pushed her to suicide, gave way to “her last day on this Earth, and she spent it arguing with self-important assholes who mocked her”. Her last livejournal entry, is chilling. Its a summation of her life, everything she was proud of, and how quickly it was dismissed by everyone else, including me at the time.
I did my best to honor her memory. I went back as far as her journal would go, and I read about her life. I read as she went from Brian, unsure, to her point of certainty, where she realized the life she was living was a lie. I saw a determination to be who she was meant to be, to not apologize or hide her head for it, and many examples of bravery along the way. Being ostracized by her family, many of whom still insisted on calling her “Brian” after her passing.
If you’re so inclined, I’d like for you to be able to read her words too. She’s been gone since June 06th, 2004, but there is much that can be learned from her life.
http://dew1969.livejournal.com/ <—-Beth Westbrooks journal
I try these days to try to be a good ally. I don’t word police my friends all the time but I correct them when they use the word “tranny” to describe anyone trans (unless its porn. I’m not getting PC about porn).
I understand that gender isnt necessarily binary, its not necessarily 0s and 1s, black and white. When my friends make stupid statements, such as worrying about what bathrooms they’ll use, I try to explain cis privilege to them, try to clear up their misconceptions. I know I don’t do enough (sometimes I’m not sure what to do) but Im always open to suggestion as to what more and how I could be a better ally.
Civil rights for one is civil rights for all, and if you’re going to support the struggle for equality, dont forget its LGBT.
Also, kudos to the San Antonio City Council for passing the Non Discrimination Ordinance (8-3), allowing workplace protections within city limits for gay and trans employees.
This is what racism looks like.
Racism is the utter lack of compassion it takes to see a mother grieving for a boy and afraid for her own sons, and think, “Wow, that would be really easy to tweak in Photoshop to make her look stupid. Wouldn’t that be funny?”
Racism is dehumanizing. Racism robs this woman of her individuality, her humanity, and her gender. “And ain’t I a woman?” This mother ain’t a woman to “The Patriot Nation.” She’s an object to be ridiculed for mistakes she never made; mistakes, in fact, that someone intentionally added to a photo of her for the purpose of mocking her grief and fear.
Racism is someone in front of his computer whose face twists into the same mask of disgust we see in grainy old black and white films of the KKK burning schoolhouses and churches, and instead of a racial slur spilling from his curled-back lips, he sneers, “Sheeple,” or “Socialists,” or “Obamanation,” and he clicks “like” and “share” on this photo because there’s no little switch in his brain to say: “Is this right to do to a human being?” No. The filter turns off when his hate is triggered by this image. And the really scary thing is, that missing filter means he’s also missing the ability to honestly ask himself, “Am I responding this way because of this woman’s race?”
This is also what courage looks like, over there on the left.
Courage is a woman who knows damn good and well that there are people in the world who will use and abuse anything she does in the public eye to slander her, her community, and the sons on whose behalf she’s protesting.
Courage is a woman with her head held high holding a protest sign of her own making in front of a news camera. She is old enough to have three sons. Surely, she has experienced racism before. Surely, she was raised to “never ever forget [she] was born on parole,” and surely she knows that speaking for her sons means taking risks with her own image, her own safety, and her own reputation.
The cost of courage in nonviolent protest has changed. Those who march peacefully may no longer risk firehoses and police dogs’ bites (though they do risk being attacked with chemical weapons), but they now risk digital slander as impossible to remove from the Internet as unflattering photos of Beyonce.
One acute injury, one arrest, or a lifetime of being “the stupid woman with the misspelled sign” online when you KNOW damn well you can spell “sons” (and so can all of your sons, for that matter)? Dog bite, or teenage niece who gets on Facebook for the first time calling to ask why auntie doesn’t know how to spell?
I think I’d take the dog bite, personally.
Showing my work: The racist photoshopped image was found on Facebook. Use of FotoForensics validated my assumption (based on jpeg artifacts) it had been resaved repeatedly. A Google reverse image search using the photoshopped image revealed the original. I used SnagIt to create the side by side comparison here. To his credit, the friend who first shared the fake version retracted it and declared it “despicable” after being shown the original photo.
I obviously do not own the original, but I grant any and all permission to use the above comparison image for purposes related to rescuing this anonymous woman’s reputation from racist attempts to depict her in unflattering and false ways via sharing of a “meme” anywhere, in perpetuity. As an additional sidenote, if anyone knows the woman depicted, please give her a hug from me.
You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.
You have to pay your electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all. — Cheryl Strayed (via samamanthacox)
(Source: poco-cocoa, via athenafatale)
I know, right? It’s almost as if the other party were full of racists and bigots!