Well, here I am with about six hours left in yet another year. 2007 draws to a close… remember when New Year’s Eve 1999 was so dramatic, with everyone assuming the world would end when we hit 2000? Ha! I knew we were safe. I didn’t buy any duct tape, jugs of water or other doomsday provisions. But I’ve always been a little more grasshopper than ant, for better or worse.
These visits to Nashville have become a bit of an annual tradition over the six years since I moved away, first to Chicago and then to Hollywood. Each year sees me a little wiser, a little more experienced, a little stronger and a little more tired. It really does happen… you really do get old! As a child you see old(er) people, and it seems like they’ve just always been that way. That they were never new and small and smooth, laboring under unformed ideas of what the world means and where their life falls within the greater patterns of humanity. But they were… I was. I was a child, but slowly I put away the things of a child and take on the things of an adult. To paraphrase the Bible, as I am wont to do.
The Bitter Part
I think my biggest challenge over the last several years, as I wake up and unfold my long-hidden self, is to not let bitterness over things lost in time to overcome me. I wrote about my feelings toward the general “straight world” a little in Mark 947, but as I enter into and connect with the straight world more each year, my resentment and anger seem to only build. I am a woman who loves men, which makes me heterosexual, but I understand with increasing clarity that I am not from the “Straight World” when it comes to culture, experience and privilege. I did not grow up accepted by them. I never experienced the freedom to love who I loved, to desire who I desired. I never had the example of how to bond, pursue, be pursued, give or take the love of those to whom I was attracted. I have always had all the same feelings of aching love, hot desire, goofy infatuation as any of the countless straight people among whom I was born and grew and lived. But my feelings were crushed under their spoken and unspoken disgust, revulsion and hatred. The very same feelings that they experienced freely and celebrated on Hallmark cards, shoved down my throat in endless advertisements, magazines, TV shows, movies, social customs and daily communication… those very same feelings burned in me, but they were branded as evil and ground under the heels of heterosexual America in self-righteous judgment and hypocritical “as long as it’s comfortable to me” religious fervor.
Before I rant too much on this subject, which has been on my mind a lot in the last year, I must acknowledge the straight folks who have been good friends. There have been a good number, enough to keep me from completely losing my faith in the category of person. And I know that I don’t have a monopoly on a tough, rejected childhood. I know that plenty of people were rejected or unpopular because they were “fat”, “unattractive”, socially awkward, poor, disabled and countless other situations. Each one has its own unique flavor of pain and growth.
Along the way, I also had many lukewarm straight allies who, to varying degrees, “didn’t mind” my femininity and attraction to men back when I was forced to live in the guise of a boy. As long as I wasn’t too vocal, too flamboyant, didn’t show attraction to them, didn’t talk about it around their friends, parents, family or work. As long as I kept it in the gay clubs they liked to visit for a laugh and a thrill before slipping quietly back into the comfort of their hetero lives. Some few were stalwart and uncompromising in their acceptance, but for most I was left feeling like their acceptance of me was a convenient gift they stood ready to revoke the instant there was any danger to themselves of being judged.
My biggest sore point is religious hypocrisy, because most all of the meanness directed toward trans women (and GLB people) comes under the umbrella of morality and religious judgment. As I’ve said many times, I don’t think I have ever met a true Christian, as defined by the behavior of Jesus Christ in the Bible. There isn’t a member of my own family who has judged me publicly or privately in whom I can’t identify at least one major sin. Of course I don’t care about their so-called sins… I don’t even believe that most of the things they do that the Bible would call “sinful” are all that bad. Drinking? Smoking? Cursing? Divorce and remarriage? Impure heart? Greed? Those things (in controlled moderation) just seem like human traits to me. But somehow, in the opinion of most of the world, especially the “religious as long as it’s convenient” segment that populates much of the places I grew up, a relative who is divorced and remarried is welcome to come to Christmas dinner, but a relative who has transitioned from male to female is not. In God’s eyes, all sins are equally damning when it comes time for Judgment Day. So what’s the real problem here? Though people hide behind their idea of God, the real problem is their own petty ignorance and meanness. There are so many eyes that need the beams cleared out of them before they worry about the mote in mine. There are so many people ready to cast the first stone, when they are so full of sin themselves that they are black with it. Thankfully, some family members have reached out to me and some seem like they may be trying to understand a little better. But it still makes me mad that I even have to endure the judgment and understanding of others for something as simple and natural as my sexuality and gender expression. It makes me mad to think of the years I’ve lost and will never regain.
Conservatives have worked hard to make the word “Family” into something that specifically means “Not GLBT people”. “Not Calpernia Addams”. As if we didn’t come from families (though many end up rejecting us and leaving us later). As if we don’t want families of our own. The American Family Association and the Traditional Values Coalition are good examples. By making words like “Family” and “Values” mean “Not Us”, they isolate people who are every bit as human as they are.
So every day I walk more and more easily through the straight world, read less and less as being anything other than another woman among all the others. Straight men look at me and desire me, straight women smile at me and confide in me. But more and more I look deeply into their eyes and wonder, what truths would you reveal about yourself if you knew that my journey to this place in life was so different from your own? I look at them, and think, “You are the people who laughed at me in school for being girly. You are the people who called me â€šÃ„Ã²faggot’ and excluded me from your schoolyard social rituals. Now as adults, you vote and elect to exclude me from the grownup social rituals of marriage, love and employment. Even just through your inaction, your silence, you allow the world to close itself off ever further from me and my friends, who are every bit as human and family oriented and values-having as everyone else.
It has become a struggle not to be bitter. It has become a struggle to find the love in my heart for a people, a culture, that has made it so difficult for me and my people. I am in the straight world, by nature of my female body and my love for men, but I am not “of” the straight world. This is a revelation that I never expected to have, but it seems correct to me and I am learning to make peace with it. I suppose the “immigrant” metaphor is the best way of explaining this feeling… Like someone who immigrated from Ireland to New York in the 1800’s, I now live somewhere new that is similar to my homeland, but different. I can get rid of my Irish accent, become a legal citizen of New York and seek to blend in. But in some way, I will always be Irish. This doesn’t mean that in some way I will always be “male”, because I will never be male. But in some way, I will always come from the experience of growing up outside of, and rejected by, the hetero world like all my GLBT brothers and sisters did. I’m glad I have this GLBT family, they have always been there for me and I think they always will be.
The Sweet Part
The good part is, I am not consumed by bitterness. I don’t think I’m ready or able to forget these truths, but I still am happy to live in the world I have now. I am glad I’ve fought my way up to this place. I still have hope in my heart.
There has been a lot of good to come in this last year. I was so thrilled to finish “Casting Pearls, tour the festival circuit with it, get distribution and see it play on Logo, remaining in the Top Ten ever since it debuted. Shooting “Transamerican Love Story” was such a revelation for me, as a person and as an entertainer. I am so SO very glad to get to do something high-profile that showcases my fun side, to move me forward from the tragedy of “Soldier’s Girl” in people’s minds. I just hope I continue to get some good acting opportunities alongside this fun reality work. Then, of course, there’s the upcoming V to the 10th: Vagina Monologues 10th Anniversary event in April!
In 2007, I strengthened many relationships (including with my straight friends, ha ha). I met some amazing people, and hope to strengthen my relationships with them in 2008. LTS people, holla!
I lived without a motorcycle in 2007, which was difficult… perhaps 2008 will hold a new set of wings for me! By that I mean a new bike, not a set of angel wings, ha ha. No more crashes!
There’s so much more to say… but a new year is coming, I have to get ready to greet it. Take care everyone, and be careful tonight. Have fun!