Today, my email informs me, is Transgender Day of Remembrance.†
I think it sucks that such a day is needed, but the fact of the matter is that one in four transgender people have been physically assaulted due to their identity. One in four. One in ten has been sexually assaulted because of who they are. I can’t even…what the bloody hell?‡
I don’t get why what’s in someone’s pants (if you are not interested in fucking them††) should matter a damn. I just don’t.
Neither do I get how someone can be a different gender than their body, exactly, but there it doesn’t matter if I get it. Unlike the violence I don’t understand, their gender expression harms no one. I don’t get people who like to knit Death Stars either, but I wholeheartedly support their right to do so.
Maybe I’m weird. When I run into something I don’t understand (that’s interesting and not harmful) I try to figure it out instead of beating it/them to death.
I’m going to give you a quick lesson on gender-neutral pronouns so I can talk about this more easily. My preferred method is pretty simple. In the singular, which is where the problem is in English, just use the appropriate form of “they” and take the “th” off.
(th)ey wants a peanut butter sandwich.
(th)eir job is throwing things at people.
Why would you do that to (th)em?
So. After research, my next method of figuring stuff out is writing. Devendra Karat is a character in my Hiro trilogy. Devendra is intersexed. Ey was identified as a boy in eir childhood, but once Devendra was free of eir home, ey stumbled into identifying as female and likes it. I don’t know if ey will stick with that–I don’t know as much as I’d like about Devendra yet. Ey isn’t one of those characters who just showed up unexplained, either–I’d planned for Devendra in my ’09 NaNo, but even in my planning I hadn’t figured out eir arc exactly. (Part of the problem is that I’d wanted to make it two books, then it grew into three, which is proper for a fantasy series, but there are two distinct and notedly different paths in my head for the third book, and neither of those has an ENDING so I don’t know where anyone, including Devendra, is going.) (There’s also the fact that book two is an unmitigated mess filled to the brim with awesome moments and cool stuff but with very little coherence to connect them. That’s the NaNo I did in two weeks, all right?)
The first time we meet Devendra, villagers are in the process of stoning em. You can understand why Devendra doesn’t spend a lot of time and thought exploring eir identity. In that time, in that place, it’s one or the other and Devendra had better make up eir mind.
Aside from being awesome, important to the story, and great fun to write, Devendra is part of my attempt to start conversations, to bring some familiarity to something cisgender people find incredibly strange.
It’s not easy to talk about these things. Often what happens is someone makes a statement–a well-meaning but ignorant statement–and gets eir feelings hurt by the response and gives up.
That’s not okay.
I’ve been there. It hurts when you’re trying to do something positive and you get smacked down. But that comes with learning, doesn’t it? If you were stuck in a room with a ticking bomb, would you stop learning about bomb disposal because you’d identified the timer as the detonator and someone on the radio told you that you’d got it wrong?
If your friend was dying of anaphylactic shock and you had an epi-pen and directions in your hand, would you refuse to use it because you’d already tried CPR and learned it was the wrong thing to do?
If a stranger was dying of anaphylactic shock, would you THEN refuse to use the epi-pen?
I’m not being overly dramatic. People are DYING because of the intolerance. We who think that’s wrong–even if we don’t understand why transpeople do what they do, even if we don’t know how to talk about them without getting scolded for getting it wrong–we need to try harder, not go sulk in our corners because we tried to reach out to the poor weird people and got snarled at. Acceptance spreads. Knowledge promotes understanding.
“We don’t like what we don’t understand
in fact it scares us and this monster is mysterious at least”
“Bring your guns, bring your knives
save your children and your wives
save our village and our lives
LET’S KILL THE BEAST!”
I vote we take “monster” and “beast” and put those tags where they belong–on Ignorance. It’s the real danger here.
† Don’t think that means I don’t care, please. I need my email to remind me to tell my kid to practice the flute. Every day.
‡ Numbers quoted from an email sent by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
†† And if you are interested in fucking them, one hopes you are not so flippin’ shallow as to change your mind because of the equipment.
Here’s my friend Patricia Lynne with her post on the same important subject.