The Small Rebellion of Being Who You Are

So, Ryan wrote this really beautiful post on how he was kind of caught off-kilter by his emotional response to seeing Chas Bono on Dancing with the Stars.

My personal reaction to Chaz has surprised me.  I didn’t expect to feel emotional about it, I didn’t expect to feel as invested as I have in him competing on a silly dancing television show.  But I found myself mesmerized watching the first episode, voting as many times as I could for him to stay on, and watching every week to see how he does.  Last night when he was eliminated I was emotional again hearing him say how his life would have been different if he could have seen someone like him on television when he was younger.  I was emotional because until I saw it, I never realized the sheer impact of seeing someone like Chaz on national television, not being studied on a talk show or the butt of jokes on a sitcom, but dancing alongside everyone else, could do for someone.

One thing Ryan’s post got me thinking about is how there is this is kind of a weirdness in activism, one that, I think, has been really helped by blogging. The weirdness is that what makes a good activist is often personal discomfort. You are so outraged that you must do or say something. And that’s great. We need activists.

But not everyone is an activist. And I think it can be hard for people who want to imagine a way to live their lives in some quiet manner to find people who are living their lives in a quiet manner to view as inspiration. People who are in great discomfort now want to know that there’s some hope for it to be resolved. But this is what Ryan is getting at about Chaz. He’s just appearing on some stupid show, in the same manner everyone else appears on the stupid show. It’s like activism of the mundane.

And I think that’s one of the things that blogging has really done well–allowed people who otherwise wouldn’t have it a chance to develop a voice and a platform and to tell their ordinary, unique stories.

As terrible as the statistics Ryan offers up about the realities transgender people in our country face, I don’t think that, even ten years ago, you could have easily found those statistics unless you were already a part of the activist community. And now, it will be completely ordinary for you to click on that link and read them.

Change can’t work without the in-your-face crowd. It just can’t. You need the radicals to open up room for the non-radicals. So, I hope this post isn’t construed as somehow criticizing the front-line activists. But change comes when the avant-garde (in the literal sense) have opened up the possibility and people who aren’t as radical have stepped in to take it.

But then, the people who are farther back need to know, somehow, that there is an ordinary, happy life available. That the possibility has been opened up and you can take it. That’s one thing that I think blogging has been really good at–providing glimpses of how boring and ordinary everyone’s lives are. I think that, without the mechanism of blogging (and Facebook and Twitter), it’d be a lot harder for people to know of the possibilities.

Anyway, it seems like one of the things that’s always used against minorities–racial, sexual, class, and gender–is that “they’re” not like “us.” “They” do all these things we would never do–have too many kids, have sex in “bizarre” and “wrong” manners with the “wrong” partners, have partners they can’t or don’t feel real connections to like “we” do, and deserve the shitty things that happen to them because they are so different than “us.”

Any time one of “us” comes out and says “Hey, I am the ‘them’ you’re talking about,” it opens the possibility that hearts and minds will change. But more importantly, it reduces the power of the boogey-man used to terrorize members of those minority groups into keeping quiet or being ashamed of who they are. You’re not a monster or so totally fucked up that things will never get better. You’re like your mom’s friend, or the girl you know at school, or the guy who wrote that post on the internet.

9 thoughts on “The Small Rebellion of Being Who You Are

  1. You are awesome, B. You inspire me to go out there and be the avant-garde for pedantic, self-righteous curmudgeons everywhere– ah, shit. Never mind.

    Great post.

  2. B, I’m running crazy-pants with nerves and moving and other stuff this week, and so it took me a long time to figure out what I should have seen sooner.

    I was insomniac over at Coble’s place last night when I made the connection between this post and the mutilation/cult induction. It’s a straight line from one to the other. This and Ryan’s gorgeous testimony are the perfect way–the only way–to refute the craziness that leads people like your “Doctor” to heap shame on you for daring not to look like she thinks you ought to look. The quiet refusal to bow down to that shit and just keep on living your life. I love it.

    You are brilliant, as always. I’m sorry I’m slow and it took me a while to get it.

  3. But what if I also want to have sex in bizarre manners? ;-)

    Thank you for this, B. You get it, as always. I feel like I could almost write a whole other post in response to this, but coming out is something I struggled with for a long time because I was so comfortable having a quiet, normal life. And also because I thought I could have more of an impact by being someone everyone thought of as a normal, cisgendered dude who was supportive of GLBT causes. I thought that by revealing my past it would somehow make my impact less because it would seem as if only people who have a vested interest in these issue should care.

    I remember going to one GLBT lobbying day when I lived in Nashville, sitting there nicely dressed, a respectful member of the community who was employed by one of Tennessee’s largest companies. I met with a lawmaker over a proposed bill at the time to allow trans people in Tennessee to change their birth certificates after transition (TN is one of 2 states I believe who don’t allow this change). The guy asked me why I thought this was important and I very calmly said, because being born in a state that allowed this change is why I can now have a career in this state with an employer that I never had to tell about my own gender change. I watched his jaw drop and smiled.

  4. I honestly can’t decide if I’m secretly kinky or secretly sheltered or if my bar for bizarre is just way high, but I’m having a hard time thinking of kinds of sex I would find bizarre.

    Not for me? Sure. Plenty of things that are not for me. But more power to those who do.

    Anyway, Ryan, your comment is exactly what I’m trying to get at. It’s great that there are activists in the sense of “We’re here, we’re [whatever], get used to it.” But there’s also real power in being able to say “You like and respect me and I am or do those things you’re so afraid of.” Both things are very necessary for real change to happen.

    And those things are both very necessary for the advancement of transgender rights. Hell just transgender safety.

    You’re doing good things and I’m feeling a little mushy about it, I guess.

  5. I teared up when Chaz said that, too. And yes to exactly what you and Ryan are both saying about the power of seeing marginalized groups gaining acceptance by simply being. This same idea of course was why Harvey Milk thought it so important for people to come out to their family and friends, because it’s a lot easier to oppose the rights of some scary group of “others” than it is to do so when it’s someone you know and like.

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