“How About We Don’t Argue?” This is a sentiment that many people want to have. It would make all of us more comfortable. But it doesn’t make us all safer. To upset the balance, to make society safer, some arguments need to be had. Some arguments need to stop. Change is uncomfortable. There is also a larger story to the comic I have in this post.
The artist of the comic is Sophie Labelle. She writes comics that my son and many parents of trans youth I know love. Sophie’s comic is called “Assigned Male” and she writes from a place of experience. I am grateful she gave me permission to use this comic in my blog.
For those that do not know, assigned gender is the gender you were born into. This particular comic has more to say than “how about we don’t argue”. The full message is, “How about we don’t argue when someone facing an oppression we never experienced tells us that what we are saying is problematic?”
I am not transgender. I am cisgender. As a cisgender parent of a transgender child who faces societal oppression, the arguments hurt. I cannot imagine what these arguments are doing to my son, his peers, and the many adult trans friends I have.
Before I go further, I need to clarify something. I am cisgender. Being cisgender or called cisgender is not an insult. It is the recognized term for those of us who identify with our birth gender. Recognized by biologists, sociologists and a great deal more.
Over the last week I have seen a lot of cisgender people having arguments regarding transgender issues. A lot has been happening to argue about. A trans woman was shot point blank in the face by members of a hate group in Indiana. They were not charged with a hate crime. The state of Texas House passed a bathroom law that would relegate all of the trans children and adults there in dangerous and harmful circumstances if signed into law. These are the matters that the trans community and, to a lessor extend. allies have been fighting. The fight for a right to not be shot in the face and to pee safely. That is not what others want to argue about, though. They want to argue about the trans community daring to be offended by things that hurt them.
Last week I wrote an article about Laci Green that was not truly about her. It was about the lessons I learned from her controversy that helped me become a better ally and father. I also gave some resources that my son has found helpful. Many people accused me of being an SJW trying to censor conversation. Why? Because I pointed out that Ms Green had some of her facts wrong, offered accurate resources, and gave helpful advice on how to talk to and with oppressed people about their pain.While children have been losing their rights and hate groups are literally shooting people in the face I am being accused of being an SJW. I have had cisgender people who say they need the information and discussion in the Laci Green info to better understand while telling me what the trans people need to do to win the hearts and minds of the cis world. Allow me to rephrase that last one. People who say they do not understand the issues that are getting their information from a questionable source are telling me how I need to parent my child and how the entire trans community ought to behave.
It is hard enough to deal with the evangelical conservatives who oppose trans issues, but some of these arguments have also come from the atheist community. Many in the religious community place their understanding of the Bible over science, reason, and compassion. Many in the atheist community claim science and reason as core values and also point out studies that prove they are more compassionate. Despite this claim, some of them are causing harm and betraying that claimed value. Now before I hear not all christians and not all atheists behave this way, of course I understand this. But the ones that do in both camps are causing unintended harm. They are arguing about the validity of the harm and claiming that we are shutting down conversation.
If you have honest questions about gender identity and want to better understand transgender issues, the resources are out there. There are many willing ambassadors in the trans community that will answer honest and respectful conversations. The peer researched science is out there written by biologists, psychiatrists, physicians, sociologists and other academics.
If you are truly trying to understand these issues and concerns, I’m glad. Please do not suggest to the trans community what they should do to gain equality while their lives are being extinguished and rights are being threatened.
During the civil rights struggles (which is still a struggle) Martin Luther King dealt with a lot of this. While dealing with the opposition restricting the rights and threatening the lives of black people, he had the white mainline church and the white liberals accusing him of shutting down conversation, being too angry, and giving advice on how to behave without fully understanding the experience of the black American. King’s response was to write the historic “Letter From A Birmingham Jail”. A letter written when he was literally sitting in a jail cell because he wanted to be equal. It was a letter written to the liberal mainline clergy who were not standing with him while their ethos said they should.
Time and time again history has taught us that we who are not oppressed often do a poor job of supporting and understanding the plight and experience of those who are oppressed. History has taught us there is a better way and these mistakes do not need to be repeated.
Change is uncomfortable and because we do a poor job supporting, the ones affected are frustrated, they are hurt, they are fighting for their lives and their rights. We need to listen and we need to support and we do not get to name the tune they dance to. That plan has not worked terribly well.
For the life of my son, for the over 37 trans lives taken by murderous violence in the USA the last 18 months, and for the countless trans children and adults facing tyrannical laws in Texas and North Carolina and other places I ask for ears that listen and feet that stand with the oppressed.