The other day I expressed frustration on social media regarding a high profile writer in the progressive Christian world. Her name is Rachel Held Evans. She had been tweeting as an ally on social media, but there were some aspects that bothered me. She is white and cis het. I did not expect much response to my commentary. What I got reminded me of what I experienced when I was critical of youtuber, Laci Green. In one corner I had the agreement of the LGBTQIA community and the vitriolic disagreement from the straight white cis het progressive community in the other. Combine this with what I’m learning in the black community after Charlottesville. I am seeing that there are things I know and things I don’t know. Many accuse me of being wrong, but I believe that I am on the right side of wrong.
Let’s start off with what I don’t know.
- I don’t know what it’s like to be black in America.
- I don’t know what it’s like to be transgender in America.
- I don’t know what it’s like to be queer in America.
- I don’t know oppression like other demographics do.
Now let’s get into what I do know.
- I know that I benefit from racism.
- I know that I benefit from cis het culture.
- I know that I am blind to my privilege sometimes.
- I know that my most popular blogs are often times due to white cis hetero progressives defending bad behavior.
It is the last thing that I know that bothers me most. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting hits and being read. I just wish the stuff that was getting read was the sublime stories I’ve told of my son, his peers, and the people that support him and the community.
No, that is not it. I get bad ally apologists and defenders of various religious figures. They are so ardently defending them while saying they support trans rights that they completely miss the fact that virtually all the transgender readers as well as parents and partners of transgender individuals are in agreement with me on the harm these voices create. The comments of the voices that matter are ignored and silenced.
This lament of mine really hit home when I said what I said about Rachel Held Evans on one of my social media accounts. Again, it was in passing and I did not think much of it. Next thing I know I see 3 trans and gender non conforming people sharing their agreement and a cacophony of white progressive christian defenders. I did not want to engage in the questions or challenges of the progressives.
Why? Because history has proved that they are not interested in listening. They enter the conversation with their minds made up that their heroes are perfect. Anything you come back with will be met with rebuttal after rebuttal.
There is no longer a dialogue about facts and feelings, you now have cross monologues seeped in semantics. While this volley of exchanges across the net of a bunch of cis people (including me) goes on, the voices that need to be heard are not heard.
Progressives and liberals and allies (oh my): If you truly want to see change. If you truly want to see a world that is better than Trump’s America or the Evangelical version of Christianity posited in the Nashville Statement, you have to listen to the people you claim to support. If we are white, we have no idea what it is like to be black or hispanic right now. If we are cisgender and hetero, we have no idea what it is like to be transgender, genderqueer, or any of the other aspects of the beautiful rainbow of gender identity and sexuality. If we are male, we do not know what it is like to be a woman dealing with rape culture and misogyny.
If we or someone we admire is doing something that may be harmful to the very people we say we support, it is time to shut up and listen, not defend at the very expense of those we claim to love. When we do that, we do not love. We show that this is our story of how wonderful we fancy ourselves to be and not the story of all of us fighting for a better or safer world.
Standing up for my son has cost me financial security, jobs, status in the community, friends, and many other things. If you are not willing to swallow a little pride to learn, you have no place claiming to defend and stand with those who face loss of life and civil rights.
I can fade the heat and I do it every day.
Especially this past month I have had my notions and ideas challenged by people of color, women, LGBQIA persons, and the transgender and genderqueer community (which includes my son). In every instance, I listen. In almost every instance, they were right. In the one small instance that was the exception, I still learned a lesson about my delivery.
In a point of exhaustion I have thought about resigning myself to telling just the sublime stories that no one reads. Those stories need to be read. But so do the others. I’ve been receiving communications that have made me realize some things. Even if I am wrong in the eyes of the cis het progressive community, I am on the right side of wrong. Over the last month or two the following has happened:
- Other bloggers in the trans community have had late night conversations with me online and we are becoming friends.
- Parents of transgender and genderqueer people have been writing me with their own stories and we are relating to each other and our love for our children on a very real and significant level.
- I’ve gotten to create a bridge between two important parties. M is a gender fluid UMC ordained deacon on the forefront or activism. They now know the gender clinic my son and many of his friends go to for medicine, support and advocacy.
- Letters like this from struggling and hurting people:
“I was going to comment on one of your posts. But I am too scared. Scared some family member I am not out to yet might somehow see it. Scared some of our mutual atheist friends might be disappointed that I have “back peddled” or at least am teetering on the verge of the cliched “spiritual but not religious” once again. Scared sincere LGBTQIA person of faith but be offended I would even consider ministry when I am not Christian enough. Anyway, with that long preface, here is the even longer comment I spent a half hour trying to get just right, that still feels just wrong: I have been out of the “loop” for so long I had not heard about the “Nashville Statement” or RHE’s reaction or that of any other religious group or individual. After noticing your posts and an hour of googling, days of soul searching may come to an end once again again with a decided “no.” I have actually been considering “going back to ministry” in the form of a chaplaincy position, that if accepted might just allow me to be the liberal, agnostic, poetic, bisexual that I am while affirming there is something good across all major expressions of faith. Perhaps there is too much bad to ever warrant going “back” in any capacity. There is too much hate, too much ignorance. Even if I walked into a position where I am “allowed” to be myself and be an ally to others, would I be guilty by even the loosest of associations? I think I might. Perhaps there is too much bad in the hierarchical structures (even the progressive ones), too much bad in the tradition, too much evil in the “sacred texts” to allow me to ever again be even the loosest of representatives of Christianity, or religion in general. Pat, I’d be very interested in your input and even more interested in the input of the folks who have commented and identified as both queer and Christian.”
- I have an opportunity to use this blog as a springboard to the voices who truly need to be heard. The trans community. I’ve always been clear that I am a cis het voice and that does not give me a full perspective. I have invited anyone in the trans community to guest blog. Twice now, my son has blogged here with his thoughts on things. That has been wonderful, but now I have a new guest blogger coming soon. The last few days I have been in conversation with a young lady who’s transgender. She has an amazing story to tell. The more I speak with her, the more thrilled I am. It is my hope that her voice captures hearts and imaginations. My hope is also that her voice rises above mine and finds its own platform. Her perspective, her heart and her experiences and passions and hurts can best be told by her and not me.
- Finally, my son and his friends in the community. I love them more than I can ever express. I don’t have much left, but I will continue to sacrifice for them and stand by them. End of the day, my love for my kid and doing right by him means far more than the myopic opinions of a bunch of self proclaimed progressive allies who want to argue and defend more than they want to improve. Your opinions of me will lose to my love for my son every day. There are lives in the balance. I do not have the time or interest to coddle the feelings of sensitive allies hurting people.
I needed this rant to purge myself of the anger and hurt boiling inside of me. Thank you for reading. I cannot wait for you to meet my new friend when she writes here.