Ronald Reagan once famously said, “The nine scariest words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
But I never felt more grateful, or more relief from fear, than at 11:30 p.m. on 4/3/2003, when, less than three minutes after I called 911, a firefighter jumped out of his truck and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” So many treasures were saved, smoke-damaged but salvageable, because of his quick action.
And I felt fine when my car broke down on a lonely highway, and a highway patrolman pulled up behind me and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
I liked it, too, when I was researching something unfamiliar, and a librarian approached me and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
When I was wondering whether the electrician wired my house correctly, or whether I’d have to worry about another fire, I felt relieved when a building inspector showed up and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
And when the tornado swept through my town, and the FEMA inspector showed up and said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” what a relief that was! (Obviously, that was prior to 2001.)
When I wanted to know if the plans I had drawn up for my new house were structurally sound, I took them to a plans examiner, who said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
When I took my kids to the municipal pool, the lifeguard said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
When I needed a better job, I went to the public university (which I could almost afford, way back then), and every instructor said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
When I got laid off, the unemployment caseworker said, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” and I got assistance in finding a new job and enough money to survive on while I searched.
Again and again, when I need information, or assistance, or education, or relief, I turn to the government. Park rangers. Clean water. Roads. Schools. None of them wanted to sell me anything. They just wanted to provide a service, and make my life a little bit more wonderful.
And I wonder: How can I get so many services, of such great value, for so little? Certainly not from the private sector. Less than 20% of my income goes to provide all this. Others, who make more, pay more. I’m grateful to them. I would so much rather have someone from the government, than a handout.
I think Mr. Reagan got it wrong. They're not the scariest words. Perhap, though, they are the nine most welcome.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
Reading List for Information about Transpeople
- Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
- Conundrum, by Jan Morris
- Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
- My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
- Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
- She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
- The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
- Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
- Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
- Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
- Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
- True Selves, by Mildred Brown
- What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
- Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano