Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Courage

I've been thinking about courage lately. It's one of those virtues I've held in high regard for my entire life, perhaps because I spent so much of that life without it. Also thinking about transition, and all that that means and is – a chaos of thoughts and experiences: Sitting on a gender dysphoria panel talking about my life, and one of the audience says, "The two of you have more courage than everyone else in the room put together." Walking up to one of the most awkward and obvious transwomen I've ever seen, prior to my transition, and she said, "It's not courage. I'm just doing what I have to do." Coming out to my sister, and she turned to my brother and said, "I never knew we had a limp wrist in our family." My friend Devin downplaying her own courage after someone complimented her on the way she faces life and surgery.

It's actually a common theme among transpeople, that people say we're courageous, and we reply with something like, "Nah. It's not courage. You just do what you have to do." I certainly feel like that, most of the time. You just reach a point where you're so tired of hiding who you are, of lying to everyone, of loneliness, you just don't care anymore. The truth is better than a lie, no matter how badly the truth hurts. And you rip the mask off your face, stomp it into the gutter, and go out into the world with your self laid bare.

It's not courage that enables us to strip off the mask. That's exhaustion.

But it is courage to show who you are to a world that judges you and hates you because of who you are.

It's the courage of the Muslim woman who dons her head scarf to walk down an American sidewalk.

It's the courage of the black man who walks through the doors of a Fortune 500 company to ask for a job.

It's the courage of a gay couple holding hands in public.

It's the courage to raise your head up in the face of a life that's kicked you around, and living that life – and not only living it but embracing it with your whole heart.

It's not unique, and it's not really all that special. It's everywhere you look – it hides in every human heart – yet too often it's hidden away in a life not fully lived.

When you get right down to it, though – it is very special indeed. And when you're a transwoman, every time you step into the public eye you make a statement of courage. It gets to be such a habit, you don't even notice. It's just life, normal, boring, and taken for granted.

I don't want to take it for granted. I want to cherish it, value it, hold it close and raise it high like a candle lit on top of a hill, for all the world to see. Not to show you I'm special and have something you don't have.

No, I want to hold it up so that you can see what it is, and know that you have it, too.

3 comments:

- Sarah :-) said...

I was't sure which of your sotes to comment back on, so I'm working on writing back to you on my blog. It'll either be a blog written to you, or written in the comments section of the blog you comments on. Please do feel free to check it and comment again.

Kevin Davis said...

Hey Seda - found you off David Carrel's blog. After reading your comment on his blog I felt like saying, as a follower of Jesus, sorry for all the stupid, ignorant, non-loving things that have come from the 'conservative right' or just Christianity as a whole. Mainstream Christianity has a lot of problems, namely it's attempts to voices it's self in politics. Too many Christians try impose their belief in God on everyone else, assuming their morality should be everyone else’s and in so doing, alienate people - even hate people. But as any institution ran by humans, power/greed/faulty practices happen, people are hurt and for that I'm sorry. The Jesus I follow is a peacemaker and a way of living life through love. It's crazy 'cause I've been as hurt by the church as an 'insider' as many gays have been hurt as 'outsiders' - if that makes sense. But at the same time, despite it's many faults - the church is a beautiful organism of community and love. I consider myself an ambassador to those marginalized and turned off by the church - it is wrong the way gays, liberals, pro choice peeps and anyone else outside of the churches 'core' beliefs has been treated.

I'm open to conversation and would appreciated, enjoy and greatly benefit from your honest discourse.

Seda said...

Sarah,
I'll check it out.

Kevin,
I think there are two things driving me to this dialogue right now. One is to process the sadness and grief I've experienced personally through things like the loss of a friend who was a Christian and couldn't handle my transition because of that. That's personal to me, and I think it's unfair to ask you to carry that burden.

The other is to try to figure out who the Christians are who are funding groups like the Traditional Values Coalition, Concerned Women for America, and so on, which are actively engaged in persecuting LGBTQ folks by trying to pass or prevent laws that make it harder to meet our needs. Maybe that's not you, but maybe you can help me find and connect, and figure out what is driving them so hard to hurt us. What are they afraid of? How can I relieve their fear, without sacrificing my own needs?

Be blessed.

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.
~Helen Keller

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
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz