When the discriminated discriminate


I just read this piece from Thought Catalogue, “The Queer Community has to Stop Being Transphobic” and I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of the author.

I used to be a transphobic gay man.
….
“I know I’m supposed to get it because I’m gay,” I said, “but I just don’t understand the whole trans* thing at all. It makes me feel so weird.”

That’s exactly how I felt. You would think that being gay would make it easier to understand what being trans is like, but on the contrary, I think it made it harder.

I would think to myself, yeah, I can totally understand not wanting to follow these stupid gender norms that society sticks by. I can understand being a girl and preferring to do guy things, preferring to wear guys clothes. I can even relate to the feeling of wanting to be a guy, or be more guy-like in appearance. Yet it’s because I could identify with all that so closely, I couldn’t understand why they needed to go one more step to actually become the other gender.

I mean, I would ideally prefer it too, if I were taller, more muscular, more masculine… but I can accept that this is how I was born, this is my body. I can learn to accept my body for its good points and ‘bad’ points, why can’t they? Don’t they realize that being a girl doesn’t mean you need to follow society’s stupid rules for girls? You can still wear pants, you can still do whatever you want to do. Why should the physical body matter so much? 

Why should it matter so much indeed.
To throw the question back at myself: why should clothes matter so much? Surely clothes matter even less than your body. Surely a colour would matter less. Surely… all these little stereotypically girl activities and accessories… what’s the big deal? Why can’t you just accept them? They are just things.

And yet I would feel so uncomfortable and out of place in a dress. Like a fish out of water. I wouldn’t feel like myself. Probably as uncomfortable as an average guy would be, if he were forced to wear a dress. Okay, admittedly slightly less since I’ve inevitably been ‘forced’ to wear dresses in my life time.

The other day I watched ‘These Ears Have Walls 2‘. It follows three separate story lines about lesbian couples, in different time periods, all set in the same house.

The first story was thoroughly depressing and the last story was positively uplifting and happifying (helllo Ellen Degeneres and Sharon Stone!). It’s really heartening to see just how far we’ve come and how different things are (in some places), from 1961 to 2001. But it was the second story, set in 1972, that was the most intriguing and thought provoking to me.

(spoilers!)

The story focusses on Linda, a young student who shares the house with a few friends, all lesbians. They are also part of a feminist group, but are being kicked out as the group doesn’t want to be associated with or thought of by others as a ‘lesbian group’ and want to be taken seriously as feminist.

The interesting tension comes when the friends go to a dyke bar and are disappointed and disapproving of how the lesbians in the bar fulfill traditional butch and femme roles. Linda, however, is charmed by and falls for Amy, a butch in a shirt and tie who rides a motorbike. Despite Linda’s efforts to get her friends to be accepting and open, they continually make fun of Amy.

It feels so ironic to me when people turn into exactly what they are fighting against. Like anti-gay religious people claiming that they are all about love, acceptance, forgiveness. This case is worse than that though; you’re clearly part of the same outcasted group, and yet you still discriminated against each other?

It reminds of that that scene from the L Word when the main L Word characters make fun of Moria for being ‘butch’ and for categorizing lesbians into those traditional roles. As though that’s something backward and old fashioned, something to be laughed at. Shouldn’t being part of the same out-casted group be enough to make you realize that how you are treating them is exactly the way you don’t want others treating you?

Yet I can still see both sides of the story. The girls dislike Amy because they see her, and  butch lesbians, as part of the problem. Here they are fighting for equal rights for women, for girl power and the empowerment of all things feminine. And here there are these females who are, bizarrely and counter-productively apparently trying to be men. Why buy into the idea that a suit and tie and masculinity means power, means control? Why think that you have to be the ‘male’ in the relationship and buy the drinks and make the moves and buy the flowers? All that chauvinism is exactly what they’re fighting against and they don’t want people from their own ‘ranks’ undermining their position.

On the other hand, Amy is just like them– she knows who she is and she accepts herself and will not lie or back down about who she is, even if she knows that it will make life difficult for her. She stands up for her own truth, just as they stand up for theirs.

The ugliest moment was when the girls made fun of her to her face, tried to mess up her neatly gelled back hair, and forced her to put on a girly top. Trying to ‘free’ her from her ‘self imposed’ restrictive masculine persona when in fact what they were doing were forcing Amy into their own box.

In another scene from the L word, Max (formerly Moria) tells Jenny, “If you think men are the enemy, then you and I have a problem.” Yes, men, or masculinity, aren’t the enemy, even for feminist. The enemy is bigotry, the enemy is oppression. The enemy is forcing your truths down someone else’s throat, forcing other people into your boxes, because you are more comfortable with that.

The truth always looks slightly different from different angles.

For me, trans* is difficult to understand because, my biological sex doesn’t matter as much. It’s not a core part of my identity– I honestly think that I would feel as comfortable in a male body as I do in my female body. To me, the expression of my gender and the expression of my sexual orientation is much more important than my biological sex. I am all for blurring the gender lines and androgyny.

I dare say this wouldn’t be the case for most people– if you find the thought of having the body of a member of the opposite sex weird and disturbing, then I dare say you can understanding how a trans person feels even more than I do. And if I wanted to understand, I can easily translate their experience into something I can relate to.

As humans, we are so incredibly diverse and the way we experience things can be so different. It can be such a leap to try and understand something that is so foreign to you it have never even occurred to you and you don’t know how to even start thinking about it. Yet, underneath all that, I really believe that all of our fundamental experiences are exactly the same. We are all human. It just takes you to make the effort to listen with openness and translate someone else’s problem into something you can relate to.

We are all human.

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Oranges are not the only fruit


Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a novel by Jeanette Winterson published in 1985, which she subsequently adapted into a three-part BBC television drama. It is a bildungsroman about a lesbian girl who grows up in an English Pentecostal community.

I plan to read the book, but in the meantime, I found the TV series on youtube, so I watched that first. It’s a great show, give it a watch if you have the time. On youtube it’s uploaded as 6 parts of about 7 minutes for each of the 3 episode. There’s a part missing though, so if you can access the video via other means, maybe you could try that too. For example, I’ve just realized that the esplanade library carries the video cassettes! …not sure how I would watch video cassettes though haha, maybe the esplanade has a multimedia room you can use. Nonetheless, the missing part didn’t make the show any less enjoyable to watch.

Some thoughts:

It made me think, once again, about how flexible the human mind is.
I mean, how easily we can twist words to mean what we want them to mean. How words can mean anything.  How easily we can delude ourselves, how easily we can truly believe what is not true. How easily we can think, with all our heart, that we’re doing the right thing.

Can you blame the mother in the show, as unpleasant as she is? Can you fault her for treating the main character, Jess, in that way? It may not be your idea of love (it may be, in fact, your idea of hate) but I do think she does love Jess, and every horrible thing she did, she thought it was for the best. No, she knew it was for the best.

This is how humans are. We can operate separate from the ‘truth’. It doesn’t matter so much what is out there as what we think is out there, how we perceive what is out there.

And that’s the problem I have with ‘faith’. Knowing how susceptible we are to such thinking, to being able to have unwavering belief in your own thoughts, positions and actions, shouldn’t we be guarding against such thinking rather than encouraging it? Guarding against ‘having faith’?

Because isn’t such type of thinking the essence of faith?

To have complete trust in something. To believe in god without evidence. To… just believe. Just have faith. With all your heart.

People are capable of being blind enough as it is. Don’t tie blindfolds over your eyes and tell me that’s a GOOD thing. The more blindfolds you tie, the more you trust without EVIDENCE or PROOF, the better and more PREFERABLE that is? Seriously?
—-
The show had me crying. Because the worst thing was… knowing that this isn’t merely fiction. Knowing that this isn’t merely history. Knowing that this isn’t merely abstract ideas, or something happening far away.

This is real. This is now. This is here. This is me, and those are my friends.

Please don’t pretend that the church’s position has ‘progressed’, that your position has progressed and is better and more reasonable than historical positions. Does it really matter what words you use? Whether you call it a ‘demon in you’ or an ‘illness’ or a  ‘disorder’ or a ‘result of the fallen world’ or an ‘abomination’ or even just simply a ‘sin’?

You change the words, but the final meaning is the same. The church’s idea of ‘progress’ is ‘accepting’ new evidence but without letting it change the bottom line. So you have to change your interpretation a little. That’s not a problem. As long as you keep the bottom line the same.

I don’t remember if I’ve said it out loud on this blog yet, but… my girlfriend of three years broke up with me–yes, you guessed it– for religious reasons. You could say this blog is born from that incident.

During that break-up period, she showed me two different cases from two different Christian books she was reading– about homosexuals having had demons successfully cast out of them.

…how do you think that makes me feel? To know that the person you love thinks that the only reason why you love her and why she loves you is because of a demon?

…so when we enjoyed each others’ company, simply sitting on a bench enjoying the breeze and talking; a demon at work?
…so when we celebrated anniversaries or valentine’s days, exchanging heartfelt gifts; a demon pulling the strings?
…when we went out for dinner; a demon ordering dessert?
…when we said ‘I love you’ countless times, cheered each other on through tests, exams and school work, listened to each others’ problems and worries… all through a demon’s mouth and ears?

I understand a little more now why people can be so cruel, why the mother in the show can behave so hard-heartedly towards her daughter. That’s not her daughter, it’s a demon. The devil’s limb, as she says.

How people could have burnt women at the stake: they’re not women, they’re witches. The cries you hear aren’t the cries of a women in pain, they are the cries of evil knowing it has lost the battle. When someone cries and screams while having a demon cast out, that’s the sound of the demon, in pain.

What does ‘demon’ even mean, anyway? The idea of ‘ALL GOOD’ and ‘ALL BAD’ is really an incoherent one to me. It can’t exist in more than the abstract. If this thing you call a ‘demon’ can feel pain, shouldn’t we have compassion for it too?

I can’t wait to read the book.