I woke up this morning not knowing that today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia until I went to check my email. IDAHO is still the acronym used and is probably much easier to remember than IDAHoT, but that’s not really what I came to talk about.
What brought this whole thing to mind this morning is, last Sunday, at my spiritual community, one of my many women acquaintances there, who I can’t really call a girlfriend yet even though I have known her for many years through the community, announced that she was hosting a new Women’s Circle in her home. After the service, I asked her if I may be able to join the group and she said “sure.”
A couple of days later, I got a call from her and what she said really came as no surprise to me but still it made me feel unwelcome and excluded, something of which I am keenly aware in my life not feeling included or comfortable in either gender role for over 60 years. What she told me was that she had been thinking about my request and now she felt that perhaps this group wasn’t for me because I had never gone through the stages of a natal woman’s life cycle of monthly menstruation, pregnancy (or the fear of), birth, breast feeding, menopause and all the rest of the things of which I missed out not having been born with a uterus. I told her it was okay, that I understood her sentiment and that I didn’t take it personally but before I did that, I told her about having attended meetings with other women who, like me, are undergoing transitions in their lives, being over 50 and having to deal with loss, by death or divorce, which I am undergoing, end of a career or start of a new one, adjusting to retirement, which I am also doing, and other such considerations that we all generally have to face in our later years. I was thinking about formally joining that group and paying the hefty membership dues but after I had time to think about it I decided that this group was not quite right for me because I was going through a different kind of transition than any natal woman would probably never have to face unless, of course, they were closeted trans-men still pretending to be someone who they really were not.
As I didn’t get to bed until almost 6 am, due to my nightly blogging habits, I woke up this morning around 10 am and it suddenly occurred to me that I had been a victim of prejudice, and even though I am sure it wasn’t intentional, it is still prejudice, all the same. When I look at this word it becomes quite clear to me that the word “prejudice” can be defined as “pre-justice or pre-judging, that is, to judge someone before you really know about them.” That got me to think that this acquaintance, although she appears to be quite accepting of my new gender expression, is really just like anyone else, myself included, who presume and make judgments of people because we really don’t understand where they are coming from, even though we say we accept them as they are, yet we are unwilling to take the time to really get to know that person to discover that we are really not so different after all [consideration], that we all still have needs, wants and dreams like everyone else and that we all put our undergarments on one leg at a time. I digress here a moment because one of my girlfriends added to that thought once that we can put on our underwear with both legs at one time if we lie down on a bed and thrust our legs into the air like we were in a stirrup in a gynecologist’s examination room, something that I have yet to experience, or in a hospital birthing room about to give birth, where I helped my mate through her “transition” with Lamaze exercises we had learned together, but I think I can still get the analogy, nonetheless.
So where was I? Oh yes, I was talking about prejudice and as I think back about the conversation that started this whole post, I must have had an inkling at the time of the conversation of what became clearer to me this morning, when I told her about another women’s group where I had self-excluded myself from the group after checking it out, while here I was being excluded before I even had the chance to “judge” for myself, whether or not this group was for me. It took me until this morning to put two and two together and see that the gist of our conversation didn’t add up to four.
The other part of the conversation I had with my acquaintance was about my desire for genital surgery to bring my genitalia in alignment with my self-identity. I also mentioned that my attraction to women over men hadn’t changed since I decided to commit myself to my transition and this acquaintance said something to me that gave me pause. She asked that if I were planning to only (or mostly) have intimate sexual contact with other women (be a lesbian), then why would I want or need to have the surgery at all? It dawned on me that while she accepted my gender expression as female, she hadn’t quite accepted the fact that having vaginoplasty wasn’t a “want” for me, but that it was never an option for me not to have the surgery. I tried to explain further but I knew that it was probably a lost cause, at least for that day.
All of what I have expounded upon here ties back to what I said in my last post about being able to distinguish between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. I don’t know for sure but I’m beginning to feel that this woman, as accepting as she has been with me, even though I tried to explain the distinctions still thinks that gender identity, gender expression, and possibly sexual orientation, are still a choice for us.*
Don’t get me wrong, this “aha moment” that I had this morning isn’t really that much a startling revelation as it is a reminder that in our struggle for acceptance and equality by the greater community-at-large that changing the laws of the land in favor of equality for all, won’t wake up those who will never have to think about what we have to think about practically every day of our lives, and that even though someday we may secure all the same rights and protections of the law as everyone else, that we will never likely be completely and genuinely accepted as equal in people’s hearts.
Peace, Deanna Joy
*Note: According to a recent poll, while 47% of Americans believe being Gay is a choice, 75% of Americans or half of those who don’t think being Gay is a choice, still believe that being transgender is one. One further note: While it is true that starting and continuing transition is sometimes a option, with me, it was never an option but a foregone conclusion that I would go all the way (excuse the pun), when I finally discovered who I really am. And while transition may be a choice for some people, being transgender is not.