Monday, December 21, 2009

The Divinding Line

Without "talking out of school" I want to say a bit about a recent conversation I had because it seems to me that the thoughts expressed there represent a deeper reality that applies to everyone's attitudes.

The basic structure is as follows.
When you consider a transgender person, you believe - if you have an opinion at all - that one of these two things is true: Either (a) this is a person with a condition, something they were probably born with and over which they have no control other than how they choose to "treat" the condition; or (b) this is a person indulging in a lifestyle choice which they could easily, if they so desired, "turn off" and put aside.

The person I was talking with was firmly in the latter camp. In his opinion then, quite logically and obviously, I was selfishly placing my desire to behave this way ahead of the concerns of those who might be hurt by my choices. Other people I have spoken with seem to grasp the reality of the former point of view (one very sweet lady I am acquainted with seem surprised when I said "no church around here is going to have me." she said "Why not? I don't see anything wrong with you." It made my day).

It seems to me that that difference of opinion is the fundamental dividing line in terms of how people like me are received. Oh that's not to say that a person who thinks this is a choice will be rude or unkind, they may well feel obliged to exercise good manners and be polite. but when it comes to how a person fundamentally feels about you - whether they are happy that you are happy or uncomfortable in your presence or whatever - it goes back to the basic question of WHY you are what you are.

After all, for a person like me who's in a long term marriage, if this is a condition then it falls under "in sickness and in health, for better or worse" but if it's a choice then it is, in many ways, abandonment. That's a huge distinction when a spouse is trying to process what comes next.

What makes it more complex and difficult is that in most cases, a person who believes it is a choice does so because of their moral world view. Such a person is usually not at all receptive to evidence to the contrary. I can point you to any number of solid scientific finding which indicate this is inborn. Both behavioral studies which I grok and technical biological studies which I confess to being out of my depth in trying to understand. but if you BELIEVE this is a choice, then you are often pre-disposed to dismiss any so-called evidence which might muddy those particular waters. I don't say this with any sort of hostility, just as an observation of reality.

Still, if there's a lesson in this for those of us living out this process, it's that maybe there's a real obligation on us to be as open about our condition as possible. While some of those we love most will be the ones who hurt us most by there rejection, it's also apparently true that for a great many well intentioned people, having someone "put a face on" this thing provokes them to reconsider their worldview. And if there's ever going to be a place in the world for people like us, it's going to come not through political pressure but through changing people's hearts one at a time.

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