Redux: Finding Acceptance from Unexpected Places.
Sometimes, a traumatic incident can prompt surprising events that change one’s life for the better. My previous posts about TERFs and subsequent viral attacks by them has proved to be such an event. It has revealed to me what true acceptance is…and the unlikely places it can come from.
Often when queer people come out, we look to others in our community to support and accept us. But for those of us under the trans* and bi* umbrellas, the general LGBT community is not always a supportive place, and is sometimes an outright hateful one. Many gay and lesbian activists have relied on binary theories about sexuality, sex and gender for legitimacy and advocacy, and those theories have, unwittingly or not, excluded bi* and trans* people. While the community has gradually grown to re-encompass the B and the T (and slowly the I, Q and A), the door of acceptance is still only partially open to those who upset those binaries.
Why do I bring this up? Because I wrote my previous posts regarding TERFs due to frustration and frank incredulity that one group of marginalized people could be so cruel to another. That certain cisgender lesbians, who knew the pain of oppression based on sex, gender and sexuality, could oppress trans* people, especially transwomen, who suffer oppression based on the same factors. And, even worse, that some could support the Pacific Justice Institute in its efforts to bully and oppress trans* children. As a feminist AND someone who is trans* and bisexual (let’s face it – they’re not that friendly to bisexuality either), I felt the need to try to understand and mend that rift.
I thought maybe I could “convince” people into acceptance. But I couldn’t. I learned either people know how to accept one’s identity unconditionally, or they have dogmatic criteria, born from fear, which outweigh love and respect.
Enter Exhibit A, my cousin “Shelly.” Shelly is from a very conservative branch of my family. I mean, the deep South, gun in the purse, fundamentalist Christian, die-hard Republican conservative branch, not the mild New England variety. I have never gone out of my way to out myself to them, as I felt quite certain ostracism and rejection were the only possible outcomes. If they friended me on Facebook, I let them, and figured they’d hide or unfriend me soon enough once they saw all my queer posts. And yet, as I wrestled on Facebook with the wave of hate and derision I suffered from my TERF posts, Shelly contacted me. And what, to my awe, did she say?
That she loved me, just as I was. No matter who I loved or who I was, she loved me. And always would. And hey, here’s my number if you ever need to talk. Any time of night or day. Anyone who can’t love a person for who they are is living in fear, she said. And I was awed. It’s not as if she and I had ever even been close; we hadn’t seen each other in 20 years. But she knew suffering when she saw it, and could not let it pass. She knew how to love and to accept.
I then had to examine my own feelings. Acceptance isn’t necessarily about having a lot in common, sharing oppressions, or fitting into one’s worldview. True acceptance is about basic human decency, making the choice to respect people for who they say they are, even if you dislike it. Even if you don’t believe it. True acceptance is about treating people based on their actions, and not their identities. True acceptance is about recognizing your own fears and pushing past them into love. As corny as that sounds.
I feared that conservative branch of my family. But acceptance does not allow fear, and it has been delightful to watch it melt away on my part. I’ve even postponed my usual trip to Florida to attend a baby shower. I feared the TERFs, but now only their actions concern me. While I will fight their oppression of trans* people tooth and nail, I accept…well, their non-acceptance.
Now if only this concept of acceptance could make the wider rounds of the LGBT(QIA) community. If someone says they are a woman, you accept them as a woman. If they say they are lesbian, you accept them as lesbian. If they say they are bisexual, you accept them as bisexual. If they say they are agender asexual, you accept them as agender asexual. If you have questions, you ask questions (or discover Google). And, above all, you treat people by their actions, not their stereotypes.
It seems pretty basic. And if it can come from places we least expect, then surely it can come from the community that preaches it.
Note: By “trans*” and “trans* umbrella”, I refer to all those whose gender identity or expression may not match their given birth sex, including identities like transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, crossdresser, agender, neutrois, genderfluid, bigender, intersex, androgynous, etc. Similarly, by “bi*” and “bi* umbrella”, I refer to all those who are attracted to persons of more than one sex or gender, including identities such as bisexual, pansexual, fluid, heteroflexible, omnisexual, unlabeled, etc.
The I, Q, and A stand for: Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Asexual and Ally.
Also, I understand asexuals experience similar difficulties to bi* and trans* folks coming out in the LGBT community. I did not include them in the second paragraph, as I am writing from my own experience. The roots of asexual oppression are worthy of a separate post.
Posted on January 8, 2014, in Bisexual/Pansexual, Queer Intersectionality, Trans*/GNC & Genderqueer and tagged acceptance, bi*, bisexual, family, genderqueer, glbt, lgbt, lgbtq, lgbtqia, queer, support, trans, transgender. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.