by Davison Sarai Nicholas
There are lots of trees in my neighborhood and around Kalamazoo. We have every kind of tree you could imagine, and no matter what kind of tree you see they have certain things in common. They all have bark of some sort, branches, you can be sure they have roots, leaves or needles….. This, to me, begins to sum up the essence of “tree-ness”. I expect all trees to have these qualities, and I’m never surprised or disappointed when I see another tree that holds these qualities – bark, branches, roots, leaves…..
There are people among us who are fighting feverishly to deny trans and transgender people our basic human rights. They’d like to control where I sit to pee (or if I even get to sit anywhere at all, right Cruz?) They’d like to deny LGB and trans kids the right to be protected from specific forms of bullying and discrimination in schools. They’d like to be able to deny us service at various businesses or facilities where proprietors may be exercising their “religious rights” to make us suffer.
You know, because it’s their religion. Because I guess that’s what their savior would have them do - Deny us equal treatment, and put us in direct and intentional danger, and send us to “therapists” (and those are massive quotes there) to help us become normal, and continually humiliate us or those mistaken for us in public places by denying services. Sounds very spiritual to me.
In the age of social media, a common stated phrase goes, “Don’t read the comments.” You’ve likely received or given this advice to someone. The comments are, of course, readers’ responses to articles, and this phrase is most typically used in relation to articles around social justice issues like racism in America, or marriage equality, and most recently bathroom use among trans individuals and the degree to which we will inevitably give in to the crushing gravitational pull that directs us towards our true, perverse natures and sexually violating behaviors.
For a long, long time I refused to read the comments. Being trans is hard enough without having to read the crude, barbaric, and always wholly uninformed opinions of sofa social strategists and bathroom bigots. It was bad enough having some of my best friends try to tell me that I’d be a joke, or that I’d never be a “real woman” upon announcing that I would be transitioning into my current celestial form. It was bad enough when my mother expressed an incredibly painful level of discomfort the first time she saw my true, uninhibited smile behind lipstick and under a store bought wig several years ago.
I wasn’t exactly racing out to read even more rhetoric about my lifestyle choices and wayward ways.
But lately something has changed. I’ve been feeling it for a while now, and without being able to really point a finger at anything specific or tell you why, I’ve had the feeling that the national tide has been turning in our favor. Lately it’s been highlighted specifically by Target stores specifically stating that they will not take part in any discriminatory policies that would deprive their trans clients of their basic humanities. This announcement, of course, led to a nonsensical wave of outcrying from the would-be discriminators who have now, of course, been discriminated against specifically by virtue of the fact that they can NOT discriminate against me and mine at Target.
Yes, read that a few times to let it sink in and for comedic effect. Just like the bakers who aren’t allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples who request wedding cakes, just like the mechanic who can no longer discriminate against the perceived LGBT individual who needs a tire changed, the bathroom patrol are slowly but surely being told “no go, grow up” and, as predicted, are now stomping around in circles and crying that their rights are being infringed upon.
It’s been said over and over again, but once more for the kids in the cheap seats – We can agree to disagree, so long as the topic we disagree about isn’t the oppression of people or their freedoms to live unimpeded. Can you hold the opinion that I should not be allowed to use certain bathrooms? Sure! I hate it with every fiber of my being, but you go right ahead and hold that ridiculous opinion. In turn, I will continue to assert that you are likely trying to hide your own sexual or gender insecurities behind a flimsily constructed see-through shield, and that your anger at me and mine has everything to do with either your jealousy that you’re too big of a coward to live the truths that we embody, or you are trying to kill off parts of yourself by trying to kill off parts of us. Either way, you doth protest too much and your protests don’t hide the literal bulges in your pants.
You sometimes DO kill us, for real. Because we’re different from you, or because we’re exactly like you and you can’t face it. You sometimes kill us because you find us very attractive, and you can’t handle the idea of people finding out that you’re gay or something *(author’s note – hetero men having sex or sexual thoughts about trans women is not gay, nor is hetero women having sex or sexual thoughts about trans men, but people tend to be simple when they’re terrified of doing the research.)
I’ve begun reading the comments. It’s been inspiring to see so many CIS allies standing up against this ridiculous, hateful rhetoric against trans people. Are their arguments always completely sound? No, they could use some improvement. Do they often confuse sexuality and gender? You bet they do, and that’s a very common misconception. Regardless, I like reading the comments now because I often see our supporters outweighing our detractors, and more and more they are outweighed by a rather large margin.
A light is being shown upon the ignorance inherent, and people don’t typically like being on the wrong side of history. Slowly but surely, we are winning this fight of common decency, and it is with the support of CIS individuals who hold no real stake other than their basic sense of humanity.
I’m never surprised by a tree with branches or with bark. It’s what I expect. That is what trees do. Likewise, I am not surprised or disappointed when I read vile comments from backwards, ignorant commenters who believe I should never leave my house and should maybe be buried in a hole somewhere. This is what bigots do. They make outlandish, childish statements about misunderstood groups. They hate. They try weakly to rely on bible verses that either don’t directly address the situation, they misquote verses because they’ve never bothered to attend a church or read a bible, and in all cases they never taste the delicious irony that Christianity is a young religion whose central themes are so obviously cribbed from older, more nuanced religions from around the world that their assertions that “God says” does little more than make my eyes roll all the way around into the back of my skull.
I now carry Tylenol in my purse. Eye rolling on a consistent basis results in headaches, it turns out.
If you don’t hold specific expectations, you will not be disappointed or surprised when those expectations are not met. I expect bigots to be silly and hurtful. That is bigot-ness. What I do now is read the comments and have open discussions with people who are obviously on our side but whose information could use a little tweak to more correctly support us and our argument. Those conversations go incredibly well, and they generate helpful allies by the bunches.
Do yourselves a favor and don’t focus so much on the fact that bigots are bigoted. They are, they have been, some always will be. They are endangered, they are dwindling, and they seem to know it. Help usher in their extinction by focusing on the positives of our growing numbers of supporters. Be a part of the solution. All of my love and support goes out to each and every one of you living loud and proud as trans, as you continue to be my every day heroes….
Davison Sarai Nicholas MA, LLPC, CAADC is a licensed mental health clinician, writer, musician, and activist from Kalamazoo, Michigan. She currently works for Hillcrest Counseling and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health, both in Kalamazoo.
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