I changed someone's opinion about trans-women the other day.
This guy had originally called me disparaging names and trolled my online accounts because I was transgender. When I gave him a harsh "don't-screw-with-me" conversation, he apologized. I surprised him by saying "apology accepted." No reason to push the issue, thought I. It was behind us. He apologized and that's enough for me. This apparently surprised him; he didn't understand how I could just forgive him after he said all those terrible things.
Suddenly, the reason for his change of heart came forward: "I don't accept it," he told me, "but I respect that you need to do it."
This thought stayed with me when I turned my attention to the American Family Association -- arguably the most scared and bigoted pro-family group in America today. I make a point to read all negative opinions on transgenderism - know thine enemy, after all - and AFA fell between "Mission: America" and "Concerned Women for America" on my research agenda.
It seems that AFA's biggest fear about people like me, appropriated by "scare quotes" and fear-mongering about children's dainty little minds, is that the acceptance of a transgender lifestyle would encourage children to become homosexuals. (Note: they didn't have the common courtesy to separate transgender people from gay men in dresses/lesbian women in slacks, but I digress.)
Take, for example, an ADF "Action Warning" from concerned parents about a transgender parent volunteering in a classroom:
According to the journalist, at least one transsexual parent has been very visible in Newton classrooms, sometimes showing up at the school wearing a mini-skirt, high heels "and other feminine attire" before he had a sex-change operation.
"And I actually found out the other day that there's something called 'Royal Reader,' whereby the parents will come into a particular classroom and talk about and read a book to the children," says Mountain. "Well, in this particular first-grade class, this transvestite-transsexual parent came in and read a story to a classroom of six-year-olds."
(He/she read a book to my kids! The Horror! The Horror!)
On one hand, they raise hell about the rights of self-expression for LGBT Americans, insisting that we need to be silenced to protect easily-influenced children; and on the other hand they paint TG people as "unfortunate victims" of that super-evil homosexual agenda, confused boys and girls driven into a mental illness by our issues, and supported by LGB as a "Trojan horse" minority to be exposed after homosexual rights are gained. After all, if some guy is dumb enough to try wearing a dress, they just have to be an arm of the homosexual agenda!
Take that evil TG parent that read a book in the classroom. If she is to be shamed out by a bunch of bigoted, scared parents, why is she forced to pay for a facility she can't use? Last I checked I pay my taxes just like any run-of-the-mill heterosexual couple, and my money says that I have the right to use these facilities on equal footing with, say, a Methodist church using the high school gym. Why should their personal opinion trump individual liberty, and, if this is the case, why should I be coerced to support it through my taxes?
(What they don't know is that we already raid their bathrooms, and interact with their children, and participate in society, and things haven't gone all Sodom and Gomorrah yet. However, it seems that our very existence threatens the capacity of little boys and girls to understand their own gender identity, and as such we must be squashed out of existence by ever-so-helpful reparative therapies. Right. Moving on.)
And thus, here we are. So-called "decency" organizations are fighting for the right to see us as spiritually destroyed sinners, and we're fighting for our right to be recognized as human beings. What next? I may be an activist, but I am also a patriot, and as such gladly recognize the importance of debate, and the right to protest. However, we have the larger issue of, oh, I don't know, basic civil rights for a group of tax-paying Americans.
The anti-LGBT media decries all homosexual concessions as "forced acceptance of homosexuality." The pro-LGBT media champions concessions as "gaining respect as human beings." And, to rectify the issue for both sides, we must learn to differentiate between "respect" and "acceptance" to see that everyone gets what they want.
There is significant confusion between acceptance ("I understand and appreciate your homosexual nature") and respect ("I don't like it, but you have the right to practice it"). Only one of the two can be gained without excessive coercion, and only one can be a legitimate, national outcome in a democratic system. I don't want to see churches compromise their teachings to accept our way of life. That is, in my opinion, the moral equivalent to refusing gays the right to marry or adopt children. However, I do wish that these "decency" groups would respect our right to exist. Just as I may not accept the rigid, gender-defined roles outlined by evangelical teachings, but I respect their right to exist.
This is America, people. The Marketplace of Ideas. If people want to think that homosexuals can change, let them think it! The proof will come through eventually. However, not respecting their right to exist is little better than allowing a moral majority to pass Proposition 8. We can respect their position while not going to their Love Won Out meetings. I can respect Dr. Kenneth Zucker's reparative therapy approach for transgendered children, but I surely won't sign up for his treatment plan anytime soon.
So let's return to our TG parent reading the book to children. Sure, AFA-nuts won't rightly accept her lifestyle - bigotry and prejudice run deep, after all. However, what if they had made this into a teachable moment? "We don't accept it," say the parents, "but we have to respect her right to do it."
Respect before acceptance. I believe that making this distinction would go a long way in pushing LGBT rights. Your thoughts?