I met a very special lady in 2003 named Rachel Crandall. Rachel is a lawyer and a philanthropist in Detroit. Rachel is one of the single nicest people I've ever met in my life. Rachel, though her driver's license says "F," is also transgender, and she has not undergone sexual reassignment surgery yet.
Then there's my friend Dallas (before that Vanessa and before that Derrick). Dallas sees herself as a woman, but sees gender-expression as more fluid. She lives as a woman, but she does not dress to pass. She dresses like a punk-rock tomboy. Dallas has fought very hard to be accepted as a woman, and at one time, passing was very important for Dallas. But Dallas did not want to give up who she was in order to express her true gender.
A debate has been raging this week on Bilerico about women like Rachel or Dallas, or men like my friend CJ in Michigan or Scott Turner-Schofield in Atlanta. Women are questioning whether or not Rachel is a woman. These were not women born women, "natal women," or whatever term you prefer. These are "women of an operative past." Some may call them transsexual women, but not everyone agrees with being labeled as transsexual. They transitioned, now they are women.
I support choosing your own label, and applaud them for their courage. The only problem is some of these women don't feel the same way. Though Rachel is a woman in every aspect of her life, she has not been able to go through the same process that these women have gone through. To some of these commenters, Rachel is not a woman. Dallas, Rachel, Scott, CJ--these are my kin, family. It hurts me to see them belittled, and I have to come to their defense. This bizarre social hierarchy within the transgender/transsexual/women of operative past culture seems designed to disempower.
I appreciate what the women of operative past have been through, and support them as women. If you do not want to be called by a 'trans-' term, I understand. You've struggled and you've had to deal with a lot of doubt and oppression.
But why then are some of these women turning that same prejudice on someone else who is just starting the journey, or embarking on a very different journey? Why does someone have to outrank someone else? Why is one struggle worth more than another?
The challenge: To understand one another
In an effort to understand some of these comments, I visited a linked blog--and right away was greeted with bad vibes in the title "TG Nonsense." This is a woman who embarked on her own journey to be accepted as a woman. But now that she's arrived, she seems to have a huge problem with people who are going about that passage in a different way.
According to Merriam-Webster, a bigot is "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance."
The disdain and dehumanizing language on this blog toward transgender people, and the smug iterations of how much better the author is because she 'passes' can be defined as nothing other than hate and intolerance. So, after reading the blog, I called it.
I don't like burned-bridges, though. I stand by my statements, but I also want to allow all sides to be able to respectfully explain their points of view here. However, I challenge everyone to treat one another as equals, to commit to trying to see the other person's point of view, and to never challenge the value of that person as a human being.