Preface: Your response to my last posts have been overwhelming, emotional, touching, gut-wrenching and overall EPIC. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'm hoping to catch up with the emails and posts at some point. I might need to sleep a little first.
The only hostility I've received afterwards came from people speculating that my last posts were "marketing ploys" to drive sales of Counterpunch and Dark Soul and to promote my own publishing company, Riptide, which is decidedly a trans and queer-friendly space.
I have to say, those people are such accomplished cynics that I'm frankly awed. I guess being soul-dead like that doesn't even hurt any more, right? For the record, Riptide is doing very, very well, thank you, without me publicly eviscerating myself. But I guess some people think Buddhist monks set themselves aflame because they are cold.
And I want to say a specific "thank you" to the gay men who have reached out. I've given the impression that I have been treated with nothing but hostility from the gay community. While I've had a couple unfortunate encounters (like Mr "I'm going home to have real gay sex now" and some telling me I only have body issues - yeah, rocket science - and need to get laid and my disquiet about my gender would get marvelously fucked away) - I've also received amazing, warm, genuine support, for which I'm deeply grateful.
I also want to add that I've been contacted by many, many trans and queer writers who are "under the radar" and who have experienced the same reprisals, doubts, and harassment. I wasn't surprised by any of those stories - saddened, horrified, but not surprised. I WAS surprised by how many we are. I said I knew of around 7-8 trans* and queer writers. We're getting closer to 20-30 now. I'm not counting the lesbians (double digits) and gays and bisexuals (loads). I don't keep a spreadsheet, but we are MANY, and I salute every single one of you. For your support, your work, your dignity in the face of adversity, I salute you.
I said all I can claim was "Freakhood" - no loving Rainbow family. I was wrong. There's been so much love and support from the rainbow people that I'm shocked and humbled and barely managed to sleep with my heart pounding so hard (and I'm eating my words; they are better with soy sauce). Thank you, guys, gals, and everybody in between. I'm proud of the community, of being PART of the community.
I'm also very, unspeakably (but I'm trying!), humbled by the support from our straight and/or cis-gendered allies. So many of you have reached out and spoken up. Thank you.
To all those who feel the reflex that I suppressed until my "coming out" - the reflex to stand up and speak up - and potentially shatter the identities you've built; it's OK to not do that. Nobody respects and loves you any less because you aren't "out and proud and loud." Please be safe. Do only what you're 150% comfortable with. You do much work behind the scenes, and we can see that and feel the difference, and it's appreciated. Nobody has the right to push you to where I was yesterday, staring down the cliff with only two options left: Jump or fall.
Before I start to sound like General Patton speaking to the Rainbow Army, I'll break it off here. I'm just saying, this experience has made me a better, humbler and less conflicted man and I'm offering the same support that people have shown me to everybody still out there, and I will continue to do what's right.
Which brings me to some house cleaning.
For the record, my posts were about the fall-out and effect of rampant transphobia and harassment on trans and queer writers. Why for us, "coming out" is more like death and a lot less like liberation. Why we don't want to be outed, why that destroys a very tenuous inner calm and peace that many of us have spent decades to build and achieve. I took the fall because my brothers and sisters were asking me to stand with them. I did not want to abandon Oleg, Bryl, and Danny - and all the others whose names I don't want to mention here as they are "passing", but I know they are watching and supporting.
Some people are congratulating my friends on "Finally he has stopped lying, finally he's out". Now, nobody has told me that to my face. To everybody who considered me a liar: Choose your weapon, and let's make an appointment. I believe early mornings are traditional. I'll bring a second. Either face me direct, if you have the GUTS, or shut up, you cowards.
Now, more house cleaning.
This situation was sparked by another author, AJ Llewellyn, outing himself as a trans man on his most recent blog post.
There has been wild speculation about the issue - others have made very convincing cases pro and con, and frankly, it's all out there on the table, and I'm too tired to join the chorus.
From what I understand (I don't have a PhD in Gender Studies, I can always be wrong), a person is trans once they claim they are. The trans community is extremely welcoming and open to to anybody joining. None of us would dare to question another's trans identity, because, you got it, EVERYBODY's identity is the result of an agonizing, often ongoing process. We would never turn on another trans* person calling them a faker or a liar.
Of course, this opens the community up to abuse and appropriation, when people claim trans status to enlist allies and to get a ready-made army to march for them. We embrace anybody claiming the label, because this is a mechanism that has, often literally, saved trans people's lives. If there's nobody else left, you can raise your hand and call for help, and you have instant allies. This process is VITAL and it's saving lives and sanity, and even possible exploitation doesn't give us the moral right to judge another. You say you're trans, you are. I believe we're a lot more enlightened there than most cisgendered people (some of whom have called me a liar... the mind, it boggles).
Now that AJ Llewellyn, a - to put it mildly - controversial character has joined our ranks, I am thinking back to my medieval studies. Let me explain:
In the Middle Ages, if you were a hunted criminal and managed to reach a church, you could claim sanctuary on hallowed ground. This meant that whoever was coming to enforce the law couldn't harm you and couldn't remove you from that sanctuary. As far as worldly law was concerned, you were untouchable.
Sounds like a great deal, right? A community is persecuting somebody for wrong/harmful behaviour, and all you have to do is claim sanctuary with a group who will immediately - reflexively, nobly - step up to defend you and protect you from punishment. A second chance. Awesome deal.
But the custom had a flip side: While the murderer or horse thief couldn't be hanged, he WAS subject to church discipline. That means: penance, some of which was pretty extreme. We're talking asceticism, flagellation, "mortification of the flesh", all those tasty things that made medieval spiritual life fun and games. The murderer/horse thief would have to atone for his sins, mend his ways, and subject himself to the rules of the church/order that he has fled to.
Personally, I'm ready to embrace AJ Llewellyn as a brother in trans.
I'm not questioning his new-found, brand-new identity, I'm not questioning that he's distressed.
I have my own history with AJ and it's not positive. I will emphatically NOT list his actions here. I believe we all know by now what they are.
But AJ has joined the trans community, and I welcome him.
But I am distancing myself - as strongly as I can - from AJ's behaviour (he has attempted to link himself to me in private posts, and I protest this link SHARPLY). Yet I cannot and will not doubt his brand-new identity. We trans people would rather be exploited than wrongly accuse one of ours.
AJ, welcome to your sanctuary. If you can mend your ways, do. If you achieve that, I'll be proud to call you brother. Right now, all we're giving you is sanctuary, because that's the code, not because we love you or even forgive you until you've shown that you can play nice and contribute, positively, to the community.