By Gwendolyn Ann Smith
2006 is gone, and good riddance.
It seems to me that 2006 was about one thing, and it has been a running issue for a few years now: fear.
Of course we have the fear of another 9/11 style terrorist attack causing widespread death within our borders, as well as fears generated by hurricanes, “killer flu” and a media intent on selling news coverage by feeding our fears. We also have a culture of self-ordained “morality police” willing to impose their views on us.
This, of course, is where we come in. It seems while everyone looks into their closet of fears, the thought that somehow their kids will catch queer trumps dirty bombs, anthrax and bird flu in the minds of many.
We had transgender people get dropped kicked from American Idol, and Laurenca Wachowski of The Matrix fame trotted out in pages of Rolling Stone. In both cases, there’s were stories laced with scorn and scandal, far more than compassion.
In this year, transgender people found it hard to get jobs because they were transgender. Some, like Lily McBeth gained their job – as a substitute teacher at a small school in New Jersey – just to see yet another so-called “family” group jump up to try and block her from ever setting foot in a classroom. Even with the school board siding in her favor, her status still remains in doubt.
In the world of sports, Michelle Dumaresq, a competitive cyclist from Canada won a race, only to have one of the other cyclists show up on the stand wearing a shirt attacking Dumaresq’s status. Even more recently, Santhi Soundarajan, a 25-year-old runner from India, failed a gender test administered by the Olympic Council of Asia. Soundarajan has more Y chromosomes than was allowed, and was stripped of her silver medal. In both cases, the assumption is that they may have some performance enhancement out of the deal.
Even Barbie was the target of fear, with the religious right targeting Mattel, Inc., over their Web site allowing for more than two options for gender on their sign-up information. As if this would somehow cause widespread transgenderism.
The largest example of fear, from my perspective, was seeing the killers of Gwen Araujo sentenced for their part in the crime. Like so many other such cases, their entire defense was based on the issue of fear, wed with panic. There defense did not stop these men from serving their time – but the defense is still being used throughout the country, and is still being successful elsewhere.
On the other side of the law, we’ve seen alleged serial killer Steven Wright arrested in the UK, and John Mark Karr turning himself in for the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey. In both cases, the media has been kind enough to let us know that these individuals had at least some transgender leanings. The inference being that they are obvisouly guilty of something because they are somehow “freakish” enough to be trans. You can guess how this might make your average transman or transwoman feel. So lets make 2007 a year of education. It is, quite simply, the most effective weapon against fear.
Let’s seek out others, and tell them our stories, both individually and otherwise. Let’s help others to see what we’re about, and learn from our experiences, our hops and our desires. Let’s try to conquer fear by conquering the ignorance that lies at the heart of it all.
I would love to see a write-up next year about how fear of transgender people is on the way out, where we’re becoming, if not embraced and accepted, then something other than the boogeyman so many want us to be. I want to talk about the high points, or at least have more of them to give.
This can only happen with us. we need to teach, we need to share and we need to stand up. Without that, fear will always be one step ahead of us.