“Running is flying*”
*When you walk, one foot is always on the ground. When you run, most of the time you are actually airborne. For example: a...”
Gender identity is an internal sense of self and what one fundamentally is. It’s the sense of being a man or a woman (or both, or neither, or in-between, or something else). It is divorced from concepts of what a man or woman is or isn’t supposed to be like, and appears to be very much innate and unchanging. It also appears to be related to the neurological “body map” and relationship to one’s body- feelings of either comfort or alienation.
Gender expression is the degree to which one’s personality, interests and manner of self-expression is culturally regarded as “masculine” or “feminine” (or “androgynous”). This is heavily culturally and socially mediated. What is regarded as feminine in one culture may be regarded as masculine in another. There seem to be some gendered traits that are in varying degrees innate to an individual but gender expression is an aggregation of many, many, many such traits which can occur in an immense variety of combinations.
- Natalie Reed, in Everyday Feminism, “13 Myths and Misconceptions about Trans Women”
When Michele spoke at a State Senate hearing in 2006 about her desire for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, Helen showed up, along with several relatives who supported her.
“I wasn’t looking to make a public statement,” she told me. “I just thought: I’m going to go there and sit there so she has to look at me. So she has to look at Nia. I wanted her to see: this is who you’re doing this to. It’s not some anonymous group of people. It’s not scary people. It’s me. It’s Nia.” She paused, because she’d begun to sob.
“I just wanted her to see me,” she said, “because it just feels, through the whole thing, like she hasn’t.”
Empowering comebacks to: “I’m just saying:”
- “I know – and I’m ‘just responding’ to what feels like an insult.”
- “I know – but the fact that you are ‘just saying’ something offensive doesn’t make it less offensive.”
- “I know – and what you’re ‘just saying’ is offensive Hey, I’m just saying.”
- “I know – and I’m not sure you recognize that what you’re ‘just saying’ comes across as critical, hurts my feelings, is insulting, etc.”
- “I’ve thought this through and I’m comfortable with what I’m doing. I’m not seeking input on this.”
- “Thanks for your input, I’ll take it under advisement.”
- “Thanks for your input. I’ll let you know if I need any additional opinions on this.”
Look, here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter if you think you’re a nice person. And it doesn’t matter if your tone, attitude, sentiments and facial expressions are all very sweet, kindly and sympathetic-seeming. If you’re opposing legal equality, then you don’t get to be nice. Opposing legal equality is not nice and it cannot be done nicely.
Nice is different than good, but opposing legal equality for others is neither. It’s simply unfair.
Paul Tillich’s insistence that pride was the root of all sin was later challenged by a growing field of women who were theologians. They pointed out to Tillich that for those who have been traditionally oppressed, pride is not an occasion for sin. Instead, the absence of pride, the failure to see one’s self as a good creation of God, was the real occasion for sin. The shame that kept one from doing the things God was calling them to do became sinful.
I want to be careful there to not label those who are mired in the shame created by an often homophobic world as sinners. They are not. Rather, the culture that creates that shame in young people growing up LGBTQ is, and that must be changed. A culture whose hubris comes from making LGBTQ people second-class citizens, who makes criminal in some states the very mention of the word “gay” in the classroom, who allows so-called reparative therapy practitioners to keep their licenses, is a sinful one because it is a soul-destroying one. It must be challenged. It must be changed.
And this is how LGBTQ people and their allies change it: they claim their pride. They claim it in parades. They claim it in front of wedding officiants. They claim it in the face of bullies. And they claim it on everyday that God has given to them.
“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When someone loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
The Velveteen Rabbit always makes me cry.