Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Serenity Prayer

Mike is an 18 year female to male transman. He is currently studying psychology at The Evergreen State College between making quilts. He someday aspires to be a social worker, and in the mean time, he wants to fix the fact that not everyone is born with an inherent right to be themselves. 
 
I thought this pray was beautiful, when I was little. I played with my father’s coins from AA, not knowing what they were for or what they represented, but I liked the prayer (again ignorant of its origins with AA) and it made me feel closer to my dad. He also had a stained glass folding panel with the prayer, and it was beautiful. For those of you who don’t know what it is:

God grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve also been watching Degrassi, for the Adam character and reading the recaps on AfterEllen. And one of the things the recapper said was that Adam wasn’t just naieve, he was repeatedly giving people second chances in order to educate them, and that it was both admirable and stupid in her eyes (I’m paraphrasing a little, forgive me). And that got me thinking.

The reality is that there are so few transgender allies that most of the time, we make them as we go along. Sometimes it takes educating the LGB community about trans* specific issues. Sometimes it takes long, in depth conversations about oppression and cisgender privilege. It takes work and effort in order to get tolerance, especially where the trans* people are now.

I’ve noticed great differences in coming out as a lesbian and coming out as trans*. When I came out as a lesbian, everyone already knew what that meant. I didn’t have to explain anything (other than possibly that I didn’t actually want to have threesomes). If there were homophobic people I could say fuck ‘em and go find different people to hang out with, there were more than enough cool people in the world.

And it isn’t so cut and dried trans* issues. I struggle to come out to people who knew me before, because I am asking them to change the way that they view me and the way that they refer to me in a fairly big way. I am creating a boundary that I want them to respect and I am introducing them to my somewhat tiny community. When I come out when people already see me as male, I get questions. I get a lot of questions. Sometimes polite ones, sometimes impolite ones, but either way I have the opportunity to educate people. I have come out to very few people who already knew about trans* issues and where I didn’t have to cover basic trans* 101 for folks.

This is where the courage piece of the prayer comes in. If I have the courage, I can change people’s minds. I can tell people how it sucks to be afraid of the bathrooms and how terrified I am due to murder statistics. I can mold people’s idea of the world, shape it to include transgender people. With a little bit of patience, I can teach people that they shouldn’t ask me about my genitals or my transition plans and all of the other basic etiquette. They might not become allies, but they will usually become at least somewhat respectful.

The serenity part is a little bit more difficult. It is, in some ways, where the phrase die cis scum came about. It is reserved for those who would kill me, who would refuse to provide medical treatment, for those who protest my existence and propose bathroom bills. It is a battle cry when life becomes unbearable. It is a strange form of serenity in a way, accepting that there are some people who will never accept me or any other trans* person for who they are. It is an acknowledgement that there are some kinds of bigotry that cannot be fixed.

The wisdom to know the difference is the hardest to come by. Sometimes the people who protest so vehemently will turn out to have trans* friends or family later on. Sometimes the people who protest will come out themselves. Sometimes people protest out of fear and ignorance. And it shouldn’t be the trans* community’s responsibility to educate people. But I enjoy it, when I’m not repeating the same banal things about my genitals over and over again. I like to see people change and grow, turn into someone that can be respectful and appreciate the differences and view of the transgender community. At the same time… It is futile and sometimes dangerous to beat my head against a brick wall trying to educate someone when they will turn out not to care in the end. It seems to be an unfortunately thin line between incurable bigot and ignorant potential ally.

To end, a modified prayer:

God grant me the courage to change the minds of the people that I can, the serenity to ignore or defy the ones that I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference. - The activist’s prayer