The last week has been interesting. Thanks to the hard work I have been putting into my recovery, I think I am starting to learn more about myself. I am definitely more accepting of myself. Ok, probably not where I could be, but that is ok, I am still working. See, a few months ago I would not have been that kind to me and believed what I was telling myself.
Back to the last week. Vancouver has an incredible Queer Film Festival. I volunteer and go see films every year. It is so affirming to spend an evening around so many people who could care less what gender I am. It is doubly affirming to see stories of gender non conforming individuals on screen and told by themselves, not someone who just thinks they understand us, but people who actually live it.
Last weekend I had a very interesting conversation with a gay man. I only mention that he is gay because that is the perspective he brought into the conversation. It was about activism. My opinion is that the transgender movement is decades behind the gay and lesbian movement. Here in Canada, gay marriage was legal years before it became illegal to discriminate against a transgender person. So I mentioned to this man that my idea of activism is visibility. Until transgender people quit becoming a label to most of the population and become real living, breathing and speaking people it is going to be difficult to change people’s views. His opinion differed from mine, he thought celebrity visibility is enough. Ellen was his example. Ellen is great, I wish I could afford to go to her show in Vancouver, but Ellen is not a highly visible transgender individual. Even just thinking of her as an example, it was not just celebrities that moved gay rights forward.
That conversation really made me think, though. How important is visibility? Can I possibly do even a tiny bit of good? I think the answer is yes and I will keep trying. I think the answervis yes, because visibility has helped breakdown my own prejudices. Way back in the late 1980’s I was a teenager in the USA. My parents were baby boomers and gave me a real sense of patriotism, I believed what my country told me. I joined the Navy to pay for University. I had grown up under the threat of Soviet nuclear weapons and knew how evil the Soviets were. They were monsters just waiting to attack the US. The ship I was on was on a training cruise in international waters not far from the California coast. For some reason only the brass knew, we ended up beside a Soviet vessel that was trailing us. When the captain announced this, I went to the rails to see along with hundreds of my shipmates. We never had excitement like this when we were training. What I saw made me question even being in the military. On the ship beside us was about thirty or so sailors. They had on funny hats (less funny than ours, I actually liked theirs better) and different uniforms, but they were not the monsters I had been told about. They were young kids looking for some excitement in the middle of a long cruise. They were exactly like us! For me, the evil empire ceased to exist. The awful labels I had grown up hearing held no more power. They were not others anymore, they were just people.
For me, I believe visibility is magic. It has the ability to turn the others into human beings, and it is way more difficult to hate humans. Hating an impersonal label is easier. I hope at least one person I have come into contact with can now see some of their others as real people now. If this happens with enough people then maybe a few more labels can be destroyed and people will be a little closer to celebrating their similarities rather than fighting because of their differences. I am proud of myself for sticking up for myself and for examining my beliefs instead of just accepting his as true.