Monday, November 23, 2009

Dutch Courage

Over the past weekend some things drew my attention. Oddly enough, both of these are related to courage and speaking out. Oddly enough, speaking out can be a sign of courage - and the lack of it. Even stranger, not speaking out can be a sign of courage - or the lack of it. As with everything, this depends on the circumstances.

I read some comments on a letter posted by an activist friend of mine. Yes, my activist comrade was writing about gay rights and the unity of the pink community, and yes, the commenter was himself gay, but the tone of the comments were anything but flattering. It seems this critic felt that "self-appointed" activists were "ruining his image as a gay man" by "speaking for all gay people" - and he certainly did not want to be associated with transgender or intersex people.


In the first place, where are activists ever "appointed"? Certainly none of the ones I know were. They are by nature volunteers who stand up and take the initiative. - otherwise they are not activists, but "agents".

In the second, is the person whining about activists "speaking for gay people" in any way himself active in the community or participating in gay rights activism? I don't know, is he? I certainly never heard of him before.

Thirdly, I have to wonder how long we will have to entertain these fools who think each of us can survive without the help of the other. The right wing has declared war on us as a total group of society - and it makes no sense whatever to encourage divisions that make us weaker and help to drown out our voices in the cacophony of chaos and discord. As I have so often pointed out before, our enemies see us as one group, the best thing for us to do is to act like one.

Another conversation that irked me over the weekend was on the subject of insults against gay or transgender people in public. A Canadian friend and I discussed the insults we as transgender people receive. She told me the following:

"I do get people calling me "faggot" or mothers telling their children "don't talk to that thing it's dangerous" and the occasional "Christian" telling me I'm going to hell for 'going against God's plan'... If I repent and come back I'll be saved..." "I would like to [respond] but when I'm at work they expect me to turn the other cheek, so to speak... I'm not allowed to insult or talk back to customers as much as they may deserve it. I can politely "thank" them for their input or when I say "have a nice day" and get a reaction like that I sneak in an "...or don't" discreet but loud enough that they can hear."

Invariably the people making such slurs do so from a position of strength, being either paying customers who would doubtlessly get them dismissed were they to respond in kind, or street ruffians who would resort to physical violence. This makes them cowards in my assessment, people who would never dream of sinking so low were they on an equal level with their victims. And we all know that such people aren't on an equal footing with GLBTI people - they are of the heterosexist elite, who have more rights than us and who persist in insulting our intelligence by daring to call it "equality". I find it unusual that in the USA you cannot fire these people for their religious pretense, but you can fire a trans woman for being trans. And yes, I did say 'victims'. Of what? Intimidation. Or if you will, bullying. Oppression. Discrimination. Prejudice. Inequality. Need I say more?

If people were to call out insults to me, I would certainly confront them or return the favor - in fact, I have done this in the past. To talk about a person like that is disgusting, and to call another human being a "thing" is really low. To do so in such a manner as to prevent the victim from even defending themselves is even more low class - and shows to me exactly what the classic bigot is made of.

For us as GLBTI people, I feel that to keep quiet makes them think they are right - and keeping quiet makes them think they have the right to do so.

Talking back isn't always an option, I know. But as non-heteronormative people, God has gifted us with razor-sharp wit and tongues to deliver a coup de grace in a soft tone with a smile as sweet as an angel.

"Yes sir, it takes one to know one, sir."

"You're going to hell for going against God's plan!"
"Don't worry m'am, I'll save you a spot right next to mine." *wink*

"Don't talk to that thing, it's dangerous"
"Yes, m'am - you just don't know HOW dangerous."

On the topic of courage, both examples above involve speaking out and remaining silent, both involve courage, or the apparent absence of it.

Which is which, is a choice I leave up to you.


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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