Monday, April 12, 2010

Speaking of Transgenders...

I love to tell my family how diverse my friends are. They love to make fun of me about it, probably because they're small minded. :) They may not believe it, but there are types of people I'm not friends with. The two most prominent have always been transgenders and Jews*.

Last year after pride I complained to my friend LT that I didn't know any transgendered individuals. Characteristically, she ignored me and went on and on about her boring problems. :)

Ever since I started volunteering at the GLBT soup kitchen, I've met lots of transgenders. They're probably a third of the population there. Last night, after dinner and while the nightly life skills session was winding down, a young trans woman named Trisha made a statement about a recent murder (in Brooklyn, I think) of Amanda Gonzalez, also transgendered. She was encouraging everyone to make sure they had a buddy system to keep themselves safe. Trisha has a funny way of stating things**. She said something like "Remember when it used to be that even if you were gay you were in danger, and now everybody's after the trans." What she meant, I think, was that she used to live in a place (South Carolina) where it wasn't safe to be gay, and now she lives in New York, where it's relatively safe to be gay but still not safe to be trans. But she phrased it as if it were the times that had changed rather than her geographic location.

At the opposite end of the circle there was a young man who raised his hand to respond to her. He said that trans women bring violence upon themselves by not disclosing that they're trans to the straight men they're dating. Remember that a third of this circle was trans. The volunteer who was leading the discussion was trans. So his comment didn't go over well at all. In retrospect, the discussion should have stopped immediately but the group leader didn't want to let a comment like that stand. So instead we went around the circle to let everyone have input. Each commenter was louder than the next and the overall tenor of the conversation was progressing toward chaos. Some of the trans women started talking about how the straight men they date don't mind the fact that they're trans. The same young man who instigated the debate said "then they're not straight." And later he also said something like "you can't change who you are."

By the end of it all, half the room was standing up and the discussion leader and the debate instigator were yelling at each other across the room while they were both being held back by four or five people. Before it could come to blows people were luckily able to lead the young man outside.

After, one of the brand new attendees asked me if I volunteered every week. I told her yes and that it doesn't usually get so loud and violent. She said that she was definitely coming back because "that was so exciting."

Anyways, I still have conflicted feelings about transgendered individuals. For the most part I'm very supportive, because they have always been on the front lines of the LGBT civil rights movement. But sometimes I wonder how many of them want to be trans so they don't have to be gay. I think it's at least some, although probably a very small group. And I don't think you should ever blame a murder victim for the murder.

*I do have a Jewish friend now. She writes the last blog on my blog roll, about taking care of her dad, who has Alzheimer's. It's much more entertaining than Francpotatoll. Her most recent funny dad quote: "I suppose, if everyone were satisfied, there wouldn't be much Italian at all, just music, music, music." It's kind of a sad blog though.

**Because this is a family blog, I won't go too in depth into some of Trisha's comments during the group discussion on STDs. Basically, she kept asking if certain things were normal about the men she had been with or signs of an STD. Most of them should have been obviously abnormal and some of them involved copious amounts of blood. It was really a struggle not to laugh at the time, which I guess means I'm pretty immature.

1 comment:

francpotatoll said...

I titled this as I did because the letter to the editor I wrote three posts down talked quite a bit about transgenders. But now I realize that I edited that part of the letter out. Oops! That sounds like a personal problem.