Subject: The hardest work.....
Date: Sun 04 Oct 1998 - 22:23:54 BST
It's been Pride Week here in Smallbany, and I have come to the conclusion that
the most important work we can do -- and the hardest work we can do -- is the
By political work, I don't mean being involved with the government and
elective office, though why HRC is endorsing Al D'Amato escapes me.
By poltical work, I mean the work of finding shared understandings that we can
use as a base for everyday decisions and for shared actions. If we want to
create commmunity, we must chase connection by coming to common ground and
creating coaltion -- and this requires concious choices to communicate,
compromise and change.
For iconoclasts, which transgendered people are almost by definition, this is
very hard magic.
I was in a conversation today with a drag queen who spouted phrases like "you
only have one life, so just live it! Why bother with the words, the
politics?" I have also recently been in conversation with a crossdresser who
has real trouble in coming to a poltical understanding with me. "Look, I feel
like you want me to change and I hate that. I just do this for fun and while
I am a leader, I don't want to have to change. You scare me when you talk
about your issues -- why don't you just keep understanding mine and I won't
have to understand yours?"
Both of these people are clear: they don't want to have to do the hard
poltical work of finding common ground, common understandings, common
language. They want others to adapt to them, but they don't feel they have
the time, the intelligence, the discipline or the incentive to understand and
adapt to others. They want others to speak in their language, but they are
not willing to do the self examination, compromise and change to speak in the
language of others.
We have chatted here about what "normative" means. On one level, we can
determine what is normative for a region by looking at the common choices
made. yet, on a more personal level, everyone knows exactly what normative is:
it is what "I" am. We are each the center of our world and we see the world
that is shared though our own eyes. We expect others to be like us.
Yet, if we want to come to poltical understandings, we have to accept that our
point of view is just one in the infinite set of viewpoints around the circle
of humanity Everyone has different socialization, desires, needs, gifts and
priorities, and each one of those views is a real view of our shared world.
To come to poltical coaltion, we have to embrace more views than just ours --
and that is hard.
The crossdresser I chatted with said that I scared him. I asked him how he
was scared. I don't think he is scared of physical danger -- I don't
physically attack people. And I don't think it's social danger, a fear of me
maliciously doing something to him and his family.
What does he fear? I suspect he fears that if he enagages me, he will be
uncomfortable. He will have to open his mind and let some new light in, and
that means he may have to rexamine and explore what he currently believes. I
suspect that he fears that if he does the work to enagage what I say, he may
find he has to change his mind, find some of his beliefs are limiting or
wrong, find that some of his identity props are just rationalizations.
This is the work that has to be done to find real poltical connection, to
examine our own beliefs with a willingness to compromise and change.
I suspect that there are two reasons to get frustrated with this kind of
coaltion building politics. The first reason is because we believe that
others aren't being open to us, aren't hearing what we say, and the second is
because we are fustrated with the demands of others to hear and adapt to what
they say, to be open to them.
This is the point of poltical clout, I guess -- if you have it, you can demand
that your words, ideas, priorities and positions be considered and represented
in shared solutions.
For me, I get frustrated when people want poltical change but are unwilling to
do the poltical work that is needed to create that change. They write the
process of understanding and finding common ground as "just words" and claim
that all that is needed is for each of us to do our own thing. I agree that
we must each do our own thing, but we need shared conceptual structures to
frame those things, shared stories and myths that are positive and inclusive,
not negative and exclusive.
For me, those structures circle around transgender and queer, not around
CD/TV/TS/Drag/Butch and homosexuality. I'd really like to share with people
around that, around what we do.
But to too many people that hard work is "just words," and something they
would rather avoid.
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