Old Salts

Subject: Old Salts
Date: Thu 26 Nov 1998 - 15:13:58 GMT

I have come to the belief that transgender is like salt. It's crucial to add
a bit of it to the human stew, for flavor and for life, but when you get it in
too high a concentration it becomes unpalatable and problematic.

There seems to be a reason that TG is reasonably rare in the human gene pool.
William Dragoin has argued that TG people have always been an important part
of human cultures, as shamans, and that's why they exist from a
sociobiological point of view, and I agree with him. To keep a population
focused, though, you don't need that many shamans to show connection, perform
ritual and share new visions -- one per 50 or 100 people seems fine, and with
people living longer, we have more.

Transgender people have always spoken for a unique viewpoint, one that is
outside the bounds of everyday cares. While the majority of society is
focused on reproduction and child-rearing, on survival and routine, someone
has to speak for the link to the sacred, has to tell the old stories in new
language, has to commune with the underworld and bring back messages, has to
see past the walls of everyday life. We are the people who speak against the
mass thought, who argue the conventional wisdom, who dream and empower

I have been reading about the challenges of youth, and one point that they
make is that being queer in high-school is not about sexuality, it's about
deviance and individuality. While a gay jock may fit right in, a heterosexual
theatre geek may be seen as queer, and therefore is queer. As kids we know
this instinctively, that the connections are about the individualists, not
about sex. I suspect it won't surprise anyone here to know that I was named
"class individualist" in my high school yearbook -- we tend to be
iconoclastic, dramatic and unique, marching to the beat of our own drummer,
and that is the mark of queerness.

In my life, this has been something I have been fighting, wishing desperately
to be normative while knowing that I could never stand it. I remember sitting
at a bar, outside on the deck overlooking the Mohawk, and seeing a group of
people drinking and laughing, knowing that I would never be one of the mass,
and that while that stung a bit, I am proud of my uniqueness.

"Whatever the public blames you for, cultivate it:
it is yourself."
        Jean Cocteau

Unique is good, valuable and powerful. Yet, society cannot function without
sameness, routine and constancy. The balance has to come somehow, and I would
agree that over the past 175 years of the industrial revolution, we have lost
some of our respect for individual voices, stripping away their humanity with
an expectation of surface sameness. Mass culture, mass media tend to strip
away room for individual, eccentric, unique and regional voices.

My individual challenge is simple: come to a place where I can trust my own
unique and queer voice in the context of a culture that values sameness.

Our bigger challenge, though, is how to season all of culture in a unique way,
in a way that brings out the flavours of each ingredient without overpowering
the stew with our own salty flavor.

Salt is good. Too much salt in one spot is bad, especially when there are
places that have no salt at all. How do we move beyond concentrations to
bringing our flavor to all of the social stew?

Seems a challenge.



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