good example

Subject: good example
Date: Sat 27 Mar 1999 - 23:00:18 GMT

If, as I have suggested here, society's goal is to stigmatize deviance, to
paint deviant behavior as a bad example in order to keep as many people as
possible from engaging in it, then what is the most courageous and heroic
thing that someone stigmatized in this way can do? Maybe it is as simple as
this: work hard to be a good example.

To keep people in their place, society paints those who transgress the norms
as shameful, odd, deranged, uppity, offensive and generally bad. They do this
not to keep the rebels under control, but to keep as many people as possible
from rebelling and challenging the traditional social order.

I think of the African-American men and women who stood up and were good role
models, good examples to people of color who aspired to higher things, and how
those uppity blacks were humiliated and stigmatized by people invested in
maintaining the status quo. Facing the certainty of challenge, they built
lives and showed the possibility of change.

Is the most heroic thing we can do to choose to sacrifice personal confront to
become a good example of a transgendered presence in the world? Do we best
serve future generations and our own desire to create change by acting not out
of self interest, but out of a longer term investment in creating visible
images of good transgender example? This is not to say that a visible life
has to be a bad life, only one of danger and abuse -- the truth may be that
our own visibility may bring us personal benefits as well.

If the defenders of the status quo have a vested interest in casting members
of some group (or individuals who engage in some behavior) as the self-
centered and destructive villain, then maybe the most subversive thing we can
do is to appear altruistic and constructive.

This is not a simple task, of course. The very pounding of stigma makes it
easy to become self-focused, angry and bitter, lashing out in pain to destroy
whatever feels like it is causing our suffering.

Both tears and sweat are salty,
but they render a different result.
Tears will get you sympathy;
sweat will get you change.
        Jesse Jackson

I am thinking about what it means to be a hero, to put aside comfort to
achieve something lasting. I have seen, just in this past week, a number of
transgendered people who I respect, who I have seen as heroes because they are
acting as good examples, look to me and say that they too need heroes, good
examples to look to.

Maybe the most subversive and heroic thing transgendered people can do is
simply to be visibly good examples in the world. This is the one thing that
the system can't stand as it tried to defend the status quo, because it is,
after all, the most effective way to destroy prejudice and fear.

Being a good person in a visible way. It's a dirty job, but somebody has to
do it,



This archive was generated by hypermail 2a23 : Wed 21 Jul 1999 - 18:22:40 BST