Tag Archives: identity

Your Picture in the Paper

tucson march_edited-1.png

In case you’re wondering, my performance at the Dan Quayle rally did not go over well among his supporters. I’m lucky I’m cute, or I’d probably get beaten up a lot more often.

To be fair, the TV station must have figured out their mistake because they appear to have added 2 women talking to the clip and cut out 2/3 of my friend’s interview by the time I wrote this comic. But we had a good laugh about it Saturday night, my friend being the first to point out the irony/institutionalized sexism. Also to be fair, my friend is a very cool white guy, and very well-spoken. But there were a LOT of other voices KGUN9 might have chosen to air.

A lot of people’s favorite sign on the internet seemed to be the one that read, “So bad even introverts are here,” and that really resonated with me. I have strong beliefs, but I find social action terrifying. Even calling my representatives fills me with dread, but the last few weeks have inspired me to take more a participatory approach. I did call my senators, and emailed them, and had a letter I wrote (printed on paper and signed) hand-delivered to my congressperson. And I forced myself to get up and march, even though contemplating the act was nerve wracking and anxiety provoking. And I ended up having what I’d consider, under any other circumstance, a really unflattering, and somewhat misleading picture of myself circulated to 10s of 1000s of people because for a split second I looked the part, even if, for 25 years, I haven’t really acted it. I mean, I write, I talk, I educate individual people here and there who seem receptive to opening their minds, but there are so many folks who have consistently done so much more. I admire them, but I don’t know how to force myself to act like them.

I am a lot more comfortable behind my keyboard. Today I was invited to this National Write Out action, with the theme “What’s worth fighting for is worth writing for.” But, of course, that’s all backward. Writing is easy. Going out and making noise is hard. Still, if someone wants me to hashtag something for the good of humanity, it’s almost the least I can do.

Oppression

censorship 2_edited-2

Next thing you know they’ll be telling us we can’t ostracize and castigate those who are different!

Whenever I read about censorship attempts made against really intelligent books, my brain screams in terror. This comic is based on a challenge that came out recently in Michigan, regarding a book called Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. As it turned out, I recently read this book to my group of 40-odd kinders, and I thought it was a great story for little kids.

To the best of my recollection, the story is as follows: Morris is a regular kid who likes drawing and playing with his friends. He also likes putting on an orange dress in his classroom’s dress-up center. He likes the dress because it is the color of “tigers, the sun, and his mother’s hair.” Some of the kids tell him that boys can’t wear dresses and also that if he wears that dress he can’t do boy things, like pretend to be an astronaut. Morris thinks about it for a while and then decides those other kids can suck it. He informs them that he is a boy regardless of what he is wearing, and that anyone can pretend to be an astronaut, and then he takes them on a great make-believe astronaut adventure while wearing the dress.

I’d like to add that, following my reading of this book to 2 classrooms of 5-year-olds, not a single child died, became a drag queen, or suddenly found themselves “confused” about their identity.

As the author points out in the article, there’s absolutely nothing in the story to indicate that Morris is queer or trans or questioning or anything other than a little boy who has fun putting on a costume. The book is about bullying, and about why it’s not OK to exclude people because they’re different. But someone managed to take offense at that premise and assert their right to torment and denigrate people who are different. Can’t have our kids tolerating, you know. Our beliefs don’t allow us to tolerate.

Here’s a hint: if schools, businesses, and public offices are closed for your religion’s major holiday, you are not in a minority, and your beliefs are not under attack. If you know that the majority of people you see on TV, in the movies, and in your daily life are familiar with your religious traditions, you are not in a minority, and your beliefs are not under attack. If anyone has ever felt justifiable outraged because a coffee chain did not print symbols of your religion on their cups, you are not in a minority, and your beliefs are not under attack.

If someone says something you disagree with, you are not under attack.

On the other hand, if anyone has ever suggested that your very existence is “wrong,” “against god,” or  “a scathing indictment of the breakdown of American morality…literally celebrating perversion,” then you are probably an oppressed minority marginalized by the dominant culture, and it’s probably in your best interest if public schools teach that it’s OK for you to be yourself and it’s not OK for people to attack you for it.

If someone forces you to DO something that goes against your morality, then you have a lawsuit. If someone TELLS your child something you disagree with, you can politely disagree. People imparting information that does not jibe with your beliefs is not a crime. If it were, guess what: all the Jewish and Muslim and Pagan and Shinto and Hindu and traditional Native American families in America would sue any school district where kids were expected to learn Christmas carols or even hear the word “Santa” spoken.

There are about 9 million Jews in America, most of whom grew up being forced to learn someone else’s traditions in public schools. (All of them were laughing their heads off when your kids talked about Santa, because they knew those kids were being duped. And we sang your terrible Christmas music anyway.) And allow me to point out that, historically, Christian beliefs are much more threatening to Jewish people than gender nonconformity is to Christian people. Historically, Christian people are much more threatening to gender nonconforming people than gender nonconforming people are to Christian people. Do you know what the murder rate for the average American is? About 1 in 6000. Do you know what the murder rate is for gender nonconforming people? About 1 in 12. Maybe, if you’re against murder, you can accept that it might be necessary to teach people not to hate those who are different?

Here’s another thing: if your beliefs are so fragile that they can be shattered by reading about someone who thinks differently, maybe your beliefs aren’t really that strong. I know plenty of Christians who are loving and accepting and full of tolerance and live by the words of their book, and reactionary nut jobs are making them look bad.

Dictionary Definition

You lack both the language skills as well as the perceptive capacity.

You lack both the language skills as well as the perceptive capacity.

I won this particular copy of Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary in the 8th grade, when I won the all-school spelling bee on the word “forfeit.” It’s been with me a long time, and the cover is askew from years of abuse. Now, of course, I usually use the Internet, or sometimes the lovely but cumbersome “Compact” Oxford English Dictionary, which was a gift from the Fox. It’s the one that has 9 pages printed in minuscule text on each oversized page, and come with a fun magnifying hemisphere.

As for defining other people: the dictionary is just doing its job, after all, when it offers definitions. I’m not sure what’s up with people who think they can define total strangers who don’t want and haven’t asked for their opinion. There are the critics who insist on telling other people what their gender or sexuality *really* is, and the ones who explain the life experience of people from different economic classes, and even the ones who say, “Well, I can easily do XYZ, therefore everyone should easily do XYZ and if they don’t they’re lazy and deserve to fail.”

The solution, of course, is to shut up and listen. It’s not easy. When you have your own, perfectly valid perspective, you don’t necessarily see the need to hear someone else’s point of view. Personally, I think that empathy is one of the things that separates us from wild creatures. If you lack the ability to put yourself into another person’s shoes, the DSM would probably define you as having antisocial personality disorder, more popularly known as being a psychopath., If you have the ability but choose not to exercise it, I’d love to know how you define yourself. Also, how you live with yourself.

Unfortunately for me, I seem to have come across a great many of these people online lately.

Dragon Comics 109

Seriously, Dragon isn't ever even wearing pants.

Seriously, Dragon isn’t ever even wearing any pants to begin with.

Two things: first of all, it’s problematic when discourse surrounding gender focuses on genitals, because obviously, there is no other situation wherein reasonable people consider it polite to speculate about the appearance of a stranger’s pubic region; and second, it’s dangerous when gender dictates activities, areas of expression, and appearance, because limiting behavior means limiting freedom.

Dragon is more genderqueer than I am, but some of the worst reflections of my childhood come to me when I see kids shoved this way or that, told not to be who they are. My whole life I’ve bristled at the suggestion that my lack of a Y chromosome should mean that I’m meant to be demure, modest, or deferential. I have none of those qualities, and whenever I see a Buzzfeed list with a title like “69 Things All 80s/90s Girls Remember,” I never remember any of those things, despite being, ostensibly, a “girl” in the 80s and 90s. Between the ages of 5 and 15, the suggestion that I put on a dress for any reason would inspire a screaming match between my mother and me. People were constantly telling me to do things I couldn’t do, like lower my voice and act like a lady.

It’s taken a long time to come to a place of comfort with my gender expression and acceptance of my physical body, but I don’t forget how hard it was to get here, and my journey was much easier than others’.

So, however you feel about people being transgendered in any way, try to separate your feelings about it from the feelings of the person living it. Other people should get to do what they like with their bodies. The way you feel about their face, or their hair, or their pubic region has no bearing on their autonomy to live in a way that’s comfortable to them. You don’t get to tell other people how to be themselves.

And seriously, stop judging people’s genitals. Just stop.

Dragon Comics 108

I'm not even going to say anything about the shoes, but where do you even get a headband like that?

I’m not even going to say anything about the shoes, but where do you even get a headband like that?

You hear a lot of noise about the children. Think about the children. How will we explain this to the children?

Children are a lot more open-minded than adults, and a lot better able to assimilate information that diverges from their previously held worldview. Children like to be initiated into the secrets of the world.

So, you know how we explain this to the children? With simple unbiased, age-appropriate words, providing additional information as appropriate, because there aren’t any important conversations we have with our kids just once. We communicate our values through word and action, and if we show the children that it’s OK to be who you are, even if you’re different, then we raise children who learn to be kind and accepting of themselves and others. We teach that the world requires many different ways, and that it would be dull and flavorless if we were all exactly alike. We celebrate diversity wherever it can enrich our understanding of our condition.

If we communicate fear and hatred, we raise children who learn to loath their own uniqueness and torment those who dare to express their uniqueness honestly. We teach them to police themselves, to ridicule divergence and lack of conformity. We drive everything that doesn’t fit within our rigid boundaries underground and then we congratulate ourselves on keeping things orderly, of proving to ourselves that clearly, ours is the only perspective, because we’ve silenced all the other voices.

Mostly, though, we have to trust kids to know who they are. Our labels and our perception can’t get at their inner truth; they have to get at their own insides themselves. We have to let them know that we trust them to tell us who they are, even if they are something we do not yet understand. That’s what we tell the children.

Dragon Comics 107

If you've been paying attention, you've noticed that the appropriate pronoun for Dragon is "dragon."

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that the appropriate pronoun for Dragon is “dragon.”

This story arc has been brewing almost since the beginning of the comic, which is why it has never happened, in 107 comics, that Dragon has been referred to with a gender pronoun.. For a while it seemed like I was going to chicken out and not go with it, but it’s been on my mind for a long time. As is true for most of my comics, I have some person stuff to work out. The time is right. Everyone’s talking about gender right now. Of course, some of us have been talking about it for decades, but now your granny is talking about it.

To start, I think most open-minded human beings can admit that gender behavior occurs along a spectrum. We really meet comparatively few men who, say, don’t think puppies and kitties are adorable. We rarely find women embracing the quality of weakness. And since gender is expressed through choices and behavior, if its expression takes place on a continuum, then gender itself can’t truly be a binary either. You could describe it as a quaternity (one, the other, both, neither) but even that doesn’t get at the nuances of who we feel like inside.

Little kids are taught the binary, which leads some of us to hide the parts that don’t fit, or else to be become saddled with derogatory tags. But why does a kid’s gender matter? We don’t want kids pairing off and mating in our society, and we no longer force adults into rigid gender roles for their entire lives to reinforce a social order for which they must begin relentlessly training at a young age. So, frankly, why should we care about little kids’ gender at all? Why shouldn’t we let them be who they feel they are?