When the Tempest in the Teapot Is You
One day last March, over the course of 12 hours, the legislature of North Carolina spent $42,000 for the singular purpose of taking away my civil rights, stopping me from using the restroom that corresponds with the gender on my driver’s license and passport. Within a few weeks a major American controversy had erupted, and I said, “Whhhaaatt? This is a tempest in a teapot. Transgender people don’t abuse children, though evidence suggests some clergy and politicians do. What is going on?”
This whole fiasco might be fascinating to watch, except for one thing. I am the tempest in the teapot. After a lifetime of fear of retribution for emerging as I truly am, my fears are being realized, not just within the Evangelical church, but in the entire State of North Carolina, to say nothing of the 22 other states in which anti-transgender legislation is pending. Evidently a lot of Americans do not want me to exist, let alone go to the bathroom.
My initial response was a sarcastic piece that appeared in the Huffington Post. It was fun to write and garnered a fair amount of national attention. But as the controversy escalates, I am getting uncomfortable.
This is quite a comeuppance from my previous life, in which I was treated deferentially. Paul enjoyed the benefit of the doubt. If I accidentally took the wrong seat on an airplane, the other person assumed the problem was theirs. If I was waiting in line at the grocery store, they were likely to open a new register. If I told the guy at the Apple Genius Bar my Mac wasn’t fixed by repairing permissions, he believed me. Yeah, that was then.
It was startling enough to enter the world of women, where you are always considered not quite as competent as the boys. But now to be the object of outright derision is quite the conundrum. What began as a North Carolina nuisance has become a genuine problem. I’m starting to think, “What’s next?”
Then I stand back and take stock. My suffering can be measured in millimeters, not miles. No one is burning crosses on my lawn. I am not being turned away from poling places, or made to sit in the balcony at the movie theater. Racism was, and is, a national disgrace. For me, transphobia is little more than an inconvenience.
I flew through Charlotte last Friday. Everyone at the Admiral’s Club was apologizing for the actions of their self-important legislature. They said, “This is embarrassing. It makes us look like backwoods bigots.” It is important to note that North Carolina’s HB2 was in response to an expansive civil rights law passed by the Charlotte city council. Not all of North Carolina has lost its mind, just the prejudiced and ill-informed part. It is the same crowd that has always looked pretty bad in history’s rearview mirror.
I go to North Carolina again next week, and I will spend ten days there in July. I am not worried. What I face is nothing compared to what my African-American son-in-law faces, or what my Indian daughter deals with, or what my Indian daughter-in-law has had to endure. They have known real prejudice, not just the media-hyped transgender wars. And what they have faced is not as difficult as what their parents went through, or their parents before them. Prejudice has been around a while.
I am embarrassed I had so many years of privilege. Last Friday I watched a man all dressed in Brooks Brothers, about my age and height, as he was given more than his share of attention at the Admiral’s Club at LaGuardia. He has no idea how much America is tilted in his favor. I would not trade the knowledge I have gained by losing that privilege. It has been eye opening and life changing. When I compare my life of privilege to the bit of prejudice I receive nowadays, it will take decades before the scales of personal privilege are balanced.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not happy about HB2. But if that and Evangelical rejection are the only problems I have to face, I should stop complaining and count my blessings. I live in a nation in which the President and Attorney General have my back, and America’s largest corporations are willing to take a stand against LGBTQ injustice. I live in a world in which I still get to preach and teach in the church (though not the Evangelical church) amidst people who are wonderfully supportive. All in all, I’ve got it pretty easy. This tempest in a teapot will pass, and life will go on, and all manner of things shall be well.