Today I will take you on a little journey into the life of a transgender woman. It will not be what you might imagine.
My day is rather like the average day of any female who lives in a nice house in a small town in the foothills of the Rockies. I ride the trails on my mountain bike or pedal the roads on my touring bike. If it’s Monday, I go for a long run. If it’s Tuesday, I see counseling clients throughout the day and enjoy staff meeting and a relaxing lunch with my co-pastors at Left Hand Church.
Saturdays are a little different. I sleep in, mow the lawn, run for 45 minutes, then head to church where we set up for services while the worship team practices their set. After church a bunch of us go to dinner before I head home to watch Saturday Night Live. Yep, pretty simple, the ordinary life of a woman in one of the nicer locales on planet earth. And oh yes, I forgot to mention, absolutely no one, ever, treats me as anything other than the tall white woman I am. Which is what makes me forgetful.
A wedding invitation came in the mail the other day. It excluded me. I have been informed I should not attend a few weddings and other milestone events in the past couple of years. I was even disinvited from my high school reunion. Until these social slights occur, I forget there are these peculiar spaces from which I am excluded.
I also forget about the troll-driven venues on which I am vilified. Then a friend reminds me, “Have you seen the 3,000 YouTube comments about your TED talk?!” I tell them no, I have not seen them. I have no masochistic tendencies.
Last month I turned down an invitation to speak at a Christian university where I was asked to share the stage with a second speaker who believes, “being transgender is not a thing.” The school was shocked when I declined their invitation. I asked if an African-American speaker would be inclined to share the stage with a person who said being black, “wasn’t a thing.” I don’t think they got it.
Of course the truth is that every single day I interact with these people. I see them at the grocery store, the corner Starbucks, the local shopping center. They have no idea they are talking with a transgender woman. They talk and laugh and joke like I am a normal human.
I sometimes want to reveal that I am transgender, but I never do. I figure it is already hard enough for them to get up in the morning and have to be who they are. We’re all just trying to get by.
If you tend to see me favorably, as most of my readers do, you need not lose sleep over my experience. It is what it is. I rarely take it personally. My life is rich and full and filled with committed people, including people of faith, whose generosity knows no bounds.
I feel sorry for those who are afflicted with Hardening of the Categories. It can be cured, but first you have to want to get well, and a lot of people have no interest in getting well. They are happy living inside their self-imposed quarantine.
You know, those folks could go ahead and send their invitations. They need not worry. I am not inclined to go where I am not wanted. I get the lay of the land. I know I am not welcome in only one kind of place in America, evangelical spaces.
Of course, it does seem kinda ironic that every last evangelical website opens with the tagline, “Where Everyone Is Welcome.”
People are strange.
22 thoughts on “Sometimes I Forget”
This is a very eye-opening article for me. I love your phrase “Hardening of the Categories” and I plan to use it. I have to admit that I’ve suffered from it from time to time. Compassion and a commitment to love as Jesus loves is the only cure. The evangelical community is a tough nut to crack and some of the nuts have no desire to crack… they are not even aware they are nuts! Praying that we see everyone through Jesus’ eyes and love as He loves!
I began suffering from ‘Hardening of the Categories’ some years back. I suppose it was inevitable as I tried denying who I was & had been diagnosed as having a bullshit disease, Fibromyalgia. But I remember the free spirited young woman who loved everyone & didn’t give a hoot about color, gender, lifestyle. I was fascinated with people & life. Just last month I saw your YouTube Ted talk about discovering just how much fun it was to be a woman (I’ve experienced some real crap in my life too). In my mind I heard ‘yup, welcome to my world’ and ‘you have no real clue!’. But this time I talked back, out loud. I said ‘She’s learning, just as I did! It’s painful & she needs our prayers & support’. I broke the evil spell of negative influence & am looking at everything differently. I don’t fully understand transgender but am willing to try & open my mind & heart back up. After all I am 63 & come from the Peace, Love & Rock and Roll generation! Thank you for sharing, caring & helping me to come back to myself & God. Namaste’. Nan B.
Thank you so much Nan.
Michael, they aren’t nuts. Perhaps limited in their view. Someone as articulant and compassionant as you have the perfect toolbox to help an unsuspecting soul see life from other perspectives.
I suppose we’re all nuts in one way or another Michael. And yep, we all need to be cracked every now and again.
Very good “meditation”. I have a site: WordsFromWarren.com and I wondered if it would be ok if I “reblogged” you? Either way, please have this word of support and affirmation from Minnesota.
That’d be fine Warren. Thanks for reading.
You left out the part about being a teacher. I remember when I referred to a woman as “Hispanic.” She was very offended. “I’m not Hispanic,” she snapped, “I’m Puerto Rican!”
I thought I was being kind and inclusive by acknowledging her “origin. I never forgot that lesson. It also reminded me when my ethnicity went from “Negro” to “Black.” Another time while visiting a family in Russia, the hostess, thinking she was being gracious said, Nigga, you Nigga? Almost choking on the sip of hot tea, my mind was quick enough to say, “In America, we prefer to be called Negro.
When we find ourselves in people’s world different from our own pursausion, we too have an obligation to taken advantage of the moment in a non-threatening manner and demonstrate the beauty of our differences. I applaud you for taking the time to cause your readers to reflect. Not everyone will hear your intent, but someone will. If this were not true, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.
Thank you so much for writing Jean. Yep, those cross-cultural experiences can be more than a little harrowing.
I really wasn’t trying to emphasize cross cultural issues. I was thinking about the need for taking advantage of teaching moments by those of us who were the offendees.
My whole perspective was broaden when individuals let me see through their eyes like you did in your writings.
Thanks for responding.
Been following your blog since I think February since I stumbled upon your TED talk. What impressed me the most (and scared me even more) is your courage to live your life so authentically and what it cost and still costs to do so.And yet given you so so much. I am so warmly glad that you can write “My life is rich and full and filled with committed people, including people of faith, whose generosity knows no bounds.” Some day I might be free to be fully and openly me too – but that’s a journey of a thousand steps, years, decades…
It is a journey of a thousand steps, Lynn. And every last bit of it one step at a time.
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I love the phrase ‘Hardening of the Categories’. It offers hope that it is reversible.
I am appalled at the disinvited. It brought tears to my eyes. Stay happy God loves you. Best Jeri
I miss you Jeri. I never get back to the Island anymore. Next time I’m there, we’ll have to connect.
“Where everyone is welcome” when everyone clearly ISN’T welcome kills me.
This was honest and piercing and I’m so glad I found your blog. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so much Laura.
Hi, the phrase ‘Hardening of Categories’ is bang on. I so disagree with society’s discrimination and treatment of anyone they find different. Everyone is unique and equal and deserves respect. Whatever God has given us should be accepted with love. But society’s definition of normal, beautiful, right is distorted. Appreciate your courage in standing up, facing the society and motivating others who go through similar pain in their everyday life. Love to get in touch with people who despite their life problems try to make their life meaningful
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Stumbled on 2 of your TED talks. And after Googling your name found paulastonewilliams.com.
Just started reading some of your comments. I have left religiosity behind I find your life story strangely spiritual in some way.
Wishing you all the best and thanking you
Thank you so much Hedwig. It’s been an interesting journey.