I live a blessed and privileged life. I interact daily with people from all over the world who respect the journey on which I have embarked and treat me accordingly. I am rewarded for the authentic way in which I live my life. I have a wonderful church, deep friendships, and a large audience interested in what I have to say about gender equity and religious tolerance. My life is so blessed that I forget how difficult it is for so many other transgender people.
Dr. Rachel Levine’s Senate hearing this past week was a lesson in fear mongering. Rand Paul’s line of questioning was infuriating. He kept saying, “Let the record show that the candidate refuses to answer my question.” He was referring to his question that equated genital mutilation, a horrible practice condemned by the United Nations, with gender confirmation surgery. Rand Paul is a physician. He knew exactly what he was saying. He knows the difference between genital mutilation and gender confirmation surgery. Dr. Levine answered his horribly inappropriate question with grace and mercy, and she answered it accurately. She said, “Transgender medicine is a complex and nuanced field” composed of “robust research” and standards of care. She offered to come to his office and talk about it. But Paul had no interest in a serious conversation about gender dysphoria. He just wanted to drive fear into the minds of his constituents. What he did was unconscionable.
I am frequently the target of that kind of hateful behavior, but rarely to my face. Most often it is in written form, usually comments made online about speeches I have given. There are thousands of pejorative comments out there, but I don’t have to read any of them. Dr. Levine did not have that privilege. She had to listen to Rand Paul’s offensive line of questioning and respond with grace. Dr. Levine was very dignified. It was obvious that if there was a person in the room of whom we should be afraid, it was Rand Paul.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, we saw similar behavior from two female members of Congress, as they stirred up hate and fear in opposition to the Equality Act, passed later that day along partisan lines. One of those members of Congress is from my state, Lauren Boebert, who serves a district on the western slope of Colorado. I live in Boulder County, one of the most liberal counties in the nation. Weld County, to our east, is a bastion of conservatism. Some in Weld County have even suggested that they should secede from Colorado to become a part of Wyoming, which they border to the north. Colorado is a microcosm of our nation, very divided.
I do not spend much time in Weld County, just as I do not spend much time in the commonwealth Rand Paul represents, Kentucky. I lived in Kentucky through my high school and college years. After I transitioned, I was planning to attend one of my high school reunions. Though I had been voted most likely to succeed in my class, I was informed that if I attended, there might be trouble. I did not attend the reunion, though I did visit with my cousins and a few other good friends from my hometown who have been staunch supporters of mine. For the most part, however, I avoid Kentucky.
My privileged life allows me to avoid the haters, or at least direct contact with them. It’s enough to make me think things are truly getting better. Then I see Rand Paul, and Representatives Greene and Boebert, and I am reminded just how far we have to go. We desperately need the Equality Act to pass the Senate and be signed into law. There is absolutely nothing about being transgender that should strike fear into any rational person. The Bible has nothing to say about it, and no, your argument based on one Genesis passage is not convincing. It does not take much of a theologian to dismantle it. Not one of us has ever been accused, arrested, or convicted of being in a restroom for nefarious purposes. On the other hand, you might consider the fact that over one 20 year period, the three largest insurance companies representing Protestant churches in America paid out over 7,000 claims for clergy sexual abuse.
Fear mongering is deplorable. I knew someone who worked for Dr. Levine when she directed a program in adolescent medicine in Pennsylvania. This person and her husband spoke of Dr. Levine in very pejorative terms. When Dr. Levine was nominated for her position, it took me a while to realize she was the same physician about whom my acquaintances had spoken. The person I saw being interviewed in the Senate was nothing like what I had been told by these evangelical leaders, who described her as being a threat to her young patients.
The aggravating truth is that these are good people for whom I have a lot of respect. They have done good work throughout their lives, and pre-transition, they loved me well. I have not heard from them since I transitioned. We all have our blind spots, but blind spots can be dangerous when they lead to fear mongering. I hope my acquaintances have educated themselves about transgender people. I hope they now understand that we are good people who have struggled mightily to live authentically. We are a threat to no one.
I am grateful for Rachel Levine’s grace and composure under pressure. I do my best when I am in similar circumstances. Those of us who are able to do so have little choice but to boldly speak the truth and show the world who we are. I know of no other way to assure others that they have nothing to fear.