Standing UP & Standing OUT

Earlier this week I received an e-mail from a gay Christian blogger. He often goes on rants about the word QUEER suggesting that if ANYONE uses it, this reveals serious problems with the person. They have given into the language of our oppressions who have used such words against us. Although I have tried to explain to him directly and indirectly that one size does NOT fit all (see my blog post on the word queer here), he and some others remain inflexible and dogmatic about the use of the word.

In his most recent e-mail he wrote to over a dozen LGBT bloggers and organizations encouraging us to read his latest series of blog posts about gender and transgender people and issues. I read through both the posts and found them appallingly inaccurate, offensive and disrespectful to the stories and lives of the many transgender folks I have met over the past five years. So much so in fact that I decided to respond to this blogger and all the people on the e-mail list that he included. I wrote,

Xxx, remove me from your mailing list. I have been able to put up with you misguided fundamentalism around the word queer, but I cannot stomach your misrepresentation of transgender individuals.

One individual, who was in the CC of the e-mail, wrote and wondered why I included all. This person felt like I was spamming everyone. I totally can understand that. Lord knows I get far too many forwarded, copied and unsolicited e-mails. We began a cordial exchange,  and the person asked what exactly I find offensive about the gay Christian blogger’s words.

I wrote,

I typically ignore many of Xxx’s statements about the word queer. He paints with broad brush strokes assuming that if one uses the word, it means that there is something wrong with them. I understand how some people find the word offensive, but in a community as diverse as ours, one size does not fit all. If we are not careful, we can practice the same intolerance and oppression that we received from those who stand against us. I wrote a blog post about my thoughts and feelings on the matter.

As a non-trans gay man who does work around transgender issues (I perform a play about transgender Bible characters) I have spent a lot of time with trans people, learning firsthand about their lives and stories, hearing about the garbage they have to put up with from non-trans folks both straight and LGB. When I read Xxx’s blog entries on transgender issues, I felt they were offensive, misguided, inaccurate and transphobic. At times I think we need to make a stand and make a statement. Since he e-mailed a bunch of people the link and encouraged us to read it, I felt it was important to contact the same people to voice my objection to his words. Too often non-trans folks have stood by silently and not challenged misinformation and bullying.

I don’t ever remember doing a mass CC before to everyone on a list, and I will definitely consider your words should I feel drawn to do so again. My intention was not to spam people.

I appreciate you writing and letting me know how you felt about receiving the message from me.

On my blog I will not include links to the gay blogger’s site because I don’t want to indirectly promote such misguided and unhelpful messages. I write this blog to right a wrong. For too long as a non-trans gay man, I have sat by silently and not done enough to address the transphobia and misinformation often perpetuated by fellow non-trans gay man (Christian and otherwise).

I know for some non-trans folks, transgender issues and concerns may initially seem foreign to them. Some may even have experienced strong and even irrational reactions to transgender people within the community. As members of the LGBT community and hopefully allies to all in the community, we need to pursue thoughtful conversation and education. At times we need to stand up and stand out.

For an excellent, informative and entertaining first-person resource on transgender issues, check out Mila and Jayna’s Trans-Ponder Podcast. For a faith-based transgender resource, check out TransFaith Online.

Tags:

This post has 23 Comments

  1. gwenydd on April 10, 2009 at 5:23 pm Reply

    Thank you so much Peterson. I, and all your friends in the Trans community depend heavily on love and support from our LGB brothers and sisters… often for our very survival. As a lesbian trans woman I am constantly surprised at how many people in the LGB community don’t even realize or accept that we are inherently a part of the same family and fighting right along side them.

    Without allies like you we would have little hope of ever receiving anything but hatred and mistrust from others. Even within the LGB family.

    with much love,

    Gwen de Lucero
    Milpitas, CA

  2. williehewes on April 10, 2009 at 5:35 pm Reply

    You’re no good at internet drama, Peterson! You have to link to him so we can get angry at him too! lol

    Just kidding, I think this is a smart way to handle it. And good for you for standing up to him, and letting the rest of the village know.

    Enjoy your time with your man, btw. *glee*

  3. p2son on April 10, 2009 at 5:38 pm Reply

    Thanks williehewes, btw, I will be in the UK for 6 weeks starting April 23! Will I get to see YOU???

    Gwen, thank you so much for your kind words. I appreciate them. I recognize too that I am a recent and still uninformed ally. I will get it wrong. As a friend, please correct me when I mess up, misstate things, overstep my bounds. I respect your opinion and input!

  4. gwenydd on April 10, 2009 at 5:44 pm Reply

    You have nothing to worry about Peterson. You’re doing great!

    Gwen

  5. transmanaz on April 10, 2009 at 5:47 pm Reply

    Thank you for standing up and out for our community, Peterson. You are one of the few in the GLB community who includes the T.

    Your support is awesome, and I thank you sincerely for helping to educate people on the trans community.

    Michael Brown
    Executive Director
    TransMentors International
    http://www.TransMentors.org

  6. the fire cat on April 10, 2009 at 6:09 pm Reply

    As a queer trans man, I want to thank you. I have stumbled across that particular blog a few times (I am going to presume that the one of which you speak is the one of which I speak) and find it alarming AND alarmist. I’m glad you said something about it.

    I am now and have always been a proponent of the idea that we own our own language. Part of why I transitioned was to assume my own identity, after all, and I think I should get to call myself what I am. Hence, the modifiers queer and trans. Yes, I am a man, but I am NOT actually a regular man.

    Anyway. Thank you. I’m glad I found this post.

  7. Johanna on April 10, 2009 at 6:12 pm Reply

    thanks for being such an ally, and encouraging the rest of us to be allies as well. i know i have a long way to go before becoming the ally i want to be to trans-folk.

  8. p2son on April 10, 2009 at 7:18 pm Reply

    Thanks Gwen. I will get it wrong as most allies do at some point. It is part of being any kind of an ally that we remain resilient and open to correction.

    Michael, thanks! It was great to meet you! Hope I get to see you again soon.

    fire cat, “alarming AND alarmist” Well said. Thanks for sharing some of your story here.

    Johanna, thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  9. Stasa Morgan-Appel on April 10, 2009 at 7:25 pm Reply

    Thank you for resisting drama. 🙂

    You wrote: “I know for some non-trans folks, transgender issues and concerns may initially seem foreign to them. Some may even have experienced strong and even irrational reactions to transgender people within the community.”

    Well, that could certainly be said of me.

    I’d been part of the LBG movement for about 10 years when, all of a sudden it seemed to me, I was meeting a number of trans people, mostly in my faith community. And while I had a gut feeling that trans folks’ issues and concerns were related to mine, I had to take that on faith for a while, because I just didn’t get it. Some things were clearly related — if coming out as trans means you’re a lesbian, for example, and the fact that any number of trans people had been part of the LBG movement for a looong time. Others seemed, yes, really foreign. I also knew in my head that there were connections in our oppression, but it took a while for my gut to catch up to that head knowledge. (And I know there are still places where my gut hasn’t caught up.)

    Strong and irrational reactions? My, yes. Deep discomfort at the same time as affection and deep respect. Talk about confusing! Twitching while sitting down to a meal with someone whom, the more I got to know her, the more I liked and respected her? Ouch. Not how I like to think of myself.

    Almost ten years ago, at a retreat, I was putting together a small group called the “Humorless Lesbian Vegetarians” to sing in the talent/no-talent show. A trans Friend I had just met, whom I liked and respected and wanted to like and respect me, but around whom I was also acutely uncomfortable, asked me, “Do you have room for a lesbian who’s a bass?” I gulped and said, “Of course I do!” It wasn’t just an opportunity to “walk my talk”; it was an opportunity to see if my talk really fit my insides — fit my inner truth. It did — but I didn’t know for certain ahead of time that it would.

    The bottom line for me, as a Friend and a feminist, has been, “What is the truth of this person’s experience?,” and, “How is the Spirit moving in this person’s life?” Trans friends who have been willing to be honest with me about their experiences have helped me a lot. Knowing trans Friends who have had Quaker clearness committees has helped me a lot. Seeing for myself, and hearing from these F/friends, how being true has helped them be faithful and has brought them closer to the Divine, however they experience that Mystery, is humbling, and has helped me a lot.

    All this speaks to the power of community — to honoring and nurturing the Divine connections between us.

    More recently, again at a LGBTQ retreat, I met a trans person who was there for the first time. About halfway through the weekend, they mentioned that I had known them pre-transition. It took me a moment, and then I made the connection. They didn’t need to share that with me in order for us to eat meals together and talk to each other at the retreat. It was a gesture of trust I really, really appreciated. And it meant I had the chance to, just a little bit, be part of this as-yet fragile flowering of truth. That was a privilege.

    I still don’t entirely “get it,” and I might not ever. But I hope that doesn’t mean I can’t be an effective ally, or that I can’t, down in my gut and in my heart, see how we really are connected in this struggle for equality.

  10. gwenydd on April 10, 2009 at 8:10 pm Reply

    I like your attitude Stasa.

    As the strange, isolated-in-our-own-bodies creatures we humans are nobody can expect anyone else to truly and fully “get” them. But we can can all still love and respect each other for who we are. You are proof of that.

    Your friends are fortunate to have you with them. =)

    Hugs,

    Gwen

  11. Jayna on April 10, 2009 at 8:20 pm Reply

    “Did you ever know that you’re my hero? Cuz you are the wind beneath my wings!”

    We love ya Peterson!

  12. syrlinus on April 10, 2009 at 8:38 pm Reply

    Thanks, Peterson.

  13. p2son on April 10, 2009 at 8:39 pm Reply

    Jayna, now don’t you get started. Lord knows my head is big enough already :-p

    I LOVE YOU and your fabulous podcast. Which reminds me, Marvin said he had something important to tell you.

  14. Jayna on April 10, 2009 at 8:45 pm Reply

    oh dear if Marvin has something to say, that can be good or not 😀

  15. Mila on April 10, 2009 at 9:30 pm Reply

    Way to go Peterson!!!! You are AWESOME 🙂

  16. queermergent on April 10, 2009 at 9:51 pm Reply

    i self identify as a queer woman. For many years it was used in a derogatory way as i understand the history. i was not out then but i see taking the word back and using it as a sense of empowerment. Why do people in our community get their knickers all in a twist? People should be free to identify as they see fit.

    Existential Punk

  17. Dharma Kelleher on April 10, 2009 at 9:58 pm Reply

    To say “I love you” falls short of the gratitude I feel for you and the work you do.

  18. Joe G. on April 10, 2009 at 10:55 pm Reply

    He often goes on rants about the word QUEER suggesting that if ANYONE uses it, this reveals serious problems with the person.

    How queer of him to think that…

    PS: I’d sing your praises, too, Peterson, but that would ruin the dynamic we’ve created together…

  19. Stasa Morgan-Appel on April 11, 2009 at 3:32 am Reply

    Gwen — thanks. *blush*

    Jayna, if Marvin has something to say… be afraid! 😉

  20. lower case paul on April 11, 2009 at 1:19 pm Reply

    P2,

    So, you are doing the Lords work again. 🙂

    Calling whited sepulchers “whited sepulchers” is a time honored tradition. If a person calling their self “Christian” can derive one thing from the story of Jesus it would seem to be that how we believe is every bit as important (if not more so) than what we believe. Me thinks that more often than not, Gods name is used in vain, attributing to “God” ones own particular bias.

    Few things seem more damaging in life than to carve a rule on a rock and hurl it at someone. It doesn’t really matter what the rule is… attached to a rock, it still has the same effect when thrown.

  21. Annonymous on April 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm Reply

    Lower Case Paul, very very deep words there. Well said, and well done! You have a poetic soul too…

  22. p2son on April 11, 2009 at 2:42 pm Reply

    lower case paul, well said as always.

    Stasa, kisses and songs.

    Joe, yeah, wouldn’t want people to see us too chummy. BTW, I think Marvin has something to tell you too, but now that you have discouraged people from leaving you voice mails (after previously badgering us to leave you voice mails) he is unsure of how to proceed. You are a complicated soul 😀

    Dharma, so nice to see you again.

    Existential Punk, you know I am coming to the UK soon. We totally should hang out.

    Mila, Mila, Mila! What more can I say but Mila, Mila, Mila!

  23. queermergent on April 12, 2009 at 2:52 pm Reply

    Peterson,

    i used to live in the UK but am living in Richmond, VA until we move back to California this summer. So when you are in CA let’s connect for sure!

    EP

Leave a Comment