By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist-
When the news that Chaz was going to compete on “Dancing with the Stars,” almost immediately there was backlash. Religious leaders and such denounced the whole idea of transgenderism as if it were going to ruin American youth by setting a bad example of “You can change your sex if you want to on a whim!” There was even a psychiatrist who claimed that Chaz was misguided and that he could help change Chaz back to Chastity. Hundreds promised to boycott DWTS because of what Chaz represents.
What does Chaz represent? In my opinion, he represents truth and the shattering of accepted gender roles. It’s just too much for some people and they resort to whatever to justify their position even if it means denouncing another human being.
Not everyone was on the naysayer bandwagon. As a matter of fact, many people supported Chaz and many cheered him on that night as he cha-cha-ed his way into our lives and left America with the idea that there is nothing wrong with transitioning to your true gender. I saw the clip of his dance with his partner and at the end of the performance I believe that I saw everyone in the house giving him a standing ovation! Chaz’s dance debut catapulted transgenderism right in front of America’s eyes and gave a wholesome genuineness to transitioning. Three cheers to Chaz for what he did and to all of his supporters for backing him!
So “transgender” is now acknowledged in America whether people like it or not. I don’t know exactly what the thinking was before Chaz but now I’m beginning to feel a warm acceptance by many people.
Even with all of this wonderful news for us transpeeps. I realize that we still have a ways to go in order to get total acceptance or at least acknowledgement from everyone. A few weeks ago I was talking to a few members of the LGBT community and I asked them what they thought about transpeople. There was overwhelming acceptance but there were also some reservations, three to be exact.
The first one was that some gays and lesbians might think that changing genders is the latest craze, eerily paralleling what some Chaz detractors were saying. The fact that many of us transpeeps lived many years as one gender and then seemingly suddenly switched to the other gender suggests a picture of “I’m doing the latest thing!” but let me assure you that this is not a sudden change. This is the result of many years of introspection and agony and fear and denial and acceptance. It is not easy to change genders. There is much baggage and many things to work out on your way to transitioning. Sure, a man can do drag (dressing as a girl) and a woman can do drab (dressing as a boy) for shows and parties and such for a night but to change your gender not for one night but for forever and never look back is another thing. It’s a huge commitment, so please put to rest that idea that changing genders is the latest thing to do and something to do on a whim.
The second reservation came primarily from a small faction of the older lesbian community. Some of them have trouble with transwomen because they believe that anyone with a penis or anyone who had a penis is not welcome in female spaces. This small crowd has issues with men or anyone who they perceive to be men. When I first ventured out into the LGBT bar scene in the early ’00s I was warned by several transwomen that “lesbians aren’t especially fond of us” and that we should strive to fit into the lesbian culture unnoticed or fear rejection. I disregarded the warnings and to the surprise of others, had no problem with the lesbians. Unknowingly I think that I may have found an answer to the mistrust: just be who you are and be happy.
The third reservation comes again from another small faction of the lesbian community. It’s in dealing with when one of “their own” decides to transition to male. Disbelief and disapproval from friends may follow. I’ve talked with a few transmen and they told me that slowly and eventually many of them were excluded from functions from which they were previously welcomed. It’s a sad reality in our lives but when you transition you will lose some people.
There is more work to be done in these three areas of doubt and I hope that this column will spark some dialogue to start to get us all through it. We need to talk things out. After all, we are family!
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has three grown children and works at a local Fortune 500 company. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.