By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—
I usually like to focus on the positive aspects of being trans in this column. I’m happiest when I’m celebrating our lives and experiences, but there is no denying that a lot of the trans experience can be difficult. We face more slings and arrows in our lives than many people do in a lifetime, including discrimination, ignorance, violence, depression, fear, bigotry and hatred. We often suffer financially and socially simply for who we are, and that’s all on top of painful surgeries, expensive, difficult to obtain hormones, second puberties, odd fashion choices and catching up on gender-related skills and mores learned by everyone else during childhood.
Therefore, sometimes it can be hard for me to toe the mainstream LGBT line and tell everyone, “It gets better,” because that’s not necessarily true. [pullquote]Quite frankly, the kids who used to tease me on the school bus couldn’t hold a candle to some of the bullies I’ve met as an adult, and it’s more than bullies.[/pullquote]
Experience has taught me that people do not necessarily get nicer as we get older. The bullies do not always go away. Sometimes, they even get jobs as cops or politicians, bankers and bosses. Quite frankly, the kids who used to tease me on the school bus couldn’t hold a candle to some of the bullies I’ve met as an adult, and it’s more than bullies. There’s bills, mounting debt, broken families, traffic, war, wild weather, Fox News, and a heck of a lot of a$$holes.
What I think it would be more accurate to say is, “We get better.” We get better at dealing with all the crap that gets tossed our way. We get better at ignoring the jerks when we can and standing up to them when it becomes necessary. We learn that it’s not us, it’s them (just like our mothers always told us.) We find simple joys. We fall in love. We sometimes even find success!
For trans people, we find ourselves. We get to be just who we are, slings and arrows be damned, and for lots of us, that makes it all worthwhile. I often tell people that for all the genuine hardship and daily discrimination that can go along with being trans, I’ve never been happier in my life. [pullquote]What I think it would be more accurate to say is, “We get better.” We get better at dealing with all the crap that gets tossed our way. [/pullquote]
With all that out on the table, I come to my main point. Being trans is awesome, but being trans in the world can sometimes be very, very hard. I hear from a lot of folks who are desperate for guidance and who don’t know what to do about the bigots. They are afraid to leave their houses for the hurdles they must face, and here’s the hard thing I always have to tell them: you are your own best advocate.
Gods know, if I could protect every trans person from awfulness and ignorance, if I could shield them from the slings and arrows, physically put myself between them and the bigots, I would in a heartbeat. I’d do it for any one of you, because I love you.
Sadly, I’m just one person. A very big, very loud person, but one person nonetheless.
Thankfully, there are a number of very good organizations that exist to help LGBTQ people and trans people specifically, filled with highly dedicated people doing amazing work. Unfortunately, our organizations are far too often short-staffed, underfunded and overstretched, and often run mainly by volunteers on a shoestring budget.
There’s a concept in Christianity you’ve probably heard before: “God helps those who help themselves.” I’m not much of a Christian (Hail Eris!), but the idea this represents is sound. God aside, I have found that people and organizations are much more likely to help, and able to help most effectively, when we help ourselves, and when we start by being our own advocates. [pullquote]First of all, stand tall (even if you’re short). People have no right to discriminate against you. Even in areas where there are no laws, there is still right and wrong, and I declare here and now, in case there was any question, that discrimination against trans people is wrong (tell ‘em Lorelei said so!).[/pullquote]
It’s not enough just to tell Facebook how awful someone was to you today or to hope a magic lawyer will sweep down to bring legal wrath upon the heads of those who discriminate against us. We need to make the first steps ourselves. First of all, stand tall (even if you’re short). People have no right to discriminate against you. Even in areas where there are no laws, there is still right and wrong, and I declare here and now, in case there was any question, that discrimination against trans people is wrong (tell ‘em Lorelei said so!).
If we let them get away with it, they will. If they misgender you, correct them. If they mistreat you, let them know it is not acceptable. Be proud. Be strong, even if you don’t feel like it at all.
Folks often tell me how brave I am, but I’ve got a secret to tell you. Much of the time, I’m just as scared as you are. Often, I’m just faking it, acting (I’m a really good actor).
Bravery is not being unafraid. Only fools are unafraid. Bravery, true bravery, is doing it anyway.
I’m not saying you should try to be me. The world would implode under the weight of so much ego if there was more than one me! Instead, be yourself. You yourself are wonderful, amazing and powerful, so be proud, hold your head up high and speak up for yourself, even though it’s scary. Be your own best advocate. If you can do that, I promise, there’s a bunch of us who will be standing there right behind you.
*Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.