Antonia D'orsay

Making A Better Life

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | November 16, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: deep thoughts, future of activism, gay rights, horizontal discrimination, internal homophobia, Lesbian, marriage equality, Passing, Straight, Trans, transgender, transsexual

So I promised to tell you why I fight for our rights in my last column, and that time is now.

As I pointed out, I don't really have a lot of cause or reason to fight.

Indeed, I don't find activism to be particularly fulfilling, or advocacy to be especially rewarding, and don't really want to do it as I can think of many things I'd rather be doing.

Like making a better life for myself.

And that happens to be one part why I do it.

Because I'm making a better life for myself.

I have a life, and while I might be technically homeless, and while I have an income stream smaller than many people on state aid, it is still a good life and I like it. But it can be better.

It can be better because tolerance is a lot easier to do when the law sorta reminds you that's a social value. In 1865, Black people were freed from slavery. It took a hundred years for them to get a set of laws passed that essentially said "stop picking on them and treating them like dirt". And yet, it continued. As a multi-racial child, I got crap for being such - indeed, the way it seemed, there would never even be a chance for a mixed race kid to be elected President.

Because it was still, really, only a few years since the law went into effect. But it changed the nation - a short while later we had "white flight" and then the almost unthinkable "black middle class family" and then a television show with a black family that was, well, holy cow, almost like watching white people except they had that funny skin color.

And it'll be that way with us, as well. To an incredibly large part because the law is important since it informs us what the social values of a nation are.

The biggest part of why I fight is because of the 18 months where my entire life was a living hell. Attacked, ostracized from my spouse and children, bereft of family, evicted twice, and unable to find employment in over 1200 applications in a 6 month time when the economy was not tanked.

And I know, from my advocacy and social service work, that there are those out there - lots and lots of them, who have it worse still than I did then. And I've seen how the one thing I escaped falling into - addiction and dependency - has made their lives even more difficult.

In my advocacy work, I saw, on a daily basis, the "dregs of human society" - the homeless and the sex worker and the addict and the ex-con. The people who are left alone and hidden and tucked into out of the way places and rendered invisible instead of helped.

And I helped them, and I saw in them what I felt, and it was worse for them, I thought.

So I fight so that no other trans person has to suffer through this sort of stuff, ever again. Because I remember, and while I don't get anything out of it, others do, and I hope that that makes the world a better place.

Because if the world is a better place, then my life will better.

Some might say "Well gee, that's just great - what about the LGB folks."

Well, there I do it because, for those 18 months, I was attacked and mistreated and while it was because I was trans, the way it was expressed said it was because they saw me as gay. And when I started out, I swore to anyone who asked I was gonna be the biggest butch dyke you ever saw.

You see, before I transitioned, I had no sexual interest in men. It wasn't "buried", either - there was just nothing there. Guys could have been dirt for all the interest I had in them. But I was attracted to women. Strongly.

So as far as I knew, that was going to stay the same. Which would make me a lesbian. And I figured a pretty plain one, too, at best. Very butch. Utter stereotype of the sort you just *know* straight guys have about butch lesbians.

And some might say to that well, one shouldn't let others dictate your identity. Try telling that to the guy throwing rocks at you from a speeding car while he yells the f word. I'm sure he'll stop and have a good conversation on the subject while he beats you.

You cannot always stop others from dictating your identity.

Others dictated what I thought was going to be a lesbian identity - others described it as being an attraction to women when you are a woman. I didn't really think much of it those first few months.

Nor am I alone there - many transfolk stay married after transition. Does that make them lesbians, even if there's no surgery involved?

At about 6 months in, I noticed that as my sense of self altered, so did my attraction. And for a while there I was really and totally confused, as I lost my interest in women for the most part. Not entirely, but for the most part. And I gained a new and primary interest in men. And then I had to figure out if that made me gay or not. Something I'd never thought about when it came to my transitioning and being attracted to women.

That caused quite a stir in the mind.

So there's my reason for fighting for the LGB part - above and beyond the one most people know I will say, which is that there are LGB transfolk, and there are Trans LGB folk, and if you are going to fight for all the LGB folks or all the Trans folks, you have to fight for all their needs, and that means, in the end, you have to fight for all of them.

But wait, there's more!

It means you have to fight for straight people - because, what do you know - I'm attracted to someone of the opposite sex/gender. The description of sexual orientation is based on the conflation of sex and gender. To describe it you always refer to both. The descriptions haven't really been revised in the last 60 years. The last 140 years if you trace back to the old Urning concepts that so much of what we think of today as LGBT in the Western sense are derived from.

Since I am attracted to the opposite of myself, that means men. In the strictest sense, that should mean trans men, but the difference between a trans man and any other guy is pretty small when it comes to attraction.

That makes me heterosexual, or straight. A straight queer, or straight LGBT. So when one fights for causes on behalf of sexual orientation, remember that you have to fight on behalf of straight people, too. All of them. You can't write a law that says "just gay people" and have it be fair. This is why sexual orientation is used - everybody has one. This is why gender identity and gender expression are used - everybody has one.

Everybody.

So, really what I'm about is fighting for everybody's rights in the US. A kind of citizen's rights.

And if everybody has equal rights, then I get mine too, and this time without having to worry about losing them.

And the last reason I do so is that I fought for them. I am a veteran. I am worse - a former Republican veteran. I believe in flag and country, in honor and courage and self sacrifice.

I believe in the line "all men are created equal" and I believe it meant all people, not just the ones with a schlong.

So that's why I fight.

I also promised to tell you why I asked you to give me reasons why I should.

We've lost a great many battles over the last 10+ years. In those years, we've had a great many victories, too - and the big difference in all of those things is where we showed how the greater cis/straight public helping us helps them. In other words, we appealed to the old ideal of what is in it for them.

And so I asked you to give me, a straight woman, ideas of why to fight for you, that appeal to what is in the fight for me.

And as you can tell from all the above, its often something simple, like appealing to my sense of duty to country and the ideals it was founded on. To make the world a better place for those who come after me (children). It becomes about hope - hope for something better versus fear of what the worst might be.

And let's look at some of the ideas that were raised, shall we?

One thing I was looking for was a sense of thinking out of the box, which is essential, and I'll talk more about that in my next column.

I wrote the above before the first comments came in on the last column, and there's a lot of echo there, a lot of repeating the same ideas above in general -- the goal and the purpose are the same, although the way we seek to get there varies.

A lot of the comments are focusing on how all of us have the same sort of very negative history -- mine really isn't all that bad. Indeed, I'm very lucky to have been as blessed as I have been, and a great deal of that is due to my involvement in the community as a whole.

The comments that stood out the most to me, due to my explanations now, are the ones from Chitown Kev and "the_czarina".

But the best comments all pointed out the same thing -- a simple concept that escapes us often in our rhetoric and efforts:

It's not about *Me*. It's about *Them*.

This idea of selfless sacrifice -- of doing something without getting anything in return -- is what should inspire and underlie our efforts and our way of doing things.

But, as I'll go into greater detail in my next column, we also need to understand the ideas of what's in it for me -- because *that* is how we can win *faster*.

Because until our "we" can reach their "them", they will ask themselves the same questions I did in my last column. Our allies, our familiy members, our own LGBT folks -- they will want to know why it is tht if we are going to be so cruel and vindictive within ourselves while we talk to ourselves, what's in it for them.

The majority of the population doesn't even think of themselves as having a gender identity or a sexual orientation.

Our job is, in part, to teach them that they do, and, more than anything else...

How awesome it is that they do.


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Thank you! You've been such a great addition to the Bilerico family!

Thanks for your activism and writings Antonia!

I am involved in LGBT activism because I am part of this community, but ultimately I'm an activist for various causes because I'm part of the human community of this planet. Injustice against one is injustice against us all.

I'm reminded of these words by John Steinbeck when I think about why I am an activist. "I'll be everywhere-wherever you look. Wherever there is a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there is a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there..." Tom Joad