Editors' Note: Guest blogger Rachel Dunn is an out and proud trans-lesbian filmmaker living in Los Angeles. Although very supportive of community events, her primary activism comes in the form of fostering and contributing to queer and minority film projects as a cinematographer, producer, writer and consultant. Some of her work can be seen at www.racheldunn.com
A week ago I posted an article which went down in flames because it lacked clarity. However, like the fabled bird, out of it's ashes arose a more refined version of my original theory.
I hope that this time I can put aside my own baggage, and state my thoughts more clearly and concisely so as to avoid any more divisiveness among our loose federation of related human conditions. My quest was to find ways in which our life experiences are related, and common biases we may face.
What I have come to realize as a result of that discussion, is that our common struggle is the age-old one one of 'conformity' vs. 'non-conformity.'
Before I begin, here are some relevant definitions from the merriam-webster.com online dictionary for your convenience and the sake of clarity:
3b : an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : prejudice
3c : an instance of such prejudice
3 : action in accordance with some specified standard or authority
2a : sex
2b : the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex
3 : the detriment, loss of reward, or coercive intervention annexed to a violation of a law as a means of enforcing the law
4b : a mechanism of social control for enforcing a society's standards
The struggle to force 'conformity' is older than time. It is why Socrates drank the hemlock, Galileo recanted, and why Jesus and countless others have lost their lives. In this case specifically, I'm talking about Gender/Sex Non-Conformity, in a context where the terms gender and sex are interchangeable terms.
The entire LGBTQI community are gender 'non-conformists' in one way or another - by the nature of our relationships, by the nature of our biology, by the nature of our identity, by the nature of our personal presentation, or by the nature of our history.
Conformity has nothing to do with individual identity. In fact, individual identity is the enemy of conformity, because conformity inherently seeks to homogenize a population. And that is the root cause of this particular bias we face - or any bias for that matter.
Sanctions from any bias seek to capitalize on an internal struggle in which the desire to conform is at odds with any inherent non-conformity, in order to force an individual's behaviour to override and re-shape their innate desire. Through a near constant bombardment of social messages, we are repeatedly sanctioned in many subtle and overt ways in countless attempts to enforce our conformity to idealized gender customs.
Self-loathing, low self esteem, depression and suicide can result from our repeated failure to suppress of our innate being, in a bid to conform to society's demands . The only way out of this trap is through self acceptance, and recognition that non-conformity is a valid and natural part of the human condition, in spite of what we have been led to believe.
Many of us resent being thrown into a barrel with other groups that we see as completely different from ourselves... and we are radically different from each other. But there must be a reason why external forces threw us all into the same barrel.
I contend that we were thrown into this space together because of our common non-conformity to idealized gender customs. It is the result of an attempt by those who want to appear to completely conform to heteronormative gender customs, to separate themselves from those who do not conform in one way or another. (This may not be the only reason, but I think it could possibly be the main one.)
Because of our internal struggle between conformity and non-conformity, many people end up constantly evaluating degrees of conformity in futile attempts to align themselves more closely with the conformists, while simultaneously trying to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the stigma of being a "Non-Conformist."
This conformity split continues throughout our own community like a christmas tree's branches are split from it's trunk. But as much as we would like to, we can not completely separate ourselves from that common trunk - the stigma of gender non-conformity - because it's all the same thorny tree, and it does not tolerate any non-conformity with regard to idealized gender customs.
From my personal experience as a member, it does seem that the M2F TG sub-subgroup seems to have received the stigma of 'biggest gender non-conformists," and as a result, nearly every other group on the planet vigorously seeks to avoid the slightest association with them. (Maybe I'm mistaken, but it certainly feels that way sometimes.)
By focusing on a series of perpetual border disputes inside our small barrel, instead of the larger context in which the barrel resides, the whole community is like the proverbial crabs trapped within it; our individual bids for freedom negating any progress at all, because we constantly pull each other from the sides while attempting to climb over one another.
So will you stand by me, a true non-conformist, in a loose federation of related non-conformists, to insist on equality and fairness from the conformists who seek to punish us for our individuality?
Will you stand with me to resist the conformist's tool of gender bias, and the violence and discrimination that goes along with it, whether it be misogyny, misandry, homophobia, transphobia, gay-bashing, hate crimes, DSD, surgery without consent, murder, or a host of other sanctions?
Will you work with me to help create a safe space for non-conformists within our society - especially within our own communities?
Will you work with me in an effort to frame our individual struggles in a common context that can easily be understood by the conformists so that we can increase understanding?
I really hope so, because until we can see the individual struggles of the LGBTQIETC community in a larger context, and clearly identify common issues where our communities intersect, we will only make incremental progress in securing our freedom from oppression.