Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man [or woman] who wields it. I believe in this method because I think it is the only way to reestablish a broken community.
--Martin Luther King, Jr., December 11, 1964
Forty-seven years after Dr. King's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, these words remain as inspiring and urgent to us today as they were then. Against a backdrop of national dialogue on hate speech and gun violence, I have been heartbroken this month at escalating personal attacks online among transsexual women and deepening division between communities of gender diversity.
In all social justice movements, there is tension between assimilationists and revolutionaries. There is tension between separatists and unifiers, between those who seek division and those who seek solidarity. This tension and diversity of viewpoint within a movement can sometimes be constructive. Out of this tension can come understanding of commonalities and respect for differences. But when boundaries of civil discourse are ignored, when the language of oppression is internalized by the oppressed, then oppression wins and social justice and human dignity are lost for all.
When we stereotype, scapegoat, or misgender others who have suffered the same discrimination as ourselves, we stereotype, scapegoat and misgender ourselves as well. As President Obama reminded us last week in Tuscon:
It's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that -- that heals, not in a way that wounds.
I consider all people whose gender identities or gender expression transcend the boundaries and stereotypes of assigned birth sex to be my brothers and sisters. I consider gender identities and expressions in all of the countless combinations of masculinity, femininity, both or neither to be equally valid, equally precious and equally deserving of equality and dignity. I strive to be a better ally for those whose gender identities, social identities and personal challenges differ from my own and to not impose my own narrative upon others. I strive for unity among those who share common barriers of prejudice, intolerance and false stereotypes of mental deficiency and sexual deviance. I invite all gender transcendent people and people of conscience to join me.