Donna Rose

A Time For Every Purpose: Anger, Grief, and Moving On

Filed By Donna Rose | March 07, 2008 10:41 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Barney Frank, Donna Rose, ENDA, transgender

I have taken a couple of days to consider Bil Browning's recent post titled "Let's rewind and start over". I really wasn't quite sure how to take it so I had to reread it several times. This is a complicated, deep topic that's not nearly so simple as it might at first appear so I appreciate the fact that Bil put it out there. Needless to say, I have some observations and opinions.

Anger is everywhere. In a book titled "A Bee In the Mouth: Anger in America Now" author Peter Wood observes that "Today's anger is a coping device for everyday life. It also is the defining attribute of an increasingly common personality type: the person who unless he is angry, feels he is nothing at all. That type, infatuated with anger, uses it to express identity. Anger as an expression of selfhood is its own vindication." Sound familiar?

It should come to no surprise to anyone that there is a tremendous amount of anger and frustration still bubbling throughout the broader community but certainly in the transgender community right now. It's festering. It's raw. It's simmering, and without any specific direction it simply spills over and goes everywhere. It has exposed raw nerves and fracture points that have perhaps always been there but are now more sensitive than ever. That's not an excuse for it. It's just a fact.

If there's anger then someone or something must be to blame for it. There has got to be a villain, and we've got a host of people and groups that fit that bill nicely. Blame is infectious so anyone perceived as connected to these "villains" becomes open to attack. Those who are not indignant enough or angry enough can be targeted, too. In a word, it's a mess.

Nobody is immune from anger. It's how we deal with it that's important. I have come to consider my anger over last fall's events as part of a natural grieving process. You may remember from Psych101 that there are various stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - that people often go through when dealing with situations that cause a significant sense of loss. My mom went through the stages when I transitioned and I'm still slowly working through them one by one. I'm relieved to share with anyone who cares that I'm finally looking forward more than I'm looking back.

There was an Op/Ed piece by George Will last year that I cut out and saved and is usually here on my desk somewhere. It's titled "Anger is all the Rage" and the sub-title explains: "Once upon a time Americans admired models of self-control. Today, however, proclaiming anger - the more vituperative the better - is regarded as a sign of good character and emotional vitality." A passage from it:

No wonder Americans are infatuated with anger: It is democratic. Anyone can express it, and it is one of the seven deadly sins, which means it is a universal susceptibility. So in this age that is proud of having achieved 'the repeal of reticence,' anger exhibitionism is pandemic.

There are the tantrums -- sometimes both theatrical and perfunctory -- of talking heads on television or commentators writing in vitriol (Paul Krugman's incessant contempt, Ann Coulter's equally constant loathing). There is road rage (and parking lot rage when the Whole Foods Market parking lot is congested with expressive individualists driving Volvos and Priuses). The blogosphere often is, as one blogger joyfully says, 'an electronic primal scream.' And everywhere there is the histrionic fury of ordinary people venting in everyday conversations.

There is such a thing as "positive anger". Any powerful emotion can be a very powerful motivator and anger certainly fits that bill. As does love, and hate, and fear. But being angry isn't something you can turn on and turn off like a faucet or a light.

Still, I have made a conscious effort to set aside what remains of my anger. Perhaps more accurately, I have chosen to turn it into positive anger and to channel it in more productive ways. I feels good to finally let it go as I feel as though I have been living under a dark cloud for quite a while.

Case in point: I recently received an email from Congressman Barney Frank's office to set the record straight on some things I said in my personal blog. Barney is not a delicate man and he certainly had some choice things to say to me and about me. However strong the initial impulse may have been to lash back at him, that is not the healthy response. In fact, I appreciate the fact that he took time to do some outreach and it is a gesture that deserves respect, not attack.

In my own personal "Rewind and start over" I choose to start with a clean slate. As such I choose to live in the present and in the future, and not to argue about the past. Congressman Frank's personal support for legislation in his home state of MA to support transgender discrimination protections there (HB1722) has been wonderful. And, his work to arrange upcoming historic transgender hearings in front of Congress needs to be recognized and applauded. To get into a debate about the events of last fall is self-defeating at this point, although I sincerely hope we have all learned something from it.

It may not be popular to say nice things about people who are perceived to be the cause of anger. I have come to peace with being unpopular and, in fact, my father used to tell me that when too many people started to agree with his position on something he started to worry that he might be wrong. But popular or not, it's the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

There is a time and a place for everything and the time to move forward to a more healthy space is now. At least, that is the path that I have chosen. To do otherwise is to allow important and historic opportunities to pass. It is to choose to live in a past that cannot be changed. I am not advocating that people forgive or forget real or perceived trespasses. I am advocating that people find constructive ways to channel their emotion. As far as I'm concerned, to choose to allow the opportunities at hand to pass simply because you can't get past your emotion would truly something to be angry about.

Back to the issue at hand. I suggest a simple rule. If you're commenting on something and you wonder whether or not you should press send to say what your fingers have typed just know this: If you hesitate for more than a second, the answer is probably no.

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I would truly love to move forward. But, there are times when I feel that some people have put a rope around my neck and are trying to drag me back. (I don't do "drag.") A lot of the anger I've been seeing has nothing to do with last fall and is an issue that has been around since the early 1990s.

Am I always going to be beaten up for thing that happened five, eight or even ten years ago? Am I always going to be vilified for what I support and who I support? And, people wonder why burnout happens to activist. There are times I think the transgender community isn't worth my time and effort. It's the veterans in our community who have become the most important to me. I still cannot turn my back on them like the country has.

An excellent commentary, Donna. There is too much work to do. We need to save our passion for ideals, not anger or hatred - sspecially when that anger is directed at our brothers and sisters in the fight for equality.

This is an insightful post, Donna. Thanks!

As with others, I am angry over ENDA and the HRC. But then, I am also angry over the way that the queer community is treated in this country. It is an anger that has been building for the past few years, ever since I started transitioning and got to see first hand how the community is treated.

Not that Austin is such a bad place to be queer. It is probably one of the most queer friendly cities here in Texas. But still, there are always individuals who feel the need to put someone in their place.

After I finished transition, I could have gone stealth, changed all the information on record that I could, and live as a new me. Guess I am too honery, and too angry at the injustice of it all. Instead I have joined the local trans activist community And I am speaking out, living open and proud of being both a transwoman and a lesbian.

It is this anger at injustice that has inspired activists through out history. I see myself as just somone else who is joining a long and illustrious list of others who have just stood up and said "no" to the way things were.

"I have come to consider my anger over last fall's events as part of a natural grieving process."

Donna, I agree that there is a great sense of grief in the community with the resulting anger; however, this is coupled with a great sense of righteous indignation leading to righteous anger. This latter anger has a specific target and not just a plenitude of targets. Their names are Barney Frank and HRC.

Frankly, Congressman Frank may do wonderful things in Massachusetts: That does not help me in my state to get my birth certificate replaced, so that it says "Female" and so that it does not still show my old name crossed out. It does not help me if I am jailed with men, who would tear me apart at the first opportunity. It does not help me get and keep a job, regardless of my qualifictions. It does not protect me, when I take care of my needs in the lady's restroom, if I am not in Massachusetts.

Backing off from righteous indignation and directed anger, which you seem to do in your article, plus the kudos for Frank, would seem to be merely mending personal bridges rather than sensibly holding Frank's (and HRC's) feet to the fire.

It is the expression of anger in a sinful manner that can disrupt the community, not the anger in and of itself, and we must recognize this second type of anger and directly deal with it. I believe that many of the posts are attempting to do this, perhaps not always in a gentle or PC manner. Since you mentioned "sin," don't forget that Jesus was angry at times. In the synogogue he righteously overturned tables and drove the moneychangers out with a whip, because they were an insult to His Father's house and a slam against it.

Thanks for posting this, Donna. You've said it better than I ever could.

I understand the righteous anger at being left out of ENDA, constantly treated like 2nd class members of a 2nd class community, etc. While it's been a problem related to the site that sometimes the Barney Frank/HRC is the devil incarnate according to contributors (although in one thread Frank/HRC is worse than Hitler or the leader of Iran who's executed hundreds of gays and lesbians during his reign but in another Alex and I are worse than HRC/Frank, so take it for what it's worth...), it's not my biggest problem with what's been going on.

It seems a lot of this has to do with "Is you is or is you aint my trannie" stuff that just seems, well, stupid to those of us who aren't 110% immersed in trans issues. Some say they're transgender - others transexual. To the average observer? They're both trans. The constant hijacking of posts to rehash this argument that has never found a solution in several years is tiresome.

Because they're is valid, righteous anger at being treated horribly and then there's just trying to settle a blood feud that was started forever ago and has no ending in sight. In fact, it seems the comments section haven't been about trying to end the disagreement as much as scoring points off each other for slights that happened years ago.

Thanks for putting things in perspective, Donna.

I think a “clean slate” would be a good idea, and in the words of Neville Chamberlain’s “Peace for our time” he uttered the words “Never to go to war again”. Had the Prime Minister realized the kind of tyrant he was negotiating with, history would have spoken differently. We know the monster and what happened.

Sometimes, in the face of tyrants, action and words, stones and perhaps bullets are the response of righteous indignation and sensibility of purpose. When someone is willing to stand up and call things as they are, and not be blinded by hopeful promises, or bullied, and recognize the villains it is not necessarily anger. I agree some for the sake of having presence and recognition cling to anger as some kind of banner and vindication. Yet, I will admit that the pain and understanding of events does occasionally over take me. I cannot accept bullies beating up, or ganging up, on those who need help and allow myself to simply stand by watching in silence.

I read the letter from Barney Frank. I thought it smug and rather than a branch of peace, he made accusation against you, and tried to take the high ground. Even if it were really an honest intent of his to bridge and clean the slate, his actions do not warrant acceptance. He and others, such as you well know, acted in selfish and measured moves to forward an agenda that goes beyond ENDA. In the last several months I have tried to shed light on the gathering storm. What Barney Frank and others may say and what they do are two distinct and opposing things. If they were common citizens and not using public office or positions of influence, I would not take umbrage and be forced to pique the minds of those who seem to worship them blindly.

As recently as Feb. 29th at the North East Regional Pride Conference, Congressman Barney Frank Said the following:

In referring to Pride activities, progress, of the LGBt movement from the time of Stonewall.

• "Without question the single biggest reason that we have made substantial progress is the willingness of people to be out, to be honest about who we are,"

Then he goes on to claim Stonewall as his monument of realization.

• "I realized that when we started this after Stonewall. People really, including well-intended people, had no real understanding of what it was like to be gay, lesbian, bisexual and feel discrimination because we never told anybody. People can’t really sympathize with people they don’t know exist."

From his mouth we see his using the Transgender and our struggle, yet not including us in the struggle or giving us even a mention. It was not an accident, it was intentional, and is standing with the pattern of communication within much of the gay structure of organizations. It is gay, and when convenient Trans, but never really equal.

I hold you and many other Trans-advocates in high regard for the sacrifices they have made not only for the transgender, but also the gay community. However, the actions of Barney Frank, Joe Solmonese, HRC, and others stand without real words of apology or full explanation. Their words do not match their actions, and I do not see....... “Peace for our time.”

"It seems a lot of this has to do with "Is you is or is you aint my trannie" stuff that just seems, well, stupid to those of us who aren't 110% immersed in trans issues. Some say they're transgender - others transexual. To the average observer? They're both trans. The constant hijacking of posts to rehash this argument that has never found a solution in several years is tiresome.

Because they're is valid, righteous anger at being treated horribly and then there's just trying to settle a blood feud"

I've observed elsewhere that the order of people who "get it" regarding women such as myself goes in this order

The straight public
gay men

You just made that clear......what the hell do you think all the bitching about being shoved under the transgender umbrella is really about anyway?........Myself and women like me are not anyone's transies, do not consider ourselves transgender or even transsexual for the most part but having had a physical problem we corrected.

The word is *woman* Bil, not trans. This is not a blood feud, this is real harm continuing to be done to real women. I am so pissed off at Juro because she mocked me for being a victim when this time last year I held a shotgun to my head because of what "women" like her did to the work I had dedicated everything I had in the world towards and actually tried and damn near succeeded in leaving me homeless when that work was to make sure no transitioned transwoman was put in that position!

Unlike your featured bloggers I did not transition to transsexual but to objections are those bloggers continually disrespect that and with impunity on your you have as well.

You apparently will never get it. I am NOT yours or anyone else's transie, I am a woman pure and simple. I lost my business when I transitioned to pure sexism, not transphobia. I had to work at low paying pink collar jobs after having owned and run my own business for over twenty years out of sexism, not transphobia.......WOMAN Bil, not transwhatever.

I have lost jobs from being outed, magazine bombed with hundreds of magazine subscriptions, received credible death threats, turned into Homeland security as a terrorist and finally driven out of my own home.

These things were done by transgender people in the name in transgender unity....that is not a blood feud, that is real, actual, vicious hatred because I refuse to identify as trans anything.