This post is a continuation I started last summer, basically in celebration of the fact that I can now wear t-shirts without feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious. Hooray for top-surgery, which was now a year and two months ago.
This beautiful specimen of a shirt was uncovered in a thrift store in Spencer, MA, just outside of Worchester, last summer while my spouse and I were visiting one of my friends from high school, and her husband and toddler. In case it’s hard to make out the print, this says,
“THE MORAL MAJORITY IS NEITHER.”
What does that mean??? At first, I didn’t know, and I don’t have a smart phone to “gooooogle” the phrase ASAP, so I just bought it an forgot about it. I did know I needed to have it, but I wasn’t going to start flaunting it until I found out what it was all about. I had a vague recollection of the term “moral majority” and that it was bad according to me (It really does just sound bad!!!), but that was about it.
I’m sure there’s more to the story, but according to wikipedia, the Moral Majority was a political organization started by Jerry Fallwell (The New Christian Right), mostly active in the 1980s. Critics started stating that “The Moral Majority is neither,” meaning the organization was neither moral nor a majority, and the slogan spread to bumper stickers, and other “swag” items.
This appears to be a homemade t-shirt from that time period (I’m following clues from the tag of the shirt. I could be mistaken), and it seems like it’s iron-on letters that are slightly felted. This added to me falling in love with this shirt. I feel that it is a good time and place to be wearing this t-shirt out and about, frequently, and proudly!
I started writing occasionally for a website called Transgender Universe. Here’s the first article that I’ve posted! It’s about pride flags being burned in my neighborhood, following the election, and then an impromptu rally, as a response to this hate crime.
(This first appeared on Transgender Universe, here: From Burning Pride Flags to a Neighborhood Rally)
The morning after the election, I woke up to a text from a friend who said, “Hi! We’d like to get a rainbow flag to hang at the house in solidarity after what happened yesterday. Do you know where we could purchase one?” When he had said, “what happened yesterday,” I figured he meant Trump, but once I got on facebook, I saw that two pride flags had been burned in my neighborhood the evening before. Talk about getting hit close to home! It is being investigated as both arson and a hate crime, but so far there are no suspects.
So I looked up information for the gay pride store that had been a mainstay in our city, first opening in 1989 as a leather and fetish supplier, and later changing ownership a couple of times and morphing into a place that had something for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. I was shocked and saddened to learn that it had closed in August with the death of the current owner. So instead I recommended a couple of novelty stores to my friend, hoping he’d be able to track one down.
“AS THE EVENTS UNFOLDED, IT BECAME APPARENT THAT THERE WAS NOWHERE, LOCALLY, TO GET A PRIDE FLAG BECAUSE EVERY PLACE HAD SOLD OUT!”
As the events had unfolded, it became apparent that there was nowhere, locally, to get a pride flag because every place had sold out! A fellow neighbor had ordered 120 more flags, and she was formulating a plan to get these out to people and acquire more, flooding the area with rainbows.
On Friday evening, another friend in the neighborhood had texted me to see whether my spouse and I were going to the rally in the morning (I feel fortunate that I have so many friends who are in the loop, because there are times when I am totally living under a rock!). I said, “Yes,” as if I knew all about it (ha ha), and we made a plan to go together.
And so, my spouse and friends (a queer couple with a 10 year-old son) and I walked over to a nearby park Saturday morning, carrying signs and wearing fun outfits. As we approached, I felt a wave of emotion, moved by the size of the gathering, the amount of rainbows flying in the air, and the openness of everyone there.
Mary Moore, the organizer and the neighbor that ordered the flags, stood up on a table to announce the intentions of this rally: to hand out more flags for community members to show solidarity, and to show LGBTQ+ members in this neighborhood how much support is out there. Mission accomplished, by leaps and bounds! There were so many allies and families, along with people who identify as LGBTQ+. I walked around the outskirts of the crowd, taking photos and scoping out all that was happening. There was a station for people to make rainbows out of ribbons, as well as a spot to make construction-paper rainbows. Someone was doing face painting, and there was also a place to sign up to order a flag, because the 120 that Mary had ordered for the rally had sold out in 9 minutes!
The director of the local gay alliance also stopped by, got up on the table, and delivered a similar message of hope and love. I started to feel more comfortable, and moving into the crowd and approaching people with signs, asking whether I could take their photograph. I saw a couple of acquaintances, and where I would normally be too shy to strike up a conversation, in this environment, I went right up to them to say hey and chat for a while. My spouse and friends also connected with neighbors we know, as well as meeting a few new people.
I posted a photo album of the event on Facebook and watched my social network do its work, spider-webbing outwards from friends I had tagged, to friends of friends and beyond. I also messaged Mary, the organizer, to thank her and to ask her a couple of questions.
“…I LEARNED THAT SHE HAS BEEN AN ALLY AND SUPPORTER OF LGBTQ+ RIGHTS FOR A LONG TIME.”
We talked on the phone for a bit this morning, and I learned that she has been an ally and supporter of LGBTQ+ rights for a long time, even doing advocacy work in Washington DC. She said that for the past 8 years though, she could ease up because there was someone in the White House who was pushing for the same things; she could focus on her career, working as a lawyer in private practice, and on her family.
She first heard about the 2 flag burning incidents from a friend, while picking her kids up from daycare. Her husband had heard about it through the website, nextdoor.com, which acts as a community bulletin board and a way to connect with others nearby. I just joined, myself, to see what it’s all about (and to try not living under a rock quite so much). Sure enough, 5 days ago, there was a post from one of the victims of the hate crime, stating, “I hang a rainbow flag on my front porch and someone burned it down. Thankfully my house didn’t catch fire. The [police are] currently investigating; please keep an eye out for suspicious behavior in the area.”
And then, as a response, Mary Moore created the event, “Let’s Gather to Support Our Community.” She wrote:
In response to the burning of two rainbow flags in [our] area, let’s stand together and show that our community is tolerant and welcoming, regardless of who you love, where you worship, where you were born, your political affiliation, the color of your skin, or how much money you have. Many people in [our] neighborhood have been buying rainbow flags to put out in solidarity and to give to friends. … Would people be interested in organizing a central meeting place this weekend or next to give out flags and just to stand with our community in solidarity? … Please comment below if you would be interested in a gathering like this, if you have or can buy flags to distribute, and/or if you can assist with finding a location for this gathering. If there is interest, then we can set up a formal event on here.
I know that this is just one of many issues and injustices within our communities and that we are all so very busy, but we have to start somewhere and do what we can with what we’ve got every day. Let’s not be bullied or let our neighbors be bullied.
It all came together from there. I want to personally thank Mary Moore for showing my friends, my spouse, me, and everyone else who could be there for how much we are supported by our neighbors!
Regarding our rainbow flag status: We don’t have one, but when we moved into our house ten years ago, we dubbed it the “Rainbow Ranch” (it’s really a Colonial), and I spray painted a rainbow on our garage door. I sure as hell hope that never gets burned down – we just put a new roof on it a couple years ago!
Game changing significance was loaded on top of more and more significance, this past week. On Monday the 7th, Leonard Cohen passed away. Then, of course, the upsetting election results. My spouse woke me up to tell me the news. I was in a hazy half-sleep, largely induced by my medications (I think), and I just replied, “Ohhhhhhh,” and immediately fell back asleep. It was a surreal half-consciousness, and, in a way, I continued on in that space for a long time after, even now, as I try to wrap my head around it.
She also texted me later that morning saying “Happy anniversary of our ‘legal’ marriage today.” I had completely forgotten about that. We have much more meaningful anniversaries between us; this one is not a big deal. But, interesting that it happens to fall on this same date. Plus! It was the one year mark of the launch date for the radio station I am a DJ at. Also on this day, a friend’s father passed away. The next day, my spouse’s sister proposed to her boyfriend!
The following day, I heard word that two pride flags had been burned in our neighborhood. Talk about being hit close to home! More on that in an upcoming post. We attended a rally on Saturday morning with some friends, and the spirit of that event was totally incredible.
Also, around this time, 17 years ago, I was hospitalized for 19 days, and was traumatized by the process, for a very very long time. I take a moment every year to think about this and reflect. (In the past, it’d been much more than “a moment” to reflect. For too long, it had felt like constant rumination.)
Three years ago, I wrote about how I finally gained access to the medical records from my hospital stay, and how I started to process things differently with the help of my therapist: Continuing to work through a specific trauma.
Then two years ago, I wrote about finally bringing that record into therapy and how it felt to have her go through it. I was starting to realize that maybe I didn’t need to pick it all apart; maybe my perspective was shifting naturally, over time: That specific trauma is still there.
Last year, I wrote about how much time has changed things, and it no longer felt like a big deal. The fact that I had been hospitalized again, that year, surprisingly helped me find ways to heal, rather than adding more baggage onto the feeling of it: That specific trauma is no longer a big deal.
This year, this personal matter has simply been buried underneath all this other stuff going on. I don’t have the capacity to think about it and write about it right now. I don’t see that as a problem. It’s not like I am grieving the loss of space and emotional energy to be with this thing. It was a thing. And it gradually became not as much of a thing. It is OK.
I also experienced an upswing this week. Probably galvanized by the shitty stuff going on. I cancelled a doctor’s appointment that I didn’t want to go to. I called my grandpa and talked to him about different ways to save for retirement. I solidified plans for my spouse and I to take a trip to Washington D.C. for her birthday – right around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and just in time to get the fuck out of there before the presidential inauguration. We are going to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian, which just opened a few months ago.
I also submitted my stuff to legally change my name! Finally! I did this yesterday. (This might also be a separate upcoming post.) I also emailed a lawyer to see if he would be willing to work with me toward gaining legal non-binary status. I haven’t heard back yet, and I realized that the timing is shit. This is such a low priority right now, as transgender people scramble to get their Social Security card, passport, etc. in order before the Trump take-over. And I know this lawyer in particular is probably swamped with going above and beyond to help people with this. So, I’m going to wait on it.
But a time will come. I know it.
It can happen, and the most effective way it can happen is through personal anecdotes and connecting emotionally with someone (one reason I write this blog!). It’s going to happen through one-on-one conversations, as opposed to on a mass scale (although you never know… things do tend to snowball after a certain point!), and (unfortunately) it’s most likely not going to happen by pointing out facts and statistics to someone.
A study was just published in last week’s issue of Science Magazine. I heard about it through This American Life‘s most recent episode called For Your Reconsideration. If you want to hear the pertinent content, click on the link – there’s a player right on that page, and just skip ahead to the times between 22:20 and 29:00.
It’s about canvassers going door to door to talk to people about transgender issues, and the data was recorded and processed. The canvassers (who were both transgender themselves, and allies – and both were equally effective!) utilized a persuasion technique that’s been developed for close to 50 years by the LGBT Center in California. It’s called analogic perspective taking: “By inviting someone to discuss an experience in which that person was perceived as different and treated unfairly, a canvasser tries to generate sympathy for the suffering of another group—such as gay or transgender people.”
This tactic has not worked so well with age-old topics such as abortion, probably because everyone has such solidified ideas ingrained into how they think about those issues. Trans-issues are relatively new, and people are proving to be fairly malleable if approached in certain ways. In many cases, people aren’t even sure what
“transgender people means.” Canvassers had an informative video with them if this was the case.
So for example, there’s an audio clip from one voter, and he is stumbling over wordage. He says, “There is one thing that disturbs me. A man that is a fag using man’s clothes* and going into a ladies’ bathroom. That I would not like.” The canvasser spends time explaining the difference between “gay” and “transgender” (mentioning that we don’t use the word “fag,” and the voter apologizes). The voter is the one who starts to reflect on his own experiences, and by the end of the conversation, he says, “I’m glad to be talking to an intelligent person that made me think about my own background. That it was very old.”
This occurred in Miami: in 2014, the county passed an ordinance banning discrimination against trans-people, and the canvassers are trying to convince voters that’s a good idea in case of backlash. “56 canvassers—some transgender, others not— knock on the doors of 501 people living in Miami. As a control, some of the interviews focused not on transgender discrimination, but on recycling. In all cases, the 10-minute interview included a survey before and after to measure people’s attitudes regarding transgender people, as well as follow-ups ranging up to 3 months later.”
The goal is to get the voter to engage in a conversation, saying the words themselves, sort of so they’re able to hear their own opinions, and to see if there’s any wiggle room. A lot of times, there is! One out of 10 voters changed their minds over the course of a 20 minute conversation. And when surveyed 3 months later, the change appears to have stuck.
This is so striking! It made me envision myself going door to door. Could I do that? I’m not sure, but more likely, I could see myself being a part of a panel, and even more likely, I could see myself trying to get my writing out to a wider audience…
To make good on that, I’m going to post this on facebook! (Something I rarely do.) I’m gonna spread the word through my local indymedia too! Any way possible.
I feel like there is hope.
All quotes are either from This American Life, or the Science Magazine article, here: “For real this time: Talking to people about gay and transgender issues can change their prejudices.”
Also, as a note, there’s information about a study that came before this one, that was most likely falsified. While this is intriguing, it kind of diverts attention away from the amazing findings of this more recent, scientifically sound, study. So just kinda gloss over that controversy…
*I’m pretty sure he meant to say, “women’s clothes.”