Over the last six weeks or so I’ve went on at length about how to pick apart the boilerplate arguments that Traditionalist Pharisees use to attack the equality of trans people. The goal was to point out the deceptive rhetorical tactics and illogical reasoning that these people, even though they style themselves the voice of morality, employ knowing that many of their opponents in the arena of ideas either do not recognize these tactics or trust them to be above such duplicity.
However, I want to conclude that series by pointing out something that I might have implied in that series which was unintended. The series might be read as an urgent call to engage these people in debate, but I recognize that not everyone is gifted for that sort of debate, and even among those who are, some choose on principle to not legitimize the opposition by debating our right to exist.
That is a perfectly honorable position. Recently no less a luminary than Jenny Boylan wrote an article for The Huffington Post entitled “I’m All Done Explaining My Humanity” on this very subject. Indeed there comes a time when you recognize that the person you are addressing is not open to the possibility that they are wrong. Even I, a willing debater, have come to the conclusion that in most cases your vocal opponent is not reachable (there are exceptions, don’t assume there aren’t) and so I try to pick my spots by considering the potential third party audience. If, for example, I get involved in a discussion on a site like Charisma News I have to recognize that their are few undecided readers following the debate. On the other hand, if I engage on a comment thread on some TV station’s Facebook page, then probably the majority of the passing readers might not have a firmly entrenched view, so I offer up my best effort there. Not necessarily with the goal of convincing the person to whom my remarks are addressed, but for that third party reader that may never in fact comment themselves.
Boylan’s point is that often the best argument is a life well lived, rather than a detailed explanation. After all, do we not often say of self-professed Christians that the way the conduct themselves undermines the things they say about their beliefs. That’s true, and while in our situation the problem is not an inconsistency between what wee say and how we live, it does highlight that people by and large do pay attention to how you live your life. Now that trans people are assuming a higher profile in the culture, it becomes more and more difficult for the open-minded individual to look at the lives of people like Boylan, or Chris Mosier, or Sarah McBride, or Janet Mock, or Nicole Maines or whomever and dismiss them as “perverts” as previous generations might have done. That is a sort of “bearing witness” that any of us can do.
So don’t take my polemic as a guilt trip effort to push you into the ideological debate. It’s simply an effort to equip those who choose to engage to do it well, and to assist those who might be caught “flat footed” by an argument they don’t have a ready answer for. To refer back to religion, there’s a passage in which the apostle encourages those to whom he is writing to “be ready always to give an answer.” He was not calling on every one of them to become evangelists, but that they would be able to answer those who challenged their rights (and, in that case, beliefs). I hope the foregoing series has helped equip you to have an answer for skeptics when the occasion arises.
Photo by: Anton Sim