Follow the Trail
I confess that amid the various demands of my personal life, that Saturday’s “National Coming Out Day” completely snuck up on me. In fact, it was Sunday before I even realized that I had missed it. When I did know, it was just after I had read the tragic news of Kate Von Roeder. And it is in the contrast between those two events that my comments live tonight.
Kate, like many others, found the pressures of a public transition and the frequent attendant scorn and rejection too much to deal with a and chose to add her name to the long and bitter list of those for whom the rejection of society was more intimidating than death. While we can all argue against that temptation when we ourselves are not standing on the edge of that ledge, there are few among us that do not relate to her motivations. It is well documented that suicide among trans people is staggeringly more prevalent than among any other demographic group, but it is less well reported that all or virtually all of this excessive number can be attributed to the fact that being trans is to be a “pariah” in our culture for most of the population still (notwithstanding an amazing amount of positive progress over the last five years or so). Whether one is “out” and thus a direct target of this disapproval, or whether one is closeted and fearful of being otherwise lest they become a target – in either case, you acknowledge that much of the population considers you “perverts” or “freak” is enough to drive a host of mental health issues, some of them fatal.
But therein lies the irony – we are scorned BECAUSE we are so few, at least as far as the public knows, and what few of us are known are reasonably dismissed as aberrations. It has been rightly observed that the astonishing progress in gay-rights over the last couple of decades has been driven not so much by political activists, though, that clearly has a role, but because more and more Americans could look around and see that the homosexual/lesbian was not the “queers out there in San Francisco” but their coworker, their neighbor, their brother or sister or child. Once “gay” and “lesbian” had a face they turned out, usually, to be a “Normal” person – perhaps even a loved one – it was THEN and only then that their heart opened to the notion of showing respect and compassion for these people.
That brings the challenge to our doorstep. Surveys report that very few Americans will answer yes when asked if they personally know a trans person, while a much higher percentage report been personally acquainted with the gay or lesbian person. If we are to ever gain equality, respect, and compassion, then we MUST, I repeat MUST be willing to come out and be recognized by the ill-informed population around us. And I say this is the both to the closeted and to the “stealth.” I very very much sympathize with the motivations of both, and god knows there is a huge place in my heart longing for the ability to step quietly into the shadows and blend in to the female population and never have to face a person who knows about my unfortunate “birth defect”. But to do so, no matter how tempting it is, is a tacit admission that society has the right to expect us to accept our second-class status. They do not have the right, and it is past time that we should quit conceding them the ability to do the thing that they don’t have the right to do.
In any frontier situation, it is the pioneers who have the lowest life expectancy. The scouts and the trailblazers enter into dangerous territory, and it is only as the population increases behind them that security grows. The irony of Kate’s death, is that she died a trailblazer. As have many others. The question is, where are those who follow these newly blazed trails? Tans people wherever you are, let us make the next 12 months National Coming Out Year and redeemed the sacrifice of those who have blazed the path.
(And if you are, like me, already out and well known, the challenge is there for us too, to speak out. That is my motto. From now on – SPEAK OUT )
Photo by Loopoboy 2.0