Last summer, on a site that can rightly be described as one of the gutters of the internet, a forum topic came up about me. The nature of this site is to localize the discussion to a given town or area so the conversations are supposedly about local news and events, but in reality in most cases they are gossip, lies, and trash talking.
for dozens of posts people took sides for and against – mostly against (the anonymity of the internet at it’s finest) might right to live my own life publicly in this small southern town.
Rather than sit by and be insulted or intimidated by this discussion, I registered an account under my real name and waded in. I’m very confident in the rightness of my decisions and the thought process that led me to them and am not shy about challenging my critics to intellectually defend their position. Sadly, most of the harsher critics attack under the cover of “God said” rather than demonstrating they have thought through their claims. Many of these become quite hostile when you pick apart the “logic” behind the presumed opinion of God (falsely so called).
One of those people, I’ll call her “Ann” (not her real name) let her passion get the best of her judgement and said some pretty hostile things. i’m a big girl, I can handle such moments and rely on the strength of my argument to win out over low-road rhetoric. but telling you THAT is not the point of my post.
The point of this post is to tell you about a much more remarkable thing that grew out of that encounter.
Last night, on Facebook, I got a message from Ann. “Come over,” she said (she knew that i knew where she lived, a house not very far at all from mine) “we need to talk.” Last year we’d talked about such a visit, which is why I knew her address, but it was on much more acrimonious terms, and given that we couldn’t even agree on which name she would address me by, nothing ever came of it. Now my interest was obviously peaked. there was no way that the proposed conversation would NOT be enjoyable to me, no matter what she had to say.
So this evening I drove over to her house and she invited me in and poured me some coffee. She addressed me by my preferred name and said, in so many words “I’ve realized that no matter how strongly i felt last year, i had no call to be so uncivil and unchristian towards you” and she ask me to accept her apology, which i of course was happy to do.
From there we engaged in over two hours of friendly, animated, conversation about the nature of Scripture and revelation and god, as well as the nature of being trans (and, as a tangent, gay). I argued not that her traditional views were clearly wrong, but rather that the claim that the Bible was absolutely clear that being trans or gay was sinful was wrong – that is, that it was possible for people of good will (and good scholarship) to disagree on that point just as they do on every major doctrine of the faith. I asked her to have an open mind and an open heart and consider the possibility that her dearly held view was based in human tradition rather than in Scripture.
I had the opportunity to respectfully make my case for that, as well as educate her about what we know of the nature of the physiological aspects of transsexualism (given that’s how I identify, it was the context of the discussion). We parted friends and I daresay I’ve mad, if not an ally, at least a sympathetic heart.
Now you may ask – “Why bother?’ I’ve had trans friends interact with the religious in a much more confrontational and hostile manner. They argue, who bother to defend yourself to a religious tradition which doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of your existence, and while invoking the will of a God that (they say) doesn’t even exist himself? My reply to them is that if you start the conversation by denying their entire world-view, they won’t hear anything else you have to say. Nor will they respect any reasoned conclusion you claim to have reached because to them, your whole worldview is unreasonable.
Why do I bother? Because we need allies, not enemies. We need respect and compassion, not opposition. Like it or not, those who profess the christian (or related) religion vastly outnumber those of us who are trans in any fashion and if we are to be equal, at least some of those people need to here the case for why we are entitled to lay claim to that right.
tonight I got to witness (not for the first time) what happens when even your most implacable critic opens their mind to consider a well made argument. It was a very rewarding experience.
Photo by: Asaf Antman