23 October 2009
So there was a power outage, or something, in Blogland last night. I couldn't sign on to this blog, much less post a new entry.
I know that in the scheme of things, it was small. But all sorts of paranoid thoughts raced through my head. Did the Y2K bug arrive ten years late? (Maybe it was on the Roman or some other calendar!) Had the Great Depression II brought the world--and the blogosphere--to a screeching halt?
Before I realized that the problem was with the site, I thought there was something wrong with my computer. Or, I thought that being in the age range for Alzheimer's (Am I?), an absent-minded professor and blonde had caught up with me and I did committed some blunder that only someone who bears such a Triple Crown could make.
And this fear also passed through me: That someone found the content of this blog--or me--"objectionable" and flagged it. Of course, anything is "objectionable," for someone could, conceivably, object to it, for whatever reasons. But I wasn't fussing over definitions at that moment.
As often as Oprah and other folks on TV talk about transgenders, prejudice against us still exists. Even the ones who are younger and much prettier than I'll ever be are not completely shielded from it: I've heard all sorts of stories of harassment and worse. Then, of course, there are terrible tales like that of Leslie Mora, and the horribly tragic ones like that of Gwen Araujo.
Speaking of whom: A few years ago, I had an idea for writing a book about people who were killed by bigots. I was going to profile the sad stories of Emmitt Till, Yusef Hawkins, Matthew Shepard and Gwen. All except Till's murders occurred during my lifetime; in fact, I can remember where I was when I heard about Hawkins, Shepard and Gwen. While Till has been commemorated in a Bob Dylan song, Spike Lee dedicated "Malcolm X" to the memory of Hawkins and Shepard's murder led Moises Kaufman to create "The Laramie Project," there was comparatively little attention was paid to Gwen Araujo's murder at the time it occured.
I heard about it only because I was at the LGBT Community Center that day. Only a few weeks earlier, I had moved out of the apartment Tammy and I shared in Park Slope; only a few days earlier, I had my first appointment with Dr. Gal Meyer, who would interview me, order tests and, finally, prescribe hormones to me. At that point, I was still going to work as Nick and my neighbors, family and friends--who didn't see much of me--still knew me that way. But I was spending most of my free time en femme, much of it volunteering with or otherwise participating in one Center activity or another.
So you can imagine how much I was affected by hearing about Gwen's murder. In fact, when creating the link for her name earlier in this entry, I was in tears. No other stranger's death has had quite the same impact on me. If you'll indulge me in a cliche, I will say that I felt I had lost a member of whatever race, nation or other group I belong to.
I was also affected (not merely shocked) by Matthew's and Yusef's killings, though in different ways and for different reasons. In "Jack Price and College Point," I described the way I felt about Matthew Shepard's demise. As for Yusef: He was killed not far from where I grew up and, literally, steps away from where relatives of mine have lived. The adjacent streets are as familiar to me as any others in this world: I have, at times, returned to them, and to the rooms my relatives inhabited, in my dreams (and nightmares!). And, when local TV news reporters interviewed residents of the neighborhood in the days after Yusef's murder, I felt as if I were hearing a language I didn't know that I still knew but would, of course, always be a part of me because I heard (and, to a lesser extent, spoke) it so early in my life.
Now, you may be wondering: How did I go from the Blogspot outage to hate crimes? Well, I described one of the scenarios my mind conjured up when I couldn't access my blog: that someone didn't want a tranny posting on Blogspot, or anywhere else. Were Till, Hawkins, Shepard and Araujo still here, I am sure they could relate.
Anyone who is, by birth, a member of any group--whether it be racial, ethnic, religious, sexual or gender--that is stigmatized, has had moments when he or she couldn't help but to wonder whether, or even believe, he or she was singled out or otherwise discriminated against simply for being whom he or she is. I've met, especially at the college in which I teach, far too many people who were stopped by cops for DWB. I've also heard too many stories about women who were denied promotions, or even jobs, for reasons that were not clearly (perhaps deliberately so) stated. And, of course, I've had the same happen to me--and I've been stopped by plainclothes "cops" (I still question whether they actually were commissioned.) for no earthly reason.
Even someone yelling at you hurts, or simply makes you wonder, in an intensified way because you know that even in the most benevolent of settings, prejudice against you and whatever you represent is never far from the surface. So you wonder what, exactly, was the motivation behind someone who did a "routine search" of you or what really happened when your inquiry "fell through the cracks."
People will accuse you of being "overly sensitive," "paranoid" or "sooo defensive"--or of "reading too much into" someone else's words or actions--when you respond to people or react to a situation in a way that is refracted through the prism of your experience. As if they all don't do the same thing. The difference is, their experience doesn't include the sort of prejudice you've experienced.
I really try to respond to everyone I meet as an individual, and to deal with every situation independently. But there are times when, as a member of whatever group, you can't help to wonder if you've been targeted.
To whoever is in charge of Blogspot: I hope you understand. And I thank you for what was, actually, a prompt and proficient response to the technical problem.
I'm writing in this blog again. I'm happy.