14 May 2011


After Sophie's comment on yesterday's post, I could not stop thinking about the ways we are dehumanized, wittingly or not.

The reason why so many otherwise well-meaning people turn us into "things" is that the act of identifying someone by a label strips that person of his or her humanness.  And that is the surest and easiest way to destroy that person's humanity, as well as one's own humanity.

Pardon me if I seem bitter in writing this post.  But I have come to realize that some people who might go and march for someone else's civil rights would think nothing of being manipulative, controlling or otherwise abusive with us.  And the perpetrators don't think they're doing anything wrong, much as previous generations of white people thought it was OK to be condescending, demeaning, abusive or even violent toward black people in ways that would get them thrown into jail if they so treated another white person.

To me, they're no different from the sorts of guys--like the fugitive doctor I mentioned in my previous post--who use us to satisfy their sexual curiosity, or simply their horniness.  Too many of us can recall at least one relationship like that.  It's almost as if they think they're doing us favors by being involved with us and that we are so starved for love that we'll serve as their mental (or, in some cases, physical) punching bags.

I was in such a relationship, and am still recovering from it.  As bad, though, are the ones who are not dating us but with whom we have to live or work, and do not let us forget that, and what wonderful people they are for not throwing us out like a carton of yogurt that's past its "sell by" date. 

They are the bosses who deny us pay, make demands on us they won't make on other employees and who look for reasons to get rid of us because we "don't fit in with the culture" of the workplace.  They are dismissive of our ideas, which they take for themselves or hand off  to some co-worker who gets credit for it.  Those co-workers are the ones who make spurious, false complaints--anonymously, of course--about us that are as likely as not to include some sort of sexual allegation or innuendo.  They may not know anything about us, but they know that attaching sex to our names yields a stereotype or cariacture that too many other people  are all too willing to believe and use as rationales for the things they do to us.

Isn't it ironic that the thing that, according to no less than Mark Twain, people care about more than everything else put together is the very thing that they will use against us?  Yet it is the very same thing for which they come to us--and, in some cases, react with violence when we don't give it to them, or when it turns out differently from what they expected.  Or, after getting it from us, they toss us aside like soiled napkins.

What's ironic is that I'm writing this post at a time when I'm meeting some people who are not treating me in the ways I've described, and when I'm in a different work situation from the one I've depicted. In my second job, my gender identity or transition doesn't come up.  Some know about it; a few have told me they've seen this blog and some of my other writings.  But they haven't pressed me to talk more about them, and I haven't.  On the other hand, on the job I've been working the past few years, I was "outed" by a faculty member a few weeks after I started there.  Then others goaded me into giving lectures and workshops; still others wanted me to be their "show-and-tell" exhibit for their classes in human sexuality or gender issues.  They people who asked--or, in some cases, coerced--me into doing those things are the very same people who used my doing those things (not to mention the fact that I am who I am) against me.

On that job--which I'd like to replace with my second job if and when I can become full-time in it--some other faculty members (Notice that I'm not calling them my colleagues.) and members of the administration seem to think they're entitled to not only knowing about the intimate details of me and my life, but to use them as they will.  If I were to do the same things, I probably would have been out of that job long ago. In fact, I might even be in jail or the target of a lawsuit.

The doctor I mentioned in yesterday's post definitely deserves to be in prison for the things he did to his patients and the way he abused the system.  But if I were the transgendered Dante, I'd have an especially tortuous circle of Hell set up for him and others like him.  

1 comment:

Sophie said...

I suppose there's also the theme of exotification. The way people approach you as some exotic creature, who obviously won't mind talking about everything that makes you exotic, and then pull you apart, because that's what they do to exotic rarities, or get disillusioned that you're really not that exotic at all, and then blame you for taking them in. Actually I think we can really be rather exotic, just not in the ways that most people want us to be. That's the saddest part for me in a lot of ways. That our rarity and our value doesn't lie in some internal weirdness or any real bravery but in the fact that we've travelled and explored places where cis people never go.Because they've never seen them, never touched or felt them. Which means they can't really exist...can they?