Monday, February 2, 2015

2-2-2015 Entry: The Time for Compassion and Empathy

I know I’m at risk of sounding like a broken record on here, but I feel compelled to broach the subject of Transgender compassion again. Over and over I see other transgender bloggers reacting to the insensitivity of cisgender people and the binary system we currently live in with anger and resentment. I see them becoming little more than children, pointing their fingers at what they perceive as wrong and shouting “unfair!” and “You’re wrong and I’m right!!”


I understand, better than most, how tempting it is to become angry at the way transgender people are perceived and talked about. This whole Bruce Jenner thing has gotten so out of hand that it makes sense that many transgender bloggers, allies, and advocates are finding the situation appalling. The way the media is handling what may be a rather sensitive and personal matter for Bruce Jenner really is evident of the perception many in our society hold about transgenderism. Mainly, it’s being portrayed as some sort of scandalous thing. Rumors are flying, secrets are being divulged, the crowds are whispering and snickering. Oh my god, he might be a she?? Teehee.


Under such circumstances it makes sense to me why the collective trans community is raising their defenses. This media circus has all the makings for a perceived threat to the trans community and their efforts for equality and privacy, but now is the MOST CRITICAL OF TIMES TO NOT BECOME DEFENSIVE. This is the moment when the situation is at a critical juncture and can either spiral completely out of control and escalate into an all-out battle, or it can become an amazing opportunity for growth and understanding.


Right now is the absolute best time for us to remember our capacity for compassion and empathy. We need to remember that, while the cis-skewed media circus may be seen as insensitive and that the jokes by cisgender people  that are floating around the internet might be hurtful to those of us who are trans, it’s not because cisgender people are monsters. They are humans too, incapable of fully understanding what a non-binary gender is like without experiencing it first hand, and their actions likely come from a place of ignorance, not malice. We must be willing to empathize with their lack of understanding and not become angry and resentful because of it. We must act kindly towards them as we ask for them to treat us and the Bruce Jenner situation with more sensitivity.


Additionally, right now is the best time for us to divulge our vulnerability! I know trans and non-binary people are reluctant to ever divulge their vulnerability because of the dangers we already face but if we ever hope to grow, to become something more than just a tabloid headline or the butt of a joke, then we must show the world that we are humans too. We must show the cisgender community that we have emotions and that we are feeling fearful or hurt. We must tell them that seeing the media circus around Bruce Jenner makes us feel frightened that we won’t be understood or that we will be made into a mockery, and that we have a need to be understood and respected as human beings. We need to request of them to try to report anything about transgenderism with kindness and respect, acknowledging it as a legitimate subject of personal identity and not some shameful thing deserving of rumors and jokes.


Most of us won’t get the opportunity to tell the news media these things directly, but we can tell our friends and our social networks. If we are willing to divulge publicly that we are feeling fearful or worried about the Bruce Jenner thing and that we are wanting our friends to still treat us (and all trans/non-binary people) with respect and kindness, then we can allow them the opportunity for compassion. On the contrary, if we get on our social networks and shout about how wrong or stupid it is and make blanket statements about how insensitive all cisgender people are, we will only lose their respect and provoke their defenses.

We must look upon this situation, and any others like it, as an opportunity to find common ground. When we non-violently make our emotions and needs known, we are given the opportunity to request the changes the trans* community has been seeking for so long. When we can approach our cisgender friends and acquaintances with an open heart and express our needs cohesively we give them the chance to see us as more than just a transgender person. We allow them the opportunity to see us as fellow humans with feelings, needs, and vulnerabilities, and that opens the door for them to act out of the kindness inherent in their being. When we show them that we are suffering, not by lashing out with anger or accusations but by revealing our emotions and fears we move beyond their defenses and connect with them in spirit, mind, and heart.


Let us be peaceful, let us be loving, let us be compassionate, let us empathize with the cisgender population for their failures at sensitivity instead of deriding them with anger and resentment. Let us become all the things we hope to receive so that the cisgender population can see that we are more than just tabloid headlines. Let us reveal to them our suffering so that they may help us alleviate it. Being transgender isn’t shameful; unless we react to misunderstanding in such a way that we bring shame upon ourselves. Let us offer compassion instead of shame so that we may receive their compassion instead of their shame.



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