I wrote previously about the responsibility transgender people bear for the rest of society. Before we transition gender and make our true selves public, we take responsibility for every person around us. The guilt we believe we will experience at other’s discomfort prevents us from revealing who we are. Instead, we hurt ourselves that the rest of society does not hurt.
When we finally decide to transition gender, a sense of lightness appears almost immediately. We look younger; we feel better. We become capable of caring for ourselves. In my son’s words: we become better people.
As we approach the milestone of accepting responsibility only for own happiness, many of us wonder what to do next. Morgan W. asked me this question: as we become ourselves and lessen our burden of caring for others, should we also expand the care we take of ourselves to those in the greater transgender community?
In the first article I published, I stated emphatically I never intended to be a representative of the transgender community. Instead, I wanted only to document my journey in the hope it assisted others.
But almost a year later, I find I have made myself a representative. I have accepted responsibility for the greater community. I have made educating people about identity and gender my life’s purpose.
In a sense, my path appears similar to that of Ellsworth Toohey. I pretend my one small voice is inconsequential.
But nothing is inconsequential.
Heaven, Hell, being Ami Herrick
Every action sets into motion a string of consequences both unpredictable and uncontrollable. The attempt to explain transgender — to myself at first, then to others — was the beginning of the journey to where I am today.
I made my struggles public — my depression, my elation — I shared it all because people seemed mildly interested. At some point, I realized…people truly are interested. My story is one of almost eight billion today, but my story speaks for a sector of the population not given much good press.
I write, I record podcasts, and I film videos to speak for my community. I speak for a community accused of corrupting children by reading books to those whose parents are too busy for them. I speak for a community lambasted for ruining family values by learning to feel and becoming closer with their families. I speak for a community condemned to die when we finally have reason to live.
We bury our true identity to keep others comfortable, and when we come out after decades of slow death — when we begin to live — we are reviled by those we tried to keep comfortable as being too selfish.
I cannot remain quiet. Maybe I’m a fool. Maybe I can’t resist painting a target on myself. Or maybe I believe there’s no such thing as bad publicity in a world of sound bites and sensationalism.
They say the best leaders are those who are unwilling. In a society that legislates our ability to develop our own identities, the transgender community is certainly unwilling.
Victims of society
None of us in the transgender community has an obligation to share. There is no shame in not giving of yourself when you cannot.
I know enough people who transitioned gender and simply want to live in stealth. They rewrite their history so as never to discuss being anything other than their true gender. I respect their decision, even if I would not make it. No human should be forced to expose their secrets.
I know enough people who transitioned gender and endure mockery. Eloquent women such as Fiona Evangeline Leigh and Stephanie Moga, who tell stories of discrimination, of mean laughter, of a society unwilling to understand them. I salute their dignity, even as the mockery haunts me. No human should be subjected to ridicule for being different.
I know enough people who transitioned gender and live in fear of their lives. Courageous women such as Doro Volkova, Gülya Kerimoğlu, and UniFluid, who live in danger simply by existing, and court death for exposing the atrocities committed against them. I honor them for speaking out, even if I cannot conceive of their bravery. No human deserves to die for living a life of authenticity.
Nobody should be asked to describe the genitalia in their undergarments. My community does not need uniforms of brightly-colored shirts that read “No, it’s not you! I’m Transgender!” Written, obviously, with puffy rainbow letters to prevent us all from recognizing the pink triangle.
Taking up the mantle
Why do I continue to care? Do I have a duty to my transgender Brothers and Sisters? Or is a transgender woman’s first duty to herself?
Some of us are unable to summon the words to defend themselves and others. But each of us who can — each of us who exists as a voice for a sector given bad press for the crime of running against social norms — perhaps each of us should defend ourselves and others.
I know I need to fight. I know I must deflect the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I must take arms against this sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.
I understand very well how difficult it is to put your head above the parapet. We have no moral obligation to care for each other. But nobody else has the capability to do it.
Society is not defined as the “not-us.” We — each of us — we are society. When we need society to change, we change, we teach our children, we teach each other — and society changes.
Is changing society quick? No. Change is never quick, especially a change in culture as opposed to a change in process. But a change in culture is enduring.
We do not bear a responsibility for our community. But to those of us who are capable: I encourage you to stand, to assert yourself, to be noticed, and to make that change in society.
Future generations depend on our change. If we want a better future for our children, we must teach them how to manifest it.