I have followed the TV show “I am Cait” with a deep sense of curiosity and interest. I grew up with Bruce Jenner on the Wheatie boxes of my youth and I have watched my fair share of the accident-that-I-can’t-look-away-from that is the Kardashians. I watch it because it simultaneously causes me to confront my own prejudices while opening up my heart to the experience of being ‘the other’ that Jesus so often draws our eyes to- the person society rejects, the person that we often deem unlovable by God for no other reason than the fact that they are choosing to be who they feel they are inside or who they have to be to survive. At times, the discomfort Cait feels from those she interacts with is palpable. You can see the internal hill the individual is attempting to climb as they combat their own ideas about gender identity, societal expectations of gender and dress, as well as the idea that a month ago this person was a guy. Pronouns get garbled, eye contact is poor- the whole thing is tough to watch.
Recently, one of Cait’s advisers was Kate Bornstein, author of the book, Gender Outlaw. (http://www.amazon.com/Gender-Outlaw-Men-Women-Rest/dp/0679757015) She has been a part of the transgender community for a long time. She was unflinching as she challenged Cait to admit that there was a societal ‘freak factor’ to being transgender. Since Cait has come into herself late in the game, not forty years ago in the age of Stonewall, one can see her eyes flash. You see, Cait is having trouble connecting this new sense of freedom with herself to a larger community. She wants to create positive press and enlighten ignorant people like myself to the inner struggles of transgender folk, but she catches herself using language like “those people.” There’s a disconnect there and we can all see it.
Kate shifted gears a bit and began to talk about allies- a term I have always used to describe myself once I came into the world of LGBT and advocacy for tolerance and acceptance. Kate said she wanted an ally not to just stand beside her, she wanted an ally to ask her what she needs. I realize that I haven’t done that, even as I have had good intentions. I never asked what the folks I stood beside needed. She’s right, I wasn’t an ally after all. I was self-righteous about my acceptance, I was positive that this kind of inclusion is Jesus inspired and required, but in every way it was about me.
So, I write this as an apology for all the people I have unknowingly looked past. The transgender visitor who listened to me struggle with pronouns. The gay advocates who helped me to understand that sex lives are not up for informational conversation (not that I asked- by the way). The many, many people who have lived lives of intolerance and shame (both of which were directed to them by Christians and non-Christians alike) only to have me come along and never, for one minute, know the pain of that struggle. I am sorry. I am trying to do, and be, better.
I want to be an Ally. So I am asking for a second chance. What do you need? How can I help you to get it?