My Last Gay Rights Manifesto
Trolling Google Image for blog photos, as I often do, I stumbled across a stunning piece of art. You can see it yourself over the opening paragraph of this essay. It's a sculpture by the legendary male physique artist George Quaintance, completed in 1936. You're looking at two Art Deco masks fused together to make one: One mask is female, and the other male. I adore Art Deco design, and at first, all I did was admire this beautiful piece of craftsmanship. As I kept looking at it, though, a strange thrill began to course through me.
Suddenly, I realized that this wasn't just a good-looking sculpture. This was a representation of Transgender humanity: Masculinity and femininity occupying the same space, blended so as to form a separate gender all its own. Knowing something about George Quaintance's approach to art, I think that's exactly what he intended it to symbolize. If I'm right, then he did so magnificently; he totally captured the essence of inborn androgyny.
Are you an LGBT person? Then take a good look at that Quaintance sculpture. It's a visualization of your inner self. What do you think? Are you amazed? Are you repelled? Can you handle confronting the truth about what you are? Or can you only see yourself through the eyes of your oppressors?
There's an idea: Let's look at ourselves through their eyes for a moment. Most of the time when LesBiGay people are discriminated against, it isn't because of their sexual orientation. Most Straight people never see us have sex, and most of us aren't in the habit of discussing our sexual exploits with them! We are bullied, threatened, ostracized and assaulted because of our gender expression. Our voices are too high, or too low. Our hair is too long, or too short, or the wrong color. We don't wear clothing that's masculine or feminine enough. We don't have interests that are considered appropriate for "real men" or "real women". We don't carry ourselves in the way "real men" and "real women" are expected to. We don't make sense to anyone whose understanding of gender is binary. We are people who transcend gender (which is why all of us have a right to identify as Transgender), and that makes people who don't transcend it very uncomfortable in our presence.
Fighting anti-Gay bias in this world necessarily involves challenging narrow concepts of gender. Binary gender is like a book that you've only read two-thirds of the way and then put down: The story isn't complete until you've read the final chapters! On those unread pages, there's a world that's populated by more than just male and female life forms. Transgender life forms also exist! We always have, we always will, and it's time for us to insist that the world acknowledge our existence.
Scientists like Simon LeVay have recently uncovered biological markers for Transgender status, but I didn't need their findings to discover who I am. I came to know my true gender from studying the Bible and Gnostic texts. Christian scripture, widely thought to condemn Gay people, gave me the key that unlocked the truth about same-gender sexuality. The Gospel of Philip describes how Jesus Christ gifts a chosen few with "male and female power" before birth, causing them to be born with the blended gender of God. As I've written before, parallel doctrine exists in the annals of many, if not most of the world's oldest religions.
Carrying both male and female gender in the same body was at one time widely viewed as a blessed state. We should endeavor to reclaim that blessed status, and begin to feel the pride in our uniqueness that we merely pretend to feel now. When Gay Pride becomes more than just a popular concept, I bet we'll feel less of an urge to strip down, booze up, get strung out and/or clown around in the streets under the guise of celebration. We'll no longer need to camouflage our self-hatred that way!
This thing I describe as blended gender is called "Fullness" in Scripture. It exists within all LGBT folk. So, you may ask, why doesn't it make us all Gay, or all Pansexual, or all Transsexual? Why is there variation? I think variation occurs because different people respond to its presence in different ways. Or, it may be a question of degree, with some of us possessing more of the blend, and others possessing less. Whatever the case, Fullness is inborn; all this bullsh*t speculating about "environmental factors" and "outside influences" should've ended long ago! You can't "learn" how to become Gay or Transsexual; core identity can't be taught to or imposed on a person! The negative experiences of intersex individuals, forced as children into gender roles that violated their self-concept, tell us as much.
By the way, when I talk about blended gender, I am not referring to intersex genitalia! I'm not talking about genitalia at all. I'm speaking of something that exists on a spiritual level. As gender-transcending human beings, the form our genitalia takes is of very little significance. It matters in our sexual relations, and it matters if we want to produce offspring, but that's about it. The bodies our Transgender souls are born into don't define us like the bodies of binary gender folk define them; one way or another, an LGBT person will always challenge conventional notions about masculinity and femininity. We can't help but do it; it's our nature!
Fullness trumps (s)expectations; it has its own unalterable norms. Cultural pressure can't change them. Punitive laws can't change them. Religious belief can't change them. Psychotherapy can't change them. Surgery and hormone treatments can only create the illusion of changing them. Fullness is a gift from God that can't be returned, no matter how much we may want to!
But why should we want to? The thing to never forget is that Transgender status is completely normal. It's God's balance of nature. The sexual union of men with women is meant to approximate the Fullness that we received as a birthright; that's why the Savior excluded our kind from heterosexual marriage (Matthew 19). To me, it's perfectly logical: If people can be born with blended racial background, why can't they be born with blended gender, too? I see LGBT humanity as just another aspect of the tremendous natural diversity that God loves. Millennia have passed since life began on Earth, but every so often, we still hear about a previously unknown species of plant or animal; the Lord's imagination and creative ability knows no bounds! It makes a skilled artisan like George Quaintance look like a caveman carving stones; and we who possess God's "male and female power" number among His finest creations. Let me say this one last time:
There is no such thing as a d*ke, a f*ggot or a tr*anny! Nothing that God creates is queer!
I call for an end to the lies heterosexual folk tell about us! Enough of these insane accusations of "recruitment"! No more vilification! No more pretending that we prey on Straight people like Dracula preys on virgins! No more pretending that Bible scripture justifies excluding us from church sacraments! No more claims that we contaminate any environment we become part of! No more equating us with pedophiles and polygamists and bestialists! No more falsehoods about our relationships "threatening" the traditional family! No more equating our love to rape and ancient temple prostitution! No more papal pronouncements that our existence throws nature out of balance! No more demagoguery to the effect that God is punishing humankind because of our presence!
I also call for an end to the many delusions LGBT folk entertain. No more facetious claims of having "chosen" our sexual orientation! No more accepting stereotypes as truth! No more calling sex in public restrooms an expression of "Gay culture"! No more pretending that unprotected sexual activity won't result in serious consequences! No more thinking of ourselves as men trapped inside women's bodies, or vice-versa! No more pretending that surgery can remove a person's Transgender status! No more insisting that Transsexual status is an illness while finding no fault with the sick society that rejects its validity!
No more pretending that we're exactly the same as heterosexual folk except for who we sleep with! No more arguments that we don't "need" certain rights that heterosexual folk enjoy! No more lying to LGBT kids about bullying getting "better" when all that happens most of the time is a change in the type of bullying and who's doing it! No more believing that Scripture condemns our unique gender expression (it doesn't)! No more accepting religious bigots as doctrinal authorities! And please! No more pretending that heterosexist and transphobic slurs can be "reclaimed" and made empowering!
The word "queer" must go! It connotes defectiveness and perversion. It stigmatizes God's blessing of Fullness! It belongs to an ignorant past that we must break free of. If you're in the habit of dropping this dehumanizing label into casual conversation, wash out your mouth and mind; gargle twice and spit! Starting today, I'm on a crusade to replace "queer" with the term "gender-neutral". If an umbrella term is needed, as many of us seem to believe, then this is a far more accurate one. It defines more precisely who we are and what we have in common as Lesbians, Gay men, Pansexual and Transsexual persons. Most important, it's refreshingly free of denigrating connotations!
We need to stop wearing the oppressor's hand-me-down hate speech! Dignity looks so much better on us. We must force ourselves and others to speak of blended gender with respect, and get used to hearing it spoken of in that way!
Respecting yourself is about more than just the language you use. It also has to do with the way you treat yourself, and how you let others treat you. There's a multitude of Gay activists around; just turn over a rock, and one is sure to crawl out from under it! Yet I find that relatively few of them want to change conditions for LesBiGay people in any substantive way.
Too many of us have made our peace with the demeaning jokes, the ugly slurs, the outrageous stereotypes. We've resigned ourselves to the persecution, the stigmatization, the lack of security in our persons. Most of us haven't got the stomach for taking the fight against bigotry to the oppressor's door, so in a pinch, phony political posturing suffices! At the end of the day, we're content to stay walled off in a little corner of the world set aside for misfits, a place devoid of dignity that doesn't even provide us with safe harbor.
We crave distractions from the injustices we suffer. We escape into pageants, parties and cliques, campy humor, mindless celebrity worship and reckless sexual excess. Numbing our pain with drink, drugs and booty, we can barely feel that boot on the back of our necks . . . why, our necks could snap and we wouldn't even notice! We'd never admit it, but we've adapted ourselves to a discriminatory status quo. Within our myriad social classes and cultural traditions, we've learned how to accommodate heterosexism, and God forbid we should trouble the waters too much!
Lord knows how much I want to trouble those waters!
I want to trouble them so bad sometimes, I can hardly stand it! I want a Category Five hurricane, global warming crisis, multi-funnel tornado and tsunami all rolled into one! I want to see all the complacency and compromise and corruption swept away. I want to see the cleansing rain come down, and then I want to see the sunshine after the rain. I'm so ready!
I want this social upheaval so passionately because of the way I grew up: An effeminate boy all but crippled by shame, repeatedly beaten down by ignorance, terrified of the world outside his door. It was an intolerable way to grow up, and I can't stand to think about anyone else suffering that way. How can we settle for business as usual when we know a new LGBT generation is falling victim to hate crimes every day (those they commit against themselves as well as those perpetrated by others)?
Oh, we're making a big militant noise right now, but it's still business as usual: Begging politicians for favors; nibbling around the edges of mass protest; letting the religious Right Wing wipe its filthy feet on our backs; talking up revolution whenever we get the chance, but never walking the talk. It's nothing but a lot of pussyfooting around, and I'm sick to death of it!
When we finally get serious about Gay Rights, we'll be waging the fight against discrimination in six key arenas: In religious institutions; in educational institutions; in the courts; in the streets; in the media; and in our own hearts! (Take note that I didn't mention the political arena. That was deliberate! Let's chill out with the Washington lobbying until we have some real power to wield there.)
We'll be turning up the temperature in our churches, mosques and synagogues until they become boiling pools of unrest. We'll be condemning "faith-based" opposition to Gay Rights, and correcting religious doctrine that calls Transgender expression sinful. We'll be banishing "Queer Studies" from the classroom, mandating comprehensive sex education and anti-bullying measures, and promoting genuine scholarship on Transgender identity. We'll be ripping the blindfold off old Lady Justice so that her eyes can perceive the abusive excesses of unchecked religious freedom!
We'll be making mass protest a reality, filling the public square to demand tax relief as compensation for institutional heterosexism and transphobia. We'll be demanding accurate, consistent and respectful media representation (especially in ads and entertainment media), and blowing the damn roof off if we don't see it! We'll finally have realized that a distorted portrayal can be as bad or worse than invisibility; and when it comes to rooting out the entrenched shame that comes between us and our dignity, we'll be as relentless as the Red Chinese rooting out counter-revolutionary influences. That's what serious Gay activism will look like!
I believe what the old Negro spiritual says: God's gonna trouble the waters! And just like the runaway slaves who originally sang that song, we LGBT folk must wade in troubled waters before we can set foot on the dry land of liberation.
Originally published in 2010 during the Christmas holidays, this essay is dedicated to the memory of Haitian-American poet, editor and performance artist Assotto Saint, who showed me the path when I was not yet ready to walk it. This June 2014 re-posting is also dedicated to the late writer, dancer, singer and inspirational speaker Dr. Maya Angelou ("Miss Calypso") and the late Storme DeLarverie, veteran of the 1969 Stonewall rebellion. Both of them were angels sent to Earth that God has recently reclaimed for His kingdom.