Some Thoughts on Trans-Gender and Other People Different from Me

One of the greatest assets with which a person can be blessed is open-mindedness. I was raised in a family who taught me to respect people of all varieties. Add to that some travel to foreign countries and the privilege of earning an advanced degree, and I’ve become fairly good at observing other peoples’ plights and empathizing. It’s also helped me to form a live and let live attitude toward life. When I discuss controversial subjects like the Great Science Fiction War, which I wrote about in two recent blog posts, I try my best to remain objective while discussing my observations. That has helped me to express my thoughts on some controversial subjects without igniting the hurricane-force shit-storms usually accompanying such essays.


One of my favorite aspects about participating in the science fiction community of authors is that it’s a cross-section of people. It’s a microcosmic core sample of the population as a whole. Because we have this one thing in common, namely fiction writing, when you participate in the community you have the opportunity to interact with authors who represent segments of the population that you normally wouldn’t encounter. It’s shameful that much of the community uses that access as opportunity to attack rather than understand.

In my own meat-space life, I have ample opportunity to interact both with people whose lives are largely driven by their faith, and with those who are more scientific and atheistic. I don’t have to declare my own beliefs to know how either of those segments of the population will react to various situations, nor do I have any problem understanding what either side considers offensive. I can interact successfully and have healthy relationships all across that particular spectrum.

But participating in the social aspect of the SFF community has introduced me to other spectra, and the one I’ve learned the most about from this community is the sexuality spectrum. Often, a lack of understanding drives fear, and fear of something or someone different drives a lot of the bad things that happen in the world. Before I started writing, I didn’t really know any gay people in meat space, at least not openly gay. Interacting with openly gay people I met by way of the SFF community has, over the course of my life, transformed my ignorant assumptions and opinions into informed understanding and more sophisticated, accepting opinions.

For people who faithfully remain in the gender role assigned by X and Y chromosomes (aka cis), understanding anything about the LGBT community takes effort. It’s easy to remain in a bubble, condemning those you don’t want to take the time to understand. Probably the most difficult of these to wrap a mind around is trans-gender, for a few reasons. First, you are dealing with a very small (but absolutely not negligible) percentage of the population. Second, like anyone else, trans-gender people tend to migrate to areas they are more accepted, and that makes the chances of encountering a trans-gender person outside those places much smaller. Third, asking a trans-gender person about being trans-gender is asking for very personal information that the person may not want to share. Finally, for cis people, the very concept of your DNA lying about who you are is completely foreign.

I’m fortunate to have social media friendships with trans-gender people, because it gives me the opportunity to understand. It allows me to take that knee-jerk reaction that all cis people have (whether or not they admit it), push it aside, and strive to grow as a person. After all, what we are talking about here is, first and foremost, a person. People have rights, and among those rights is being treated with dignity.

If you are a cis person, set aside your opinions and moral objections for a moment, open your mind, and let’s role-play. You’ll get a small glimpse at how an author deals with characters, but more importantly, you’ll gain a little perspective on trans-gender people. Imagine you were born the opposite gender that you really are, but you feel exactly the way you do now, about who you are, and about who you are attracted to. You don’t feel gay, rather, you feel like you are in the wrong body. You have some difficult choices to make. Do you remain the way your DNA dictates and be miserable, or do you change your body to accommodate the way you feel? It can’t be an easy choice, because both paths are littered with pain and misery, and often depression.

You decide to make the change, and it doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you don’t have a lot of money. There are hormones to take, there are surgeries to undergo, and there is a lot of in-between time when you are both and neither male and female, leaving you nothing but confused with your role in the world. When does the gender letter on your drivers licence change? Which public restroom do you use? You gotta go, and like everyone else, you need to do that in a toilet of some kind. Many of your problems are little problems, but they are little problems most people don’t have, and little problems have a way of joining together into an amalgamated big problem.

That brief imaginary visit into the life of a trans-gender person isn’t going to change the world, it isn’t going to alter moral objections, and probably won’t make any cis person more comfortable around a trans-gender person on first encounter. It’s also probably very incomplete and wrong about some aspects. It does underscore the humanity of a trans-gender person, a person who has good days and bad days, likes and dislikes, loves and hates, laughs and cries, perhaps learns science, and perhaps has faith. Just recognizing the humanity and treating all people with respect would would go a long way toward peace.

A side effect of deeper understanding is dismay at other peoples’ lack of understanding, of ignorant and often ludicrous claims and declarations by public figures and even family members. Writers are people who should be doing research, should be striving for a deeper understanding, and should be forcing those knee-jerk reactions aside in favor of thought-out reaction and response. After all, not only are we a microcosm of society in general, we also should take it upon ourselves to be role models, because what we write influences people.

That’s an amazing power to have.

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