But aside from the gay marriage issue, which I’ve spoken about before, I’d like to talk today about the transgender community, a community which — as a straight, white, Christian man — I am in no way qualified to talk about.
You might be surprised to hear this from someone who has no problem with the government legalizing homosexual marriage and no problem with mosques being built in or around NYC, but I’m actually fairly conservative.
As a practicing Catholic, I subscribe to a binary sex system, which dictates that there are two sexes built for each other. I can’t help but believe that a person so uncomfortable in their own flesh as to necessitate identifying entirely with the opposite sex is by definition mentally-imbalanced.
Of course, that’s only my opinion. I’ve only taken one college-level psychology class, and it was an audited course, which means I’ve taken zero college-level psychology classes.
There’s a bit of a stigma attached to mental disease/disorder. As an autistic person, I can assure you there is nothing “wrong” or “broken” about anyone with mental illness. Bipolar disorder, ADD, OCD, and all the other anxiety-causing, hallucination-inducing what-have-you’s are no less shameful than the common cold or any physical handicap.
Likewise, there’s nothing to “cure” when it comes to certain forms of mental illness. Autism, Down Syndrome, and even bipolar disorder are not diseases in the sense that the only “cure” would be a complete rewiring and rebuilding of the patient’s brain.
If you “cured” me of my autism, I’d no longer be recognizable as “me.” That’s what happens when you mess too much with the brain. A scary thought, especially for folks like myself who believe in the existence of Spirit and the immaterial, immortal nature of the human soul.
That said, treatment is available and highly-desirable for most forms of mental illness. Some of us can’t function in any real sense without our medicine, and that’s ok. No one would be surprised that a paraplegic requires a wheelchair. No one should be shocked to discover that a man with paranoid schizophrenia requires a daily dose to keep the hallucinations down to a bare minimum.
But none of that really applies to transgender folks.
With what little research I’ve done into trans-related issues, I’ve discovered that the only reliable treatment for transgender folk is for them to go ahead and be the sex/gender they identify as being. Therapeutic attempts at helping them accept their birth-sex have met with mixed results, to say the least.
Of course, that’s assuming therapy is even an option. That’s assuming the person in question hasn’t already faced bullying on par with the Spanish Inquisition.
So what are we “normals” to do? How should we treat those who are different?
The answer should be obvious.
The idea of loving one’s neighbor is not a new one, although it may be too difficult for some of us to conceive of loving someone far different from ourselves. Perhaps it would be easier for us to start with politeness.
First: What NOT To Do
1. Don’t ask someone about the condition of their genitals. Not a stranger, not someone you just met, not even your friends. Seriously, it’s rude.
2. Don’t beat someone to death because they had a penis when you thought they’d have a vagina. Beating people to death is wrong. Seriously, I shouldn’t have to tell you this. It’s wrong to rape. It’s wrong to murder. How do you not know this already? Are you from the moon?
3. Don’t stare at odd-looking folks. Every so often, I see certain folks on the train or at a grocery store. At first glance, I can’t tell if these folks are women dressed as men, transgender folks, men dressed as women, or some other category I can’t be bothered to look up at the moment because I got other stuff to do today, and I’m running behind as it is. What do I do when faced with these people?
I smile and continue about my day. I don’t stare. I don’t ask them personal questions. I treat them like everyone else I happen to run into, with love and respect. This is not that difficult. It’s what your mother taught you. It’s what the Church teaches. This should not be new. It is not a new concept.
What To Do
Here’s a list of ways to interact with transgender folks, other members of the LGBTQ community, members of minority ethnic groups, people with different hair color or skin tone or eye color than you, people with different religious affiliations, and people who hate everything.
3. Interact as you would with anyone else.
Seriously, that’s all. Show a basic level of human empathy and politeness to others. If a Different Person asks you for the time, pull out your watch or phone or alarm clock and tell them what time it is. If a Different Person asks you for a haircut, give them one and charge them the right rate. Unless you’re not a hair-stylist or barber, in which case, you are free to refuse service.
Seriously, why would you ask me for a haircut? I don’t even own one of those squeaky barbershop chairs.
Update: My stance on the gay marriage issue has since changed, slightly. While as a Christian, I cannot vote for it, as an American, I will not vote against it. The government has no right to forbid the marriage of two consenting adults. I call shenanigans on that. Shenanigans, all around.