I suppose I have better things to do than waste my time responding to the demagoguery and boastful ignorance of Ted Cruz, but there may be a time when a girl has to stand her ground. You see, I am an activist (for human rights, and for my Quaker values). And I’m well to the left of center on the political spectrum, so perhaps that makes me a “leftist”. And yes, I am transgender.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has now publicly suggested that the person – Robert Lewis Dear – accused of the heinous murder of three innocent people last Friday at the Planned Parenthood Center in Colorado Springs was a “leftist activist” and “transgendered” (BTW Mr. Cruz, that’s like saying that you are “Republicaned”. The “-ed” isn’t needed).
Blatant fear-mongering and associating vulnerable people with evil is hardly original. Women have been demeaned, subjected to sinister superstitions and accusations of witchcraft, and otherwise objectified for millennia, and there’s no shortage of stigma aimed at persons with disabilities or members of small (i.e. not powerful) ethnic minorities. All of these vulnerable persons and groups, which include transgender persons and sexual minorities, make such easy targets. By making us into “the other” it’s simple for the likes of Mr. Cruz to lay the blame for just about any “offense” at our feet. After all, dictators-for-life like Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and many faith leaders in that country have made beautiful Uganda into a pariah state with toxic levels of intolerance in terms of human rights violations, by blaming gay people (I don’t think he knows or cares to know the difference between gay and transgender folk) for all manner of social ills. Targeting “the other” is a proven method to distract the public’s attention away from rampant corruption and incompetence. And while the man accused of the horrific murder in Colorado Springs awaits due process of the rule of law, Mr. Cruz has already “othered” him by labeling him transgender – which supposedly serves to explain his alleged crime. It also spares Mr. Cruz and his supporters any awkward obligation to discuss gun control implications.
None of this is new. Self-righteous, narrow minded, and poorly informed people like Mr. Cruz routinely have been using all manner of derogatory words to dehumanize transgender persons, and to strip us of our dignity. One needs look no farther than the recent rejection of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in Texas, where certain “religious” groups and conservative politicians successfully persuaded the majority of that city’s voters that transgender women are sex-crazed predators and “confused men” stalking young women and girls in ladies rest rooms. In many other parts of the world, and even here in the United States, all too often these types of derogatory words give way to (or directly lead to) acts of extreme violence directed at transgender persons. People are quite literally put to death for having the audacity of being themselves.
Being transgender isn’t a political statement, a leftist stance, or even something to be proud of. It’s also not something to be ashamed of. It just is. I never asked to be transgender, and I do not know of a single transgender person (and I know many, all over the world) who would have ever chosen to be born in a body that simply wasn’t right for them. This isn’t a small thing – but those who are not transgender will need to take our word for it. Over the span of a lifetime, being incorrectly embodied is barely sustainable, or not at all. Transgender people who haven’t transitioned to their authentic gender, or who have transitioned but who have been rejected by family or the larger society, have a terribly high rate of attempted suicides. The situation is exacerbated by the reality that there are many, many people like Ted Cruz who seem delighted to make our lives even more uncomfortable. Or unbearable. Yet few of these detractors have Mr. Cruz’s media access – and the concurrent moral responsibility not to foment hate speech that comes from such media prominence.
Let’s get this straight. No person anywhere should ever be denied as central an aspect of their humanity, character, and personhood as being true to who they are, especially when no one else is harmed by this claim of authenticity. And no one who stands accused of a great and heinous crime should be peremptorily branded as transgender, or any similar “other” label. Transgender people are part of human diversity. With some help, care, resources, and a whole lot of determination, many transgender people are able to rise above this existential challenge and – at least some of us – are able to claim our authenticity and live our lives in a manner that redefines “being alive”. We thrive. Some even say that we glow!
Ted Cruz clearly isn’t one of them.
So this Quaker, leftist, well-educated, very determined, very alive, transgender woman has had enough from the likes of Mr. Cruz, and his callous name-calling.
Remember – “activist” is also one of my labels that I am proud to own, and live up to!