I think one thing many will agree upon is the critical need for change — personally, publicly, politically and socially. If these times seem to portend great decisions, a fork in the road perhaps, I think many of us have felt it coming. I don’t mean this in any kind of apocalyptic sense, merely that we are at a crossroads and that making a conscious effort to pay attention to what’s going on may be more important now than it has been in the recent past. We may be called on to have a bit more intentionality than the kind of whimsical existences to which we’ve become accustomed.
With that in mind, this new year I have decided to take my writing in a more personal direction. Over the past year, we have heard the word “reset” ad nauseum. It seems to me that what is really needed is a return to basics: honesty, tolerance, compassion, empathy and love. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate what “values” really mean, given how that word gets bandied about.
I’m a child of the ‘60s. I guess you could say I was/am a “dyed-in-the-wool” hippie — a denizen of avant-garde, cutting edge and what has come to be called “counter culture.” We lived our beliefs and we wore them on our sleeves. We had a dream. I will admit to a sense of naiveté we might have had, but we also had passion and guts and, above all, vision. We saw a world that embraced diversity, believed all living beings had rights and didn’t worship acquistion. We saw an end to poverty and hunger and embraced equal opportunity for all. We saw a world in which love prevailed.
Just as all organisms have birth, life and death, so do movements. In the early ‘70s John Lennon penned the words, ”the dream is over.” And, for all appearances, it was. The summer of love and the end of a decade had both ended in disaster. Young men were dying by the thousands. Anti-war activism merged into Watergate and the co-opting of politics escalated. JFK’s axiom of “what can I do for my country” morphed into “what can I do for myself.” The ‘70s turned into the ‘80s. Too many of us lost our enthusiasm and sold out for the illusory corporate security the Reagan years seemed to promise. Too many opted for the new opiate of the masses, namely “stuff.” For some, however, the dream never died. We still believed that all you need is love and we still imagined. We were looking for new ways and new paradigms. We became the lost generation.
A sage and acquaintance, a person whose life experiences give him rare insights into the cyclical nature of events, used to say, in 1980, that these were the ‘60s, only 20 years later. It’s 2010 and we again seem to be on the threshold of a new paradigm. Is this the ‘60s, only 50 years later? The dream is still not over.
Equality for all is again the call of this newly-clothed, old dream. Equality for everyone regardless of race, religion, sex, gender, physical attributes — regardless of anything. This includes the presupposition that we have more in common than we acknowledge. It includes an understanding that we’re all in this together. And, above all, it includes an affirmation encouraging diversity and freedom of self expression.
This is, essentially, what being trans means to me: the realization and acceptance that my essential being in the world is no more or less valid than anyone else’s. It just is. We need to reach out to each other to facilitate that kind of non-judgment, however, and I see being trans as a potential bridge to help us get over that what divides us. It’s like a puzzle that is missing pieces and is unintelligible. Put the pieces in the right place and, voila, you have a “light bulb” moment. We finally see the entire picture. Being trans may facilitate an intuitive resolution of an apparent paradox; there is in some sense a union of opposites. What appeared as paradox, however, maybe isn’t. Realizing this may have the power to release us from the constraints society so often imposes upon us.
Saying that I’m transsexual does not wholly define me. It is merely part of who I am, that which helps to constitute me as an individual. I am not limited to any one part of what makes me that person; in actuality, the whole is probably greater than the sum of the parts, as is the case with everyone. To try to reduce my essentiality only to my gender identity would diminish me. Again, that is only part of who I am. I am neither proud nor ashamed to be transsexual. There is no value attachment because accountability is only predicated by actions. One of the reasons the use of the word “pride” has always concerned me is the slippery slope that always accompanies pride — elitism and separatism. All living beings have dignity and all living beings have rights.
The dream I still dream is for a world striving for understanding, valuing personal relationships over stuff and one in which money is not deified. It’s a world whose peoples embrace diversity and differences. This world accepts the importance of building bridges; it acknowledges that being trans may be one of those bridges that has the power to bring individuals together. And, this world will realize that the effort to strive for a more perfect union, a more perfect society or a more perfect universe requires setting aside our elitist and separatist claims on what it means to be a human being and losing that penchant for judging others. Lastly, this world thinks that being trans, or any other way of being in the world (of course, excluding those whose way hurts others), is really no big deal. : :
— Comments and corrections can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Robbi Cohn, email email@example.com.
This article was published in the Feb. 6 – Feb. 19 print edition.