Marissa Explains it All #37 – What to Expect When You’re Questioning

Being a visible and openly trans activist as I am, I get emails or messages a lot from people who might be starting to question their gender, or loved ones of the questioning. While I am certainly willing to take as much time as necessary to have those messages, Skype calls, etc., I feel like I should put out a list of some of the things I say in these conversations, especially because I know for everyone who reaches out, there are many more who are afraid to initiate the conversation, afraid that I won’t have time to listen, or any other reason. Therefore, I’m publishing this post for those who may not feel able to talk to me, publicly or privately, and may be in a position of having gender questions.

NOTE: These pieces of advice are based on my own experience, my experiences with other trans people, the numerous interviews conducted therein, and the books I’ve read of other trans people. This is by no means a tell-all, answer-all guide, and before you make any major decisions, you should talk to a trusted, LGBT-friendly doctor so that you’re well aware of the risks, side effects, and other baggage that may go with this decision. I’m not a professional (at that, anyway), and do not claim to be an expert. Only someone with a lot of experience.

1. No matter how open-minded or gender-blind you think you are, there are societal influences, toxic thoughts, and other pressures you need to sort out in your head.

Our willful participation in this culture is not as manageable as your Facebook feed; meaning, you can’t always filter out what you don’t like or want. Culture, on a basic level, is learned behavior, and we don’t always choose what we learn on a subconscious level. You may have harmful perceptions of gender, relations, and how one should or does act that may detract from your experience. When you’re first starting to question your gender, a lot of those things are going to come up, possibly as reasons why you shouldn’t transition:

-I don’t want to be called by male/female/neutral pronouns because no one will ever respect that anyway.

-I don’t want to admit to myself that I’m trans because I see how the community is treated in certain parts of society.

-I don’t think I could ever go through with surgeries or HRT.

-I feel like there may not be a point in coming out or transitioning.

All of these are valid, and yet they’re sometimes defense mechanisms we’ve created to talk ourselves out of taking that leap. Make no mistake about it; these questions are difficult, deeply embedded in your consciousness, and may bring about thoughts and memories you wish they didn’t. However, once you get past all the reasons you think it’ll never work; Once you can sort all those in another folder, that is when you can truly start asking yourself the most important questions.

-Why am I questioning my gender?

-What does gender mean to me?

-How do I really feel?

-Who do I really think I am?

-Does it truly matter what anyone else thinks of it?

Once you can get to those without talking yourself out of even thinking about it, then you can truly start to learn who you are.

2. Your answers may change.

Coming out/being trans isn’t always as easy as “I always knew.” As much as some stories would like to have you think that, exploring and discovering your gender identity is a deep, long, and difficult experience, and the answer may change. I for one talked myself out of coming out numerous times, got scared and went back into the closet, then talked myself out of HRT, then talked myself out of surgery, and the list goes on. If you don’t feel like you can or want to go on hormones, you don’t have to to be valid. If you don’t feel like you could ever go through with surgery, fine! You don’t have to go through any procedure to be valid in who you are. Don’t let the outside world move the goalposts on you, because they will every chance they get. Maybe you’ll start in non-binary identities and move through them to the other side. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll go with it for a while and then “de-transition.” Maybe a non-binary identity is where your heart truly lies. And maybe that answer will change over time too! It doesn’t matter. This is your journey, and nobody can take that away from you. Nobody has more of a right to your identity than you do, despite what the anti-trans commentators would have you believe.

3. Don’t let concerns over being able to “pass” talk you out of embracing your identity.

Remember what I said about moving the goalposts. Some people will tell you the only way you can be valid in your trans-identity is by “passing” according to cisgender standards. Those who can stealth or not be visibly trans, that’s what some would like us to believe is the only valid way. You don’t owe anyone in this society, including yourself, blending in by cis standards. Your journey isn’t about them or living up to how they feel you should be adequately trans. Despite what some insecure people may think, our lives are not devoted to blending in to trick people into accidentally being attracted to trans people.

4. Give yourself time, distance, and recovery.

Being online and trans sucks sometimes.

By that, I mean if you’re like me, not a day goes by where someone in your Facebook feed, or one of their friends, doesn’t have something shitty to say about trans people. Even the proudest among us, it gets to us after a while. Allow yourself time away. Allow yourself space to recover. Take time away from those toxic arguments. You’re not obligated to speak up if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to chime in on every douchebag who says an inappropriate thing. Trust me, that urge is there, and gets magnified if you get into activism. Be proud, be as loud as you feel safe being, but don’t feel like you have to rebut every terrible argument. None of us have the time for that. Right now, I’m on a self-imposed Facebook ban until I get back home from a weekend getaway. I imposed this ban on myself because getting into too many arguments and/or constantly trying to validate or justify my humanity and right to my identity finally caught up with me. And if you’ve listened to any of my shows, you know I yell a lot. Give yourself that time away; we all need time to recover, recharge, and distance ourselves from the toxic opinions of those who may never understand us.

5. You don’t owe cis people anything.

This is the main reason I’ve been on hiatus: Defending this ideal. Whether it’s people who think we owe them our trans status immediately, or those who feel entitled to answered questions at any time, no matter how invasive they are, you don’t owe anybody anything. Nobody is entitled to your time. Nobody is entitled to your body. Nobody has the right to demand something from you that you’re not ready to give them.

6. You’re not obligated to fit someone else’s standards of masculinity/femininity/etc.

When my husband got deeper into his transition, he started wearing makeup and short shorts again. At a point, he was afraid to, because he felt he had to live up to some standard of masculinity that he’d felt influenced by. Dispel yourself of that toxic bullshit as quickly as possible. You can be a trans woman and wear jeans and a t-shirt. You can be a trans man and wear makeup and like cute things. You can be non-binary and still associate with things you liked before you came out. Let yourself like things because you like them, not because you think you should.

7. You will hear every stupid argument, no matter how long you’re out and no matter how much you try to avoid them.

Here, I’ll knock a few out right now… Not disclosing trans status is dishonest. Trans is a fad. Trans was made up by Tumblr in 2009. There are only two genders. You can’t change gender. Chromosomes. DNA. Science. You’re still x no matter what. You’re a distraction. You’re sick. You need help. Trans is a mental illness. Trans people have magic, gender-bending mindpowers because they’re sorcerers whose mission in life is to spread the trans and play volleyball in the face of mocking god.

Okay, maybe that last one is true. The rest are absolute bullshit mostly perpetuated by people who aren’t trans, don’t know anyone who is trans, don’t know the first thing about being trans or HRT or anything else, or do have some of those things and still perpetuate harm to others. Fuck them.

I say this often: I’m openly trans because I want to be, not because I feel obligated to be so in order to make others more comfortable. I was transitioning five months before I came out publicly. It’s none of their business. This journey is about you. Figure out who you are, figure out what you want, and find your own identity. You don’t have to accept what others tell you that you are. You don’t have to accept the naysaying in the back of your mind that tells you you’ll never be valid/accepted/passing/trans-enough/etc. Make this journey because you want to. Make this discovery because you want to. Be who you are because you want to… Not because others feel entitled to that information or your answers to their questions.

I regret nothing about who I am. I only wish I’d had access to the information I did much earlier in life. I would’ve transitioned over a decade ago if I’d known that was an option. Be sure to talk to people you trust. Don’t risk your life, house, job, or safety over it if you can help it. Read or listen to things that other trans people have said. Those who put it out there, myself included, partially do so in order to try to help make it easier on trans people coming out after we do. Trans stories are as varied as trans people themselves, and I hope your story gives you the happy answers and experiences that my journey has for me. You deserve happiness, respect, and the freedom to be who you are, and don’t ever let anyone, including yourself, convince you otherwise.

And, of course, reach out if you feel like you need to. I’m on Facebook (except this weekend) at Marissa Alexa McCool, Twitter @RisMcCool, Instagram @littlegirlrissy, Snapchat @rissymonster, or you can email me at rismcwriting@gmail.com. I always try to answer as many and as quickly as possible, and there are plenty of other openly trans people who are willing to answer your questions when they can. Don’t be afraid to find out who you are because of what you’re worried may happen. Find out. It’s worth it. Even with all the pain, negative things, and societal attachments that come with being openly trans, I don’t regret a thing. I just need time to take care of myself sometimes.

Don’t we all?

 

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Marissa Explains it All #31 – Screamed At For Existing

For those of you who don’t already know, I am pansexual and polyamorous. I have a husband and two girlfriends, and one of my girlfriends is trans like me. As I’d already been invited to Utah Pride by another podcast, and seeing as she’s from there, I invited her to come spend the time with me before we move in together with my family in St. Paul.

When you live in the East, you often hear combinations of cliches about flyover states, but Utah in particular is associated with the Mormons; people who have a reputation for being overly friendly, but also holding some incredibly bigoted and backward views. I’ve had to live-read the book with Molly Un-Mormon, I’ve read this shit!

But there’s always the promise that in a metropolitan city that hosts a huge Pride festival, it won’t be as bad as, say, having it in a rural area with a bad reputation. The cities are always safer for people like us, right?

The crassness, arrogance, ugliness, and deliberateness of the people in this area surprised me, and I’ve spent the last four years in Philadelphia, the city known to respond to its reputation for being assholes with “At least we’re not as bad as New York!” This was a different beast though.

We weren’t sure where the festival was being held, and we ended up taking an unintentional several mile hike around the city. As people who love each other tend to do when they’re doing something together, we held hands… something you can only find gross or inappropriate if you hold queer people to a different standard than you would anyone else. Apparently, this was the latter.

Slurs were shouted at us from car windows. People passing by made remarks. From all types, from all directions, we were shouted at endlessly for having the nerve to walk on a sidewalk while being trans. And of course we were holding hands, which is like third base in Mormon, so there was also that.

In Philly, someone might shout something at you, but it won’t be an epithet. They’ll tell you to go fuck yourself, but it’ll be for taking a parking space, not for existing. They’ll punch you in the face, but it’ll be for wearing a Cowboys jersey, not for being a minority. That’s the difference I’ve noticed in all my traveling: People are assholes everywhere, but it’s why they choose to be assholes that marks the difference for me.

Even when I was in Lexington, Kentucky, the South, people stared and made remarks under their breath. But to be this verbose and deliberate about it was something different for me, and I held up a little better than she did by returning it with my signature snark, but I can only hold up for so long. We’re human, after all.

It takes a lot of energy to wear armor. It takes the emotional battery to try to shield others from hatred, and no matter how strong you are, sometimes you have to put the shield on the charger and close your eyes and cry. After that, being called “sir” after four times of saying “I’m not a sir,” after being treated like shit in the Staples, and after some of the worst hotel service I’ve ever experienced, I felt drained, apathetic, and just needed to be held in my girlfriend’s arms. The world got too loud.

But as I calmed down, I had to reflect on some other things. Our time that we spent together here was magical, whether it was alone or with friends. Daily messages of admiration and appreciation for what it is that I do keep me going, and I’ll take one of those for every hundred bigots that call me a slur. The memory of those will remain long after the pain from being catcalled has faded.

To spend a night with friends who are genuinely curious about your story and share theirs with you… To learn from new friends, meet their families, and divulge experiences that we may have explained a thousand times, but ears and faces are willing to receive them, that was magical. And even though I had to leave the room several times because the noise got to be too much, the love and support from the friends far outweighs the multitudes of assholes.

Plus I got to meet Misty K. Snow, the first transperson to run for Senate. Or, as Felicia put it, “she wants to meet you.” I still haven’t reached that level of dissonance where I understand that, especially when it’s someone who has done far more in this world than I could ever hope to. I feel like a phony, a fraud, when I stand next to someone like that and people regard us in the same sentence. But they do. I don’t get it, but they do.

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Then, as I awoke this morning, I recalled the Wells Fargo teller who responded to me correcting her use of my name with a compliment. I remembered the affirmative messages that a dozen people sent this weekend. And I saw the look in my girlfriend’s eyes as she woke up next to me and we were still here, still strong, still together, and still ready to fight, even as much as it hurts. I wrote a poem about that moment that I’ll put at the bottom of the page. It was a transcendental moment, no pun intended, and even with all that’s happened, I’m truly grateful for this experience.

I may not have spent a second at Pride, but I still have reasons to celebrate. Sunday, I’ll have my first event as a featured speaker in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I just got booked at another in Flint, Michigan. I repeat that I don’t know why people want to hear what I have to say, but the best I can do is try not to let them down, especially in these times.

I got a tattoo of the Against Me! lyric/motto/attitude: “True Trans Soul Rebel.” It means that even in the worst of times, when everyone wants us gone or dead, we defy them by continuing to live our lives outside of the closet. We will be loud, we will be defiant, we will express our love without apology, and we will continue to fight against this ugliness and bigotry so that others don’t have to. People like Misty, who ran as a transperson in freaking Utah, help me remember that. If we can take heat off those who are coming out now or in a few years, it’s all worth it.

And this has all been worth it.

I’ll leave you with the aforementioned poem I wrote this morning. Hope to see some of you in Allentown, Flint, and at my live show in July. Thank you.

SMALL MOMENTS BLUES
By Marissa Alexa McCool

The sun peers in from the bay window. The curtains gently unfold ever so slightly, allowing the light of a new day to envelop the darkness. Short breaths, signs of the unseen and subconscious haunting reality slowly dissipate among the new morning rising.

The stacks of books make way for trains of thought, chugging through the heavy slog of the weight of minor sorrows. To compare the slurs and hatred against the affirmations and encouragement, it brings us all to an examination of the balance.

The hatefulness pricks harder, but the love remains long after the sharp stings of ignorance penetrate our armor. Your hand, my hand, united and defiant against what we’re supposed to be, committing revolution by knowing what we’ll face from the public, and choosing to be visible anyway.

Not all life needs to be a fight, this is true. But in finding happiness in simplicity, peacefulness in serenity, we defy the wishes of those who would harm us by smiling to ourselves and each other.

You can call us dykes. You can call us trannies. You can call us queers. You can fight to eliminate us from public life. But every time that we smile at each other and kiss despite you, we’re winning the war.

Marissa Explains It All – Blog #29 – The Representative Letter

Name change. This name has been requested for a podcast, but given how many of those I already have, I thought I’d use this one instead. So, here we go…

Let’s see if I can answer some genuine concern as to why LGBTQ people have such a problem with Allies insisting on being included, represented, etc.

Imagine if every time someone spoke about black rights, a bunch of white people stood up and said “hey, this is about us too, right?”

Imagine if every time charities were trying to help the impoverished, some rich people came along and said, “hey, don’t forget about us. We struggle too!”

Imagine if every time immigrants tried to assert their own rights in the midst of deportation, born-citizens interrupted them to say, “but what about we feel about our jobs and such?”

It’s not a matter of us not loving, appreciating, wanting, or acknowledging you. It’s the fact that almost every time a queer person tries to tell their story, assert their identity, or explain their experience, someone comes along to remind us “not all…” or “what do you mean by…” or even worse, explain what our experience/identity/sexuality really is, how they see it…

It’s the fact that some people who have been so long considered the societal default cannot accept that something isn’t about them, and they do all they can to change that. And if you’re only an ally or a friend to us because you want to be given a special ally cookie or told how awesome you are for being a decent fucking person, you’re not really an ally and you’re focusing on the wrong issue.

Your gender isn’t being questioned. You aren’t being told your labels are made up. You aren’t being told you can’t use the bathroom. You aren’t being told how you love is an abomination. Be an ally to us by stepping up and beside us, not in front of us to make sure that we don’t forget about you too.
We love you, but it isn’t about you, and that’s okay. Okay?

NOTE: Ehhh, not after that last line… I already know what you’re going to say. Just save it and pretend we agreed to disagree on how I’m a loser who needs to get a life despite the fact that I just graduated with three degrees with honors from an Ivy League school and am somehow also lazy and not contributing anything to society and whatever other bullshit insult you’re going to come up with to explain why you like my wrestling blogs but not this one. At this point, just stick to the wrestling one and ignore it if you hate it so much and leave me the hell alone. Kay? Kay.

Inciting Incident Blog #28 – Reflections on Pulse

It’s been almost a year since 49 members of our community were needlessly and heartlessly murdered. That event was the impetus of my transition. I read a letter that I’d written “anonymously” on the Inciting Incident episode where we talked about it, and it was only a month later that I secretly went on hormones.
That event made me want to be loud. That event made me want to yell. That event made me want to be visible. No matter what kind of danger it puts me in, because this kinda shit needs to stop, and the douchebros and ignoramuses are not helping.

I know you think it’s totes hilarious to make the “only two genders” joke, like we’ve heard it for the first time, but you’re the ones who get offended when someone other than you exists, or walks down the street holding hands with another transwoman.

I know you think we made all this up and that makes us crazy, but I think that makes you an ableist bigot with an awful lot of lonely nights spent trolling a noncis space on Facebook because you literally have nothing else to do.
I’m tired of having to fight for our humanity. I’m tired of having to fight to be acknowledged as people. I’m tired of having courts decide that crimes against us aren’t hate crimes because Jesus said we shouldn’t be that way or something. Can’t we charge them with hate crimes by making being ourselves even more dangerous than it already is?

I’m tired of having to ask someone to go to the bathroom with me. I’m tired of wondering if the next person to give me the stink eye has a gun. I’m tired of wondering if someone who sees my husband and I together is going to say something in front of my kids. I’m tired of worrying about every single queer and visible friend I have and their safety, because supposed followers of the God who said “love everyone” and those who clamor for the sanctity of life and all lives mattering also love to tell us that that loving God took 49 members of our community away in senseless violence because love, or because we’re all perverts, or because we are the army of darkness, or because purple makes them get flashbacks over titty twisters… Whatever it is, I don’t fucking care, and I’m sick of having to justify our community’s humanity daily to the crowd that is so willing to openly disregard experts in order to continue being an ignorant asshole.
I’ve been attacked recently by both strangers and people I considered friends. I’ve been attacked because I have the nerve to stand up for myself when someone shouts a shitty opinion at me. I’ve been attacked for thinking I know myself better than some stranger who is sure that he knows what gender really is. I’ve been attacked for having a visible show that isn’t about what’s going on in their lives, but instead focuses on our own community cause, you know, we’ve taken over everything and that’s all it is anymore. Look at all our fucking representation, guys. We really should get the cis straight white guys a chance once in a while, right?

Today, I sat and stared at messages. Countless messages, handwritten, on posters, on sidewalks, on rocks… I saw 49 names inscribed, including my own last name as second on the list. I imagined the sounds of that night; the visions, the terror, the fear… And I thought about every single person I heard mocking that event, or using it to promote hatred, or to make a shitty joke because special snowflakes can’t take their sense of humor because we don’t find jokes about the murder of our already-vulnerable community to be fucking funny!
I speak out for them, not the ones who can’t handle everything not being about them. I speak out for the chosen queer family I have, and the ones I don’t know, who have to live day to day, wondering if they’re going to be safe or if their dad is going to acknowledge their existence or if they’re going to have a place to live because of who they are. I became an activist because I am sick and fucking tired of all lives mattering until they found out they might be queer. I’m sick and fucking tired of life being sacred unless Jesus cries when queers kiss. I’m sick and fucking tired of knowledge being power, unless it affirms what we already know about our sexuality and gender, and then some fucking idiot named Todd knows better cause he got a C in eighth grade biology, and that’s pretty much the same thing.

Most of all, we’re sick of having to stop and explain to people outside the community and its allies as to why we can’t just stop and let things be, or wait until it blows over, or wait until times change and we’re accepted. None of us are promised that, and if anyone can’t understand that, it’s hard to move someone so privileged that the status quo doesn’t affect them either way in the first place.

Today I sat by a place where 49 members of our community died, and I became more determined than ever to fight against anyone who would see us harmed or worse. Fuck you for doing that, fuck you to anyone who supports it, fuck you to anyone who tries to justify it, fuck you to anyone who makes jokes about it…
And fuck you to anyone who insists on neutrality whenever it’s convenient for them, but come out with their hands open when it’s safe for their token ally cookie. Our lives are at stake every single day, especially with this fucking xenophobe leading the country, and we don’t have time to stop and consider how you might feel about having your shitty word choice corrected, okay Brenda?
Stand with us. Listen to the stories of those you’ve never been able to understand. Help us prevent something like this ever happening again instead of taking it for granted that it won’t. We don’t have that luxury.

Inciting Incident Blog #25 – 2014

TW: Dysphoria, sexual assault
If you know anything about me, you know why the year of 2014 is significant.

That was the year I first started to come out.

That was the first time in my life I felt the sense of overwhelming joy that I’m now awash in.

That was the first time that my naive nature got me in trouble.

That was the first time I truly understood what is the queer reality.

Or, as some people might say it, shit we made up for attention.

Let me explain…

In 2014, I was introduced to terms that more accurately described what I was. For so long, I was in the assumption that I was a drag queen and nothing more, because I didn’t know there was an option beyond that. Once I started learning, the floodgates of so many years of hiding opened up.

The problem is, I wasn’t socialized as a woman. I wasn’t taught things that women have to watch out for. I didn’t know things like “be careful in a dark alley” or “don’t accept a drink unseen” or “be careful who you’re drunk around.” These thoughts never would’ve occurred to me, and there’s something seriously fucked up about that. Both that they happened, and that they had to.

I’m sick of people marginalizing the experience of trauma victims, and I’m sick of people always having to play the Devil’s Advocate when someone explains their experience, their trauma, or their identity. They’re always looking for the benefit of the doubt so that they don’t have to take any action on their part whatsoever. That would require changing thinking and we can’t have that.

There’s the terrible myth that anyone AMAB can’t be raped, whether it’s because of physical reaction or because they always want it. There’s the myth that we’re somehow asking for it, or that we deserve it for being freaks. There’s people who think it didn’t happen, or think we’re exaggerating, or who are always looking to find a reason why they either can one-up or disregard what you’re saying.

When I was roofied, another transwoman told me that I probably just couldn’t handle my liquor, because “it seems strange that someone would use roofies on you and not bother to go ahead and rape you.”

Of all people, shouldn’t we who’ve been through that experience know better? Can’t we be better than that without victim-blaming and marginalizing someone who has been through trauma?

I came out again in 2016, but that was after almost two years of complete misery. Hiding, denial, numbness, blaming myself, and everything in between: what would my family think, would I lose my kids, would I lose my job, would I ever be okay?

Then I was. Sort of.

Everyone who has only known me for the last few months, they see the ridiculous schedule and output I have, but they don’t always know what came before it. The disasters I suffered and the numbness, tears, self-doubt, self-hating, and the denial destroyed me inside before I finally started to accept who I was, and it clicked all at once in the face of a hate pastor.

But that took two years. Two years of denying I was Marissa. Two years of pretending to be male. Two years of pretending to be straight. Two years of my life lost because someone thought my consent was theirs for the taking. Twice.

Then some people are quick to jump on the “faking it” claim. Once again, because that’s easier than actually doing something about it.

Inciting Incident Blog #23 – You Are Missing the Point

Recently, Ari Stillman and I started a satirical podcast. It’s called “The Cis Are Getting Out of Hand.” It’s blatantly satirical; we would never actually tell a cis person to go sit in the quiet corner and apologize for their gender. That’s the point; the cis people who play along are in on the joke.
The truth behind it is, it’s a podcast made by non-cis people for non-cis people. It’s for us to be able to vent without having to explain our pronouns, without having to define cis for someone… again. Without having to justify our humanity or defend a bathroom argument or put ourselves on the line.

Allies may not realize this when they ask a question or hear us say something about cis people, and they may be hurt by it. I know they have just in the span of the few days since we started that community. The people I love, of course I love them. Of course I don’t hate cis people. But it’s not about you right now, and that’s the point.

Look at how other people react when queer people have their own space where we can say these things without cis people constantly reminding us “not all…” or without straight people needing to be praised for putting themselves on the line and fighting for our rights. Let me be clear: You should not need praise and rewards for being an ally, you should do it because it’s the right fucking thing to do.

I was recently gaslit in a conversation talking about this very thing. I needed to calm down, and how I needed to chill. He was going to make his own group of allies for LGBT people and didn’t see why that was condescending and insulting. Because god forbid the straight cis white guys are left out of anything. I was accused of “decluding” people who are on our side, and I don’t think that’s a word. Then concludes by saying things like “I’m still gonna fight for you despite you being unnecessarily rude tonight. You’re awfully grumpy.”

If you consider yourself an ally and don’t realize how shitty, manipulative, and condescending that is, get this straight: You are NOT a fucking ally!

This whole thing started because a friend of mine was standing up against a guy who insisted the LGBTQIA replace the A with Ally. Once again, god forbid we have a space of our own without including you. Then, when called on that, after having to have cis defined to him without the aid of the Google machine, says he’ll make his own group: ALGBTQIA: “I’ll have my group, you’ll have yours.”

Once again, you’re making a derivative about our thing by making it about you… again. You talk about us not including you… Well you’re not included in this! You’re an ally: great! You should be! But not because you expect a reward for it. Not because you expect us to suddenly consider your experience the same as ours!

It costs you nothing to be an ally, but you want to get yourself queer points. As if being an ally equates our experiences. As if you have any idea what it’s like to be us. Like you sit there and go “yeah, I’m an ally. I know what you go through, getting ‘faggot’ yelled at you, getting intimidated out of using the bathroom for being trans… We’re one in the same. We’re all in this together.”

NO! We’re not all in this together. You being a visible ally does nothing except say that you’re not an asshole! Our choice to be visible is one that risks harassment, assault, or worse. Can’t you see that? Can’t you see the difference between standing up for a cause and actually living as someone who is a target? But no, it hurts your cishet feelings if we leave you out of a thing in our own space, and that’s totally equatable with oppression. We’re the bad ones if you think about it. If only you too had your own space where you could talk with other straight cis people at leisure without worry or necessarily having them around…

We don’t. We have very few spaces where we can do that without someone asking questions and reminding us what a good ally they are. Expecting reward for their charity of doting us with their “support.” And then having the attitude of “well gee, if this is how you’re going to treat us, then I shouldn’t be on your side at all.” if you’re only on our side because you think we should be nice to you, you’re not an ally. Charity for reward is not charity, and you are no ally of mine. I will say this every single day until I no longer have to say this anymore.

One more time, for those in the back…

It’s…

Not…

About…

YOU!

P.S. Small update on this. He was apparently “trolling” me, not hard by his standards, but wants me to unblock him to apologize. All he did, after all, was say he wanted a letter. Right. Take a look at the screenshots. All he did was innocently ask me for a letter then “troll” me with his shitty, condescending, gaslighting, “pat me on the head and give me an Ally cookie” behavior. Nope, sorry. Bye Felicia.

Inciting Incident Blog #22 – TDoV2017, ReasonCon3

This is the first day of Trans Visibility for which I am completely out. I feel like it’s only necessary to bullet point my journey and present state, especially for those in the back who think we don’t need things like this.

-I was named Marissa when I was 18. My girlfriend’s last name was McCool at the time, and I liked the ring of it. Alexa is a reference to my deadname.

-I’ve always known I was different. I came out as transgender for the first time in 2014. It didn’t end up well.

-I went on hormones July 13th, 2016. I didn’t come out publicly until October, mostly out of fear of being visibly queer.

-It took me until January 23rd, 2017 to be officially out on all my web presences. The response has been about 98 percent positive, and I’m quite aware that I’m one of the lucky ones for that.

-I’ve suffered 3 sexual assaults in my life that I know of. I say “that I know of” because one could’ve been once, or it could’ve been every night for six weeks, or anything in between. Two were from cis girls. One was from a cis guy. These are for reference, not relevance.

-My podcast has completely changed because of my coming out on episode 70, as have my appearances on other podcasts, my activism, publishing books, and daily life. I regret nothing.

-Today, I got the trans-flag heart tattooed on my left wrist with the word “Visible” in the white bar. I will be visible for those who cannot, and for those who don’t think there are people who cannot.

-The current administration is doing all they can to roll back LGBT rights and public presence. Not all Trump supporters support this, but a lot are quick to tell me that nothing will really change. I beg to differ. Baby steps in one direction are still going in that direction.

-Many cis people like to tell me that I’m overreacting, complaining, whining, or that they support us but they’re not going to do anything like march in parades because it won’t change anyone’s mind. I like to remind them that gay marriage determined an election in 2004, and became national law in 2015. It wasn’t because gay people politely waited their turn in silence. We do not have the luxury of waiting to find out what they want to do.

Lastly, I’m going to share a letter sent to me today, because I don’t know if I could’ve received a more meaningful letter from a cis person on this day. Thank you, and I look forward to hugging you and everyone else at ReasonCon3. I will be there with a table, my new book False Start, my first book under my name The PC Lie, t-shirts, and 8x10s. Thank you, all of you, for being who you are. Unless you’re an asshole. Then don’t be who you are, today or any other.

Marissa,

I’m writing this letter to you because, well….140 characters just isn’t sufficient.

I recently had a Twitter exchange with you concerning the EPIC “fuck-you” to “Pastor Carl.” Following that, I found and downloaded several podcast episodes and decided to start with episode 82. I recognized Callie’s name from the ReasonCon ads and thought it would be interesting hear you interview her.

Before going too far, I’d like to explain myself a little. I hope my impetus for writing to you will become clear by the end.

I think it’s fair to say that my thoughts regarding gender and sexual expression have evolved in recent years. Considering my upbringing, one might go so far as to say that I’ve undergone a fundamental shift in perspective. I don’t believe that I’ve ever hated or been afraid of anyone, at least not that I’m aware of. (With respect to the words Homophobic or Transphobic, I’ve come to the conclusion that, far from being afraid of other people’s orientations, those to whom this designation may apply, are afraid of what the acceptance of people in these groups might reveal about them.)

My best friend—who I’ve known for 22 years since we were roommates in christian college—is gay and only recently came out to his parents and friends. He came to see me one day—about two years ago—and said, “We need to talk.” He looked nervous but resolute and suddenly just said, “So…uh…I’m gay.” I looked back into his eyes, smiled and said, “Yeah…I know.” At which point he collapsed into the
nearest chair and began breathing again. He looked up, met my eyes, and asked me how long I’d known. I said, “Well, probably about 12 years….when I found gay porn on our computer.” (He and I had rented a house and lived together while working at the same Christian school as middle school teachers)

He chuckled at the irony, then we laughed together for a minute or two. I walked to him, gave him a hug, told him I loved him, and we cried together. His tears of joy—perhaps relief is a better word—probably had something to do with the fact that he had deliberately avoided telling me until after he had told every other person in his life. He said that he wasn’t sure how I would react. Mine
were tears of relief mixed with an intense pain. Relief, because my friend had finally told me the secret I knew he was hiding. Pain, caused by the realization that the early years of our friendship—a time when I could safely be described as absurdly religious—cast a cloud over this conversation, to the point that he told his Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Baptist parents before telling me. (This friend is also one of only 4 people in my ambit who knows that I’m an atheist. After talking to my wife, he was the first person I told.)

I say all of that to illustrate, not my compassion for others, my love of all people, (insert other useless platitude here), but to show how utterly hopeless I was at communicating my actual feelings to my bestfriend. He didn’t know if I was “safe.”

Now that I’ve exposed one of my great fears (and one of my only regrets), I need to tell you why I’m writing this absurdly protracted letter to someone I’ve never met. I listened to episodes 82 and 83 of the Inciting Incident podcast. In ep. 83, Callie spoke about activism and doing what one can to get involved. I realized that, although my only real contact with anyone in the Trans community has been on Twitter, I have a moral obligation to, if nothing else, tell my daughter the truth. I can’t change an entire culture, but I can ensure that at least one child will grow up knowing the truth. Recently, my daughter and I were watching some show on Netflix. She said something about one of the characters and then made a categorical statement regarding relationships which needed to be corrected. (She’s at that age where confidence meets ignorance of reality) She said something like,

“He’s a boy, Daddy. Boys have girlfriends, not boyfriends.” (What I’m about to describe happened so quickly that I’m tempted to think that I had already, subconsciously, thought the entire thing through)

My initial impulse was to respond with an unemotional correction. My response was short, and deliberately so. In that moment, it wasn’t necessary to overwhelm her with all the various ways in which consenting adults couple themselves. I simply said, “Actually, there are a lot of boys who have boyfriends.” (Please understand that I’m still trying to examine my own motivation for this tactic of moral instruction. I wanted her to hear the truth without any of the emotion this topic tends to elicit, especially here in NC. I don’t know if it was the right way to do it. I want her to be able to take that idea and extrapolate from there. Again, I don’t know if I’m right or wrong here.)

I just told her the truth. I didn’t make any clarifying statements, moral judgements, nor did I encourage her to frame her perception of the issue in any way. I just told her the truth. I want to believe that the truth is enough. I don’t know if I’m doing this the correct way. I welcome any constructive criticism.

I found myself crying at work the other day. I had made the mistake of listening to episode 82 while at work. I started sniffling during Callie’s story about the dating website, her uplifting and encouraging interaction, followed by the crushing reality that clichés (Ignorant Redneck, etc.) exist for a reason. By the time she got to the “Nerd-Castle,” I was a mess. I can’t explain why I reacted this way, other than to say that the beauty and (if you’ll forgive the expression…I’ll try to explain what I mean by it) the utter “ordinariness” of it was so touching. For a moment, I glimpsed a world where the kind of romance Callie described is beautiful even if, or perhaps especially if, I don’t share the sexual orientation or gender identities with the people whose story I’m being told. I’m so new to this that I’m unsure if it’s appropriate, or even kind, to phrase it this way. I hope you’ll forgive—and correct if necessary—my ignorance on this point.

I kept listening, after sneaking some tissues in the bathroom. When Aiden finished his story—leaving you and Callie momentarily speechless—I was a total wreck. I knew I was going to listen to back episodes of your podcast, but I was blissfully unaware of what was coming next. The following morning I clicked on Episode 81 (I think) where you spoke about consent.

Describing my reaction to this is difficult. I was driving to work and had to pull my car over more than once. My vision through the rain soaked windshield was blurred by a torrent of tears. I sat there, crying with you, but not anywhere near you. It’s a strange mixture of emotional connection (on my end) and complete ignorance of the other person’s existence (your end).

It occurred to me that my impetus for attending ReasonCon (Which happens to be in my hometown…where I am a closeted atheist) had changed. Initially, I wanted to meet Aron Ra, Matt Dillahunty and Lawrence Krauss. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I was more excited about meeting you and Callie then about taking selfies with some of my favorite celebrity atheists!

At the close of the show you admitted your incomprehension as to why anyone would have spent their time listening. The fact that I feel the same way is precisely why I had to write to you. I got onto Twitter about a year and a half ago. I’m deliberately anonymous and have, until very recently, taken great pains to conceal this from my family. I don’t know any atheists in Hickory. In fact, I don’t know anyone from who will be in attendance at ReasonCon. My desperation for community led me to Twitter. Twitter has allowed me to “be myself” without anyone I know being affected. This cannot last. I know that, at some point, I will be “outed” (forgive my usage of the expression) and my entire family will know. I don’t fear this, with one exception. My mother. Telling her, at her age, would almost be a cruelty. At least that’s how I’m rationalizing my cowardice.

I’ve written too much.

I am afraid of telling my religious family members that I have “misplaced” my faith. It’s pathetic, I know. You had the courage to scream your name into the void and show your true face to the world. With that in mind—and with no small amount of admiration—I want to show you my face, and ask if you will be my friend.

Sincerely,

-This is why I speak up. This is why I’m visible. This is why I’m an activist. Thank you. You know who you are.

I will have a merchandise table at ReasonCon3 with my books, as mentioned above. I always welcome hugs, so please don’t hesitate to do so. My terms of peace with Callie are that she is the greatest hugger, but I’m the greatest hug receiver.