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.

Inciting Incident Blog #21 – The Experience

There isn’t one second of the day that I’m not grateful for what has happened in my life, the last few months especially. I’m now legally myself, and I have the correct gender marker on my driver’s license. The projects I’ve pursued have gained me the pleasure of knowing many new people, and I am not for one second ignorant of that.
However, I can’t say it’s been a path of no resistance.

When you write a book that starts by saying “fuck you,” it’s going to have some backlash. It comes with the territory, and I’m not denying that. But sometimes when you get misinterpreted, it gets frustrating. When you get corrected by someone, it depends on the correction, and the person giving it. But when things are assumed about you, you’re told you’re downright wrong, or you’re instructed on how to do your own job, that’s when I start getting annoyed.

There are those who tell me that I don’t understand the mind or mentality of certain people, and they’re absolutely right. For instance, the biggest reason I’ve loathed country music all my life is that the people who listened to that music when I was growing up beat the shit out of me pretty regularly. I’d hear these songs about beer, girls in blue jeans, pickup trucks, and campfires, and I’d associate them with pain, isolation, and anguish. Then I was expected to embrace that very subculture, even want to be a part of it, but it could never happen. Not with my experience, regardless of my identity.

Notice that I didn’t say I didn’t like country music fans there. That’s personal. I don’t care for a certain subculture. That’s not the same thing as disrespecting the people within it.

The same goes for Donald Trump voters.

Now, let me be clear: the ones driving the anti-trans bus, the ones trying to push us back in the closet, the ones trying to force their religion on everyone else, and the ones trying to legislate discrimination as long as it’s their beliefs oppressing everyone else’s can all go fuck themselves. That’s not what I’m talking about. Let’s just say that I’ve had to converse with some Trump supporters who want to tell me that they’re not all like that, and they’re right. I never said they were, nor do I think anyone who votes a certain way is a bad person, necessarily.

But understand that I don’t have the luxury of that levity. Our community does not have that luxury. And there’s nothing more insulting than someone from without; for instance, a straight cis white man; telling me that my perspective of the world is wrong.

The same way that I don’t understand the perspective of a Donald Trump voter or a country music fan, I also don’t technically know the perspective of a straight cis white man. I passed as one for a long time, but it was all a mask; a mask that I threw off once I couldn’t take it anymore.

But that doesn’t mean I have to respect your opinion either.

I do not know what it’s like to be you. I cannot possibly fathom how you can look at this bumbling, arrogant, thin-skinned, disrespectful person and think: “yeah, that’s how a person should act, let alone the leader of the free world.” Most of the time when that discussion is had, deferments are made instead of actual arguments: but her emails, but Obama, but Pennywise… Changing the subject is not an argument. Irrelevant comparison is not an argument.

And neither is telling a queer person what the world is actually like.

Once again, I point out the fact that I don’t understand the perspective of a Trump voter. I can have that dissonance. But how in the everloving holy fuck is a straight cis person going to explain the queer experience to me? They’ve tried, to the point of telling me that I’m wrong, dumb, incorrect, warped, stupid, crazy, ignorant, and beyond. Or worse, I’m told that no one actually has a problem with queer people and that I’m bitching and whining about nothing.

Fuck you.

I acknowledge that I’m a privileged queer person. I have an audience, a platform, and a university and family that supports and acknowledges my identity. But to say that my perspective of what it’s like in the world being visibly queer is wrong, especially coming from someone who could not be less that? No. Sorry.

There is a political party in this country that has done all they can to fuck with us. It won them a goddamn election in 2004, because gay people getting the right to marry would do something to the social fabric or whatever. Two years ago, an argument over who can use the fucking bathroom put us on a hypervigilant that has not subsided since. I’ve had to ask people to walk to the bathroom with me. I’ve had to ask people to walk me to my car. I’ve been sexually assaulted. I’ve been threatened. I’ve been misgendered. I’ve been disrespected. And to suggest that none of these things are issues is to deny that I understand my own experience of the world.

No more that I can tell a straight cis person what it’s like to be who they are, nobody who has not lived with that experience can tell me that I’m wrong about it. Sure, queer acceptance is at an all-time high. However, there’s now a bus traveling the country openly dehumanizing us. Milo Fuckface targets people and says they’re mentally ill, and the only time people develop a problem with him is when he makes favorable remarks about a child molester. Politicians treat us like an inhuman sexual predator drone, which inevitably has people patrolling the bathrooms looking to fuck with some transpeople, and makes us super self conscious and paranoid.

Why, you might ask? Because you never know who you’re going to walk by when you’re openly queer. You never know who is going to rage that you’re holding hands with someone of the same gender. You never know who is going to decide to murder you for being trans, and though I cannot speak personally to this part of the experience, especially if you’re a person of color. Eight this year have been murdered already for having the nerve to exist.

We do not make the choice to be who we are. Our choices lie in how open we choose to be about it. We are often reduced to “what goes on in the bedroom” or “the privacy of your own home” but that is bullshit. No straight or cis person is told that they can only be who they are in private, and nobody ever should. That’s fucking bullshit for anyone to say to anyone. We are not a sum of our parts, and we are not only queer for what we do in the bedroom. That reduces us to sexual acts, which is what our detractors think of us as anyway, and the whole vicious circle begins again. But some people want to tell me these things don’t exist?

You don’t know the half of it. Even if every single person you knew didn’t mind queer people and never committed a single hateful act toward one, it’s still anecdotal. Unless you’re following me around, cataloguing every interaction I have, and documenting the non-verbal ones, there’s no way you could possibly know my experience, and I wouldn’t expect you to. But to dismiss all of what I say based on not agreeing with it is to accuse me of false representation of myself, of making things up, of creating a situation to supposedly whine about when there are real life and death issues facing our community every day. But it makes you uncomfortable when I talk about that, and that means I’m supposed to talk about something else? Not gonna happen.

You still elected a person who has advocated for doing so. Even if that’s not the reason you voted for him, you voted for him despite it, and your choice put all of us in danger. But I’m supposed to give everyone a pass because… You don’t like it, I guess? Nope, sorry.

That’s why I speak up. That is why I’m open about my experiences. Because so many queer and transpeople either cannot, will not, or aren’t in a position where they can. I know I’m lucky for what I have, but don’t for a second think that means I’m free of danger. I risk violence and worse simply by existing, but being loud and critical while being queer is doubling down on that. It’s a situation you cannot possibly empathize with, and not being able to doesn’t make you a bad person. Your shitty opinion that you think you know who I am better than I do, though? Yeah, I’m going to call that out.

Most of the time, I think these comments have good intentions. I don’t think most people set out to be shitty to another person. But perhaps when a minority speaks up, you might want to listen to what they have to say before you dismiss it or defend yourself. The fact that you’re even talking to us probably means that we’re not talking about you anyway. Good intentions don’t mean that the results aren’t shitty though. While someone may be trying to get me to see a different perspective, assuming or correcting my perspective and experience only comes across as condescending and disrespectful. It’d be like me trying to tell a trans person of color what their experience is. Sure, I have certain similarities, but I’ve never lived that existence, and it would be foolish of me to think I know better than they do. That is the only reason I don’t speak up about that more than I do; I cannot speak to that experience, except to say that the targeting of transpeople of color is sickening, and something needs to be done about it.

One last thing… There’s a particular comment recently that had something that stuck in my craw beyond what I’ve discussed here, as these are generalized criticisms I’ve received since coming out, not referencing any in particular. The funny thing is, this one had nothing to do with my experience, but simply a complete lack of regard for who I am. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already pissed at me, but allow me to say the following first, and yes, this applies to everyone:

1. Don’t EVER tell me what to write, especially on my blog. I decide what I write about.

2. Don’t EVER talk about my genitals. Especially bringing them up in a post that didn’t even mention them. Unless you’re my husband or girlfriend, it’s none of your fucking business.

3. You can call me many things… Some true, some less so… But to say that I have no tangible skills and a lazy work ethic? That goes beyond being wrong… It’s downright offensive. I can’t tell you how many people have seen that comment and laughed their asses off, because it takes knowing very little of who I am to say something so profoundly incorrect.

First, I’ve been in the work force for 17 years. I have management experience, have a list pages long of professional references, and worked through college as well. It’s easy to assume that all I do is write and podcast, but that is to be ignorant of anything beyond my creative projects, as if I sit and write about wrestling or social justice all day, and then do absolutely nothing else.

Second, a lazy work ethic may be the dumbest thing anyone has ever said about me, ever. It doesn’t take knowing much about me to know that the amount of time and care I put into my projects alone speaks to the notion otherwise. I created, host, edit, publish, and promote my own podcast, and I co-host on two others. I just started my eighth book, and third since November. I write two columns a week, maintain a blog, release one podcast a week consistently and on time, appear regularly as a guest on other podcasts, have a photography business, travel to work with other people, and all of this is under the umbrella of my own business which I started with the help of a Harvard lawyer who is also my business manager and laughed harder than anyone at the notion that I might be lazy.

Beyond creative projects, I’ve been commuting 100 miles each way four days a week to an Ivy League school, and that was after two years of community college, so essentially I’ve been a full-time college student for six years. It’s only been this long because almost nothing transferred, so I had to do it over again. So I did all those aforementioned creative projects WHILE maintaining my education at an elite level under those circumstances with that daily commute while working the entire time, being a wife, being a girlfriend, being a parent, being a friend, and traveling all over the country on top of it. I’ve worked in over five states THIS FUCKING MONTH! I’m writing this from goddamned Vermont! In five weeks I will graduate one of the top ten universities in this country under these circumstances after not having passed a year of high school when I was younger, and then working for a decade to get enough stability to manage something like this.

I have worked my ass off for more than half my life, most of it with no cushion or safety net, and I’ll be damned if someone who doesn’t even know me calls me lazy. I’m more than happy to discuss the other things, and my issues with those opinions are made quite clear in this piece, but don’t EVER fucking call me lazy again. I’ve had people ask me to write books on both my work ethic and my time management. Again, I don’t think you’re a bad person, but I am going to disrespect the fuck out of that opinion, because it’s a shitty fucking opinion and deserves to be pointed out as such.

I’ve strived for kindness in any critical response I’ve gotten, and I will continue to do my best until I am disrespected. But don’t ever presume to tell me my experience is wrong, especially when you couldn’t ever possibly begin to empathize with it, and know who the fuck you’re talking about when you use words to describe a person in a critical manner. My work ethic was lazy as far as you could tell? Well, you weren’t looking very hard then, and I’d suggest reaching out to the person before posting such things in public where they’re not likely to be met with the most positive of responses. I am more than willing to engage anyone in conversation about differing opinions, but challenging my work ethic isn’t an opinion. It’s ignorance, and I’d appreciate it if you and anyone else who criticizes me would recognize that from now on.

And if you like my writing about wrestling but not what I say about other issues, I’d suggest sticking with the wrestling writing, where the most controversial thing I say is that Randy Orton segments of television make me yearn for something more exciting, like Roman Reigns reciting the unabridged dictionary after taking downers.

I am Marissa Alexa McCool. I fought like hell for that name, and I’ve been through hell to get it. I do the best I can to accommodate all perspectives, opinions, and insights, but I will not tolerate someone telling me that my own story is wrong. Not a chance in hell.

Inciting Incident Blog #18 – To Relate is to Humanize

It would be very nice if we weren’t all beings that needed to experience something personal before it perhaps changes their mind about something. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for transpeople to be the first ones that someone knew who was trans (that they know of.)

A fellow podcaster, and someone quickly becoming a good friend of mine, Felicia from Utah Outcasts, was talking to me about how hard it may be to understand what it’s like. Even with her being an ally, supporter, and friend, she still struggles with the direct empathy, and our following conversation helped with that. I only named her because she specifically asked me to.

I decided to write about this because, for some reason, I’m usually able to put something in my head into a context that most people can accept, or at least understand. Maybe it’s all the years on camera, writing, and performing, or just something at which I’m naturally adept, but either way, I’m glad I can do this because it helps put a human face on this issue. For so many transpeople, they are demonized by people they’ve never met and have no idea what the personal experience is like (Fuck you, Milo.) It wasn’t until gay people were humanized for a majority of the population that the swift social change took place, taking us from re-electing GW because of catching the gay, and marriage equality becoming national law eleven years later.She was open, but thought she could never really “get” it.

I started off by asking her a question. In situations like this, it’s always important for an open-ended inquiry that gauges someone’s common experience so that the gap can be bridged. It’s far harder to do with someone hostile, but it still holds true. We are more easily accepting of similarities than differences as a species. Given her experience and position at which she arrived in podcasting, I basically asked if there had ever been anything she’d done where she knew it was the right thing and it was her decision to make, but people rejected her for it, to the point of believing they knew better than you, for religious or any other reason.

Felicia opened up about her divorce and how she was pretty much on her own handling it. She had family side with the other, and was told repeatedly how there is no divorce in the eyes of God. Marriage is forever. Divorce is a sin. She had a very difficult journey through people who are supposed to love her no matter what treating her that way.

Then I said, “Okay, now imagine you were born into that marriage, but you never wanted to be married in the first place, and you still got that reaction. Imagine everyone felt the right to tell you that you were born unhappilIy married and even though you’ll get divorced, you’re really still married. It’s a dismissal of your identity, of your personhood, of other people telling you that they have more of a right to define who you are than you do.

That’s the point where she brought up there being no divorce in the eyes of God, according to those accosting her. I related to that too, because I get told God doesn’t make mistakes which is why my gender identity can’t possibly be legitimate or valid.

I feel like the next part of the exchange can only be quoted instead of summarized, simply because I couldn’t possibly say it any better than it went down between the two of us.

FELICIA: For me it was like digging my way out from my own grave, and there were those who told me the grave was were I was supposed to be. Trying to push me out. And no matter how much they hurt me, or how much they said I was wrong, I’d seen the sky and I couldn’t go back in the grave.

MARISSA: Yes. That is what it was like the first time someone called me a girl, called me Marissa. I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t anymore.

FELICIA: And you had seen inside yourself and you liked what you saw there.

MARISSA: I knew it was right. Correct. Who I really was. No matter who said it wasn’t so.

FELICIA: And the overwhelming joy despite the pain of what others did meant I had to keep going.There’s wasn’t a choice anymore.

This. This. So much this. Maybe I shouldn’t have to do this, but this is why I make myself so open and available, because many transpeople are not in a place where they can or are able to do that themselves. But the only way it’s going to become more reasonable in society as a whole is if there is a human face on it beyond Caitlyn Jenner’s. Our sense of empathy is more strongly provoked by being able to know someone, see it for yourself, and understand that experience. I’ve been on the other side of that equation for many things, and hopefully we can progress beyond needing to do that someday.

For now, I just thought this was a pretty damn cool exchange, and I’m grateful that Felicia let me talk about it to all of you.