Monday, June 02, 2008

The Mainstream Can Be A Lonely Place

This past weekend I attended a transgender health conference mainly to hear a presentation by Eli Clare, famous disability and transgender activist and author. While I was sitting in the audience, I felt such a sense of camaraderie and acceptance of just being a person.

I listened to Clare's thoughts as he passionately and poignantly discussed the process of appreciating the pain and plight of having one's identity stolen; then the parallel process of reclaiming that identity. Clare talked about how disability is socially in the mix but it was almost as if he didn't have to articulate the notion of disability because image identity is so synonymous with any kind of dissonance that society creates between what is acceptable and what is not, and the assumed privileges assigned to the former.

Although I was really impressed by Eli Clare's lecture and his interaction with the audience, what was even more significant to me that I took away from the conference is the emotional affirmation and intimacy that the transgender community showed for each other.

At one point, I found myself feeling at a disadvantage or cheated because in the so-called "straight" community, there is not the sense of empathetic bonding, only a sense of assumed privilege that not all of us share equally. I don't mean to be overly critical of my heterosexuality. Sometimes what is considered dominant and mainstream can be compared to a morass of conflict and complications. Maybe I'm idealizing other sexual identity communities but it seems to me that the straight community, as far as I know, is embedded with archaic stereotypes and fantastical media-driven social roles. As a straight person, I feel as though I don't have the same type or level of understanding, acceptance, or empathy from women or men in this community.

Regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation I think that many important lessons can be learned from other minority communities as far as support and intimate rapport.

7 comments:

Mike Dorn said...

Hi Carol, This reminds me of the insights I learned from reading Urvashi Vaid's book Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay & Lesbian Liberation. Hard won lessons are being lost when gay and lesbian liberation efforts focus too narrowly on equal rights to marry. Thanks from sharing your insights on the conference. Mike

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