I am thinking big thoughts

I am thinking big thoughts.

I am thinking about evil, about the act of allying, about oppression and anti-oppression, about the thoughts shaping actions and the problems of thought police, about babies and bathwater and deep waters we drown in and deep waters that sustain us.

I am thinking about the importance of high standards, the importance of forgiveness, the need to not give a pass to hateful behavior, the need to not blow up everyone because no one is perfect.

I am thinking of “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” and “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” (and the misogyny and ableism in popular quotes).

I am thinking of the absolute wrongness of “love the sinner but hate the sin” and the absolute necessity to label the action, not the person.

I am thinking about the difference between “I can’t be bothered to do any work” and “one more thing I have to watch myself on, worry over, obsess about might actually do me in”.

I am thinking about feelings, and centering, and bullying, and lateral marginalization, and interpersonal communication.

I am thinking about nuance, and about spectra of color, and about the beauty and allure of stark contrast.

Things that sparked this, though it’s about so many things: Mary Daly — feminist, transmisogynist — is dead. Margaret Cho — comedian, “fag hag” — is a chaser (or fetishist, or both).

I wonder: To what standard do we, should we, hold our icons? Our forebears? Ourselves? Are we allowed to say any good of those who do bad? I do not believe in anyone being pure evil, capable only of badness; nonetheless I believe there is evil out there, and humans are so good at being bad to each other. Is there some level, some litmus, at which point one is “too far gone”? Is it possible or useful to say that everyone deserves respect and kindness, when some simply will not return in kind?

I know this: there are no perfect people. I am not perfect. I have failed. (Oh hello ciscentric, trans-faily post from a year ago.) Is there a difference between me and Cho? Between Cho and Daly? Between Daly, who praised extermination, and the Inquisition, which tried it? There must be, somewhere. But are we to measure evil? (Is evil even the right word?) Do we determine the acceptable by whether we measure with teaspoons or bushels? These are not rhetorical questions.

Those two cases are about trans issues (cis privilege, transphobia, transmisogyny), but these ponderings are about so much more: it’s about saying CIO is wrong without saying parents who do CIO should have their children taken away. It’s about saying that the USian foster system is broken, but maybe some families are worse.  It’s about saying that we can’t demand romance-movie-flawless relationships, but no one deserves beatings or belittling. It’s about having ideals, while living breathtakingly, heartbreakingly human lives — without using that reality to excuse atrocities.

I don’t know where the lines are. I don’t know what the answers are. I know someone can meet all the checkboxes (of whatever list we care to name) and still be, fundamentally, an asshole — and someone can miss the lists, fuck up regularly, and still be, fundamentally, someone I want as my friend.

I don’t personally know any of the people nominated for Lesbian/Bisexual Woman of the Decade. I know some of them have messed up, and some continue to mess up, to hurt, to oppress, to marginalize, in some serious ways. I know we mustn’t, and I know I don’t want to, ignore or minimize any of that. Yet I also do not want to sit as judge for who is enlightened enough, good enough, perfect enough for us to celebrate and embrace — to judge the worth of a person based on checklists — when I know perfection does not exist, and I do not know how to find or define good enough; when I pray every day to avoid being so judged. But if I fail to try, am I the one allowing evil? I fear I am. I fear my trying would have me doing evil.

I am thinking big thoughts.

I’ve yet to think big answers.

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7 Responses to I am thinking big thoughts

  1. Reading your blog helps me feel less alone in the world. I’m really glad you write about the things you write about. I feel like you and I fight a lot of the same internal battles and I’m really happy you have the guts to post about them.

    (I have posted before, but my blog link is different because I pretty much got chased out of lj by folks who were awful about the stuff I wrote.)

  2. I love this post! One of the big lessons I’ve learned is that things are mostly gray. They seemed so black and white when I was younger, but the older I got, the grayer it all got. I love the way you’ve written this all out. Your writing is beautiful.

    • Thank you.

      I think the problem is that in the abstract, there are absolutes. Example: Transmisogyny is wrong, full stop. The shades and greys come in when we start talking about the so complicated, so conflicted real world, where transmisogyny exists alongside trans activism and queer activism and inspiration to fat women and second-generation Americans. Do many good works excuse something bad? That doesn’t sound right to me. Does one bad work negate all good ones? That doesn’t sound right to me either.

      That’s why I have so many questions and no real answers, and why I feel completely unqualified to judge the sum of a person. I feel more confident labeling acts, because I can see their results: this hurts people, that helps people, that other harms and helps. Just don’t ask me to add those up and make a determination on a person’s worth from that.

  3. I think you’re bang on about the checklists thing. As a complete outsider I read the post criticizing Cho with a sense of mounting frustration, possibly because I’d just been Reading accounts of how politicians in Northern Ireland can go on public radio and talk about the “abomination of homosexuality” and “curing” gays without censure . And this in a country ( mine) which supposedly has laws against hate speech.

    It kind of felt to me that there are bigger battles to be fought about the treatment of ANYONE not defining themselves on a strictly heterosexual axis than about whether Margaret Cho has a temporary thing about transboy bands or whatever…

    As we both know, when dealing with changing the behaviour of toddlers or societies, one has to choose ones battles.

    • I am always hesitant to say that there are more important issues. (Link to the satirical/educational site Derailing for Dummies, a snarky but useful overview of common privilege tropes.) That is always true; it is nevertheless true that “little” things, as simple as word choice, do still matter. And while I wholeheartedly agree with the need to choose one’s battles, I don’t feel I’ve any right to choose another’s battles for them, whether they be with toddlers or with societies.

      But I still struggle with questions energy conservation and direction as a movement, with nitpicking and accountability. I’ve no wish to dismiss the harm or help one has done — but neither do I think “oh, it’s all equal, everyone does some of both!” is an effective or useful answer, because there are those whose harmful deeds are so egregious that any endorsement of even their beneficial acts, with no matter how many footnotes detailing their less savory ones, leaves a disturbing taste.

      Thus 700 words of angst, only peripherally/catalystically about this particular issue.

    • Just Some Trans Guy

      So trans people can’t never ever be pissed at transphobic cis queers because sometimes cis queers face oppression too? That’s bull. (And also, it’s not like trans people don’t face our share of violence and hate rhetoric. Really.)

      And y’know, I can protest against homophobic and biphobic nastiness (which I do, ’cause (1) it’s right and (2) I’M QUEER MYSELF) while also protesting transphobic awfulness within LGBTQ communities. It’s not either-or, and that attitude of false dilemma is what lets the Big LGBTQ Establishment (in the U.S. definitely, and I’ve heard also elsewhere) to constantly place trans issues and concerns second place.

      “Oh, you want a trans-inclusive ENDA? How DARE YOU ask for such a thing when we’re working on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell! Do you WANT gay service members to be thrown out? Tsk, tsk.”

      Total bull. And it’s used against trans communities all. the. time.

  4. Pingback: On speaking race, take two « Raising My Boychick

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