How You Can Help a Trans Person
Who Has Been “Other-ed”
Guest Post by Charissa Grace White
There are a couple of things that go on in our binary society, consequences that are applied by other human beings who don’t even know the definitions of what they are doing…but they do it anyway. The paradigm dictates these actions, and those who benefit from the privileges provided by their place in the paradigm carry them out with a sense of self-righteousness and satisfaction, safe in the belief that they are preserving “the social order.”
The first of these actions is called “policing,” and this goes on in matters of any minority or have-not who attempts to participate in society in any way other than that which has been sanctioned by the paradigm.
Policing happens to me when I am intentionally misgendered, or when I am insulted and/or attacked verbally, physically, spiritually, or when I am excluded from spaces that other women can go freely without a second thought.
Policing also happens in matters of race, in matters of age, in matters of religion, in matters of politics…you name it. If there is a human group of haves, they will find ways to police the have-nots.
But there is another action…this one is by far more insidious and subtle, and I think more damaging and destructive in the long run.
This one is called “other-ing.”
Other-ing occurs anytime that anything happens which makes the person in question “the other.” Thus in my case, the challenging of my rights to work, to be in spaces, to be in public…
Of my right to BE.
This serves to remind that I am “other”…”different”…what I am not.
Do you see how this works?
Cis-gender friends…you will never ever be confronted with this questioning of your right to be alive, unless you are at another intersection of oppression such as race, or being disabled, or being the “wrong religion.”
When you are in the work place, you will be given the gift of being judged solely on your performance, and never on your orientation gender-wise (again, this is true unless you are at another intersection of oppression).
Being “other-ed” feels unbelievably wrong…it leaves you numb…stunned…shocked that someone can celebrate their ignorance so confidently that they would tear someone else’s guts out.
Being “other-ed” happens unbelievably fast…and sooo unexpected, so unpredictable…it’s like being punched in the nose when your eyes are closed and you have been told you will get a nice surprise.
And then when it’s done…you are left there with that feeling of having had the wind knocked out of you…Y’all have had that happen, right? You take a fall so hard that you cannot breathe…and you think you are gonna just die on the spot…and it just goes on and on and on no matter how hard you try to catch your breath, you just cannot…and those around exhort you to breathe, but you cannot, for there is nothing to breathe and you are just…
Sadly…that feeling is not escapable, the aftermath of other-ing. So what I would like you to know is when you are around someone who has been other-ed, be patient with them as they recover from the shock, and just keep the love flowing around them like oxygen…
Just because they aren’t breathing it in right then doesn’t mean they do not desperately need it and want it! Keep that love “on offer.”
Don’t believe them when they say they are “okay,” because that is what they have been taught to say to survive…”stiff upper lip”…”buck up child”…”paste a smile on”…”never let them see they have hurt you”…
*I am guessing that my friends of color know what I mean implicitly!*
And then, here is the really crucial thing:
How can you help:
Your swift, unconditional “punch in the nose right back” at the one(s) who “other”…your defense of us…this is absolutely essential and treasured above all things.
WE CANNOT DEFEND OURSELVES because we are “OTHER” and thus have no ground to stand on!
We need YOU, those of you who have taken the name “Ally,” to bring swift, certain, sure, and confident reprisals down on the heads of those who bully, oppress, and police us with other-ing tactics.
And then PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not look to us for approval and kudos and primroses and bouquets of our affirmation…we are shattered right then! We are f’ing shredded and bleeding and reeling and horrified with ourselves thanks to being “other-ed,” and we don’t have the resources to pet you and affirm you and thank you…not right then at least.
Step up and deliver the message, and do it with absolute conviction like a Mother Bear would defend her cub.
And then give the ones that you are standing for tonsa love, hugs, tenderness, and patience…soon enough they will be stronger again…for if we are one thing only, it is resilient.
Hey, sadly…the ones who aren’t resilient are not with us any longer…they fell in battle with this monster and fed it with their blood.
You are welcome to share this if you feel so led…and the only thing I can promise you if you DO share? The falling of Oppression…the destruction of the Binary Penitentiary, the building of courage.
…and yeah, maybe that WOULD make the heart of God glad.
With much love,
Your Charissa…in resilience and faith
Charissa Grace White is a 56-year-old woman who at long last has found her stride, found herself. She loves God and loves people and deeply desires to see the True and Loving Face of a Graceful and Accepting God be revealed in this world through her life. She has a life statement: Yielded Vessel Yielding Blessing…and she is honored to be alive.
She is currently employed at an Early Childhood Education Center as an Enrichment Specialist who specializes in Faith Formation and the Spiritual Development of children. She accomplishes this through puppetry, storytelling, and music. She is currently training to become a certified “Godly Play” instructor. She also teaches nutrition and culinary interactions with the “Harvest For Healthy Kids” curriculum.
She is a poetess, and sees all of life as one Great Poem being written by us, who all in some form or fashion write the lines and are also being written as poems ourselves. She loves reading, writing, and working with people. She dreams of one day utilizing her writing skills and people skills to make a place of greater liberty in our society for transgender people, and a place of greater liberty in the lives of every individual she meets, regardless of gender.
She is happily married to the most amazing partner anyone could ask for, who has stood by her in love and stands with her as they both transition to the next phase in their union. They have four grown children who are the loves of their lives, and they know a secret about their children: the sun rises and sets by them! Now the rest of you are in on that secret! Lol!
Her blog, Charissa’s Grace Notes, can be found here. It is a trans-resource where she describes the “real life adventures” of a transitioning woman in middle age with her unique combination of wholeness and brokenness, experience and child-likeness. She hopes to meet you there!