Choice

We spend a lot of time fighting the “choice” meme.  The Choice Lightswitch

Which is understandable, given the fact that who we’re attracted to and who we identify as are not things that we can switch on or off like a light.  The idea that everything we are boils down to a whimsical choice get’s bandied around flippantly and turned into the club used to try to bash us back into hiding.

But today, I’m owning my choice.

Which is a little scary, because giving any quarter at all to those who hate us always gets exploited and twisted.  Any admission of possibly choosing to be trans gets distorted beyond recognition.

Part of the panic raised about us — the possibility that we might (*gasp*) influence kids as teachers or parents, or the possibility that our ability to communicate who we are in media or openly in public might encourage others to follow our path — only works if people swallow the idea that our identities and orientations are choices informed by flighty, misguided notions.  Many of the clinicians working to revise sexual-related issues in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual governing mental health in North America still practice choice-based aversion therapies to cure kids who display signs of gender transgression while stating a conviction that if they don’t, the kids may one day choose to be gay.  And society is still so repulsed by the idea that someone can choose their gender to be different from that decided at birth that many governments require forced sterilization in the form of surgical modification before considering to recognize them legally — if even then. (I still strongly believe in the necessity of GRS for those who are in severe distress about their body, but also believe that the choice to have GRS should only have to be made based on that distress, and not from expectations from outside or even within our community)

Picking and Choosing Those Worthy of Rights

Our understanding of human rights is still based on some concept that some people are deserving of rights and some aren’t, with choice being the magical divisor (which is ironic, considering that most of the people repeating this meme expect to be assured rights based on their choice of religion).  If the current structure of human rights were to be scrapped, like some of our opponents opine, then it can only be done under one of two pretexts: that either everyone alive deserves rights, or that no one does.  The former would seem the sensible alternative, but would mean accepting people regardless of their choices, LGBT people included.  It probably won’t happen, though, so for now, we need a piece of legislative paper to remind people that it is not acceptable to treat anyone as lesser people for any reason.  Including what is perceived to be their life choices.

Because we do make choices.  Human behaviour stems from a combination of biological / instinctive drive, influential socialization and conditioning, and choice.  Any time we dismiss or denigrate any of the three, we’re missing the whole picture.  Currently, our society still overemphasizes and distorts the effect of socialization and are just starting to revisit the instinctive.  But our collective attitudes about choice are all over the map.

So today, I’m owning my choices.

While growing up, I chose to try to be the person everyone expected me to be.  I knew I was different, but perceived that it had to be that either I was wrong, or everyone else was.  I chose to believe the latter, although I blame society a little for stifling all discussion of anything else, and making it seem like there was little choice available.  I also blame society for making difference seem like a character flaw, which became an attack on self-esteem that I still struggle with.

After spending the first 16+ years trying to exorcise myself and living in the eternal ex-gay Jesus-fix-it perpetual emotion machine, I realized god wasn’t going to “fix” it, that I couldn’t live that cycle any longer. I chose to walk away, and because at that time there was no such thing as an “affirming” church and homophobia and faith were synonymous, I chose to abandon Christianity along with it.  Finding no information other than partial answers that led me to believe I’d never be able to afford to transition, I chose to continue trying to play the hand dealt to me and live as a testosterone-fuelled organism for another 20 years, identifying only as bisexual.  When I kept hitting the wall of suicide ideation, I finally chose to stop hiding, fighting, and living the lie that was causing me to suffocate.

Yes, that much was a choice.  Get over it.

Prejudice Is Presuming to Judge Behaviours, Beliefs, Abilities and Life Choices Based on Assumptions that One Associates With a Trait

We quite commonly hear from people who cry “reverse discrimination” over protections given based on minority traits — forgetting, of course, that protections based on general terms like “race” actually do include the majority along with the minority, and that the imbalance they perceive happens largely because one of the two really does have a relentless tendency to be bigoted.  But many minorities often have a less obvious commonality that the “choice invalidation” argument seeks to undermine.  Are people really discriminating against someone purely because of the colour of their skin, for example, or is colour an indicator that triggers presumptions about one’s culture, lifestyle, behaviours and tendencies?  Biased people always excuse their bigotry in this way: “I have nothing against —-x—- people,” you might commonly hear, ” but you know what they’re like….”  Prejudiced people are blind to their prejudice because they’ve seduced themselves into believing that what they’re reacting to is not really the trait itself, when they’re acting on the unspoken and often inaccurate smorgasbord of inventions that go with it.

And those are inventions that generalize, assume and cast judgment on behaviours, abilities, perceived beliefs, and choices — some of which may appear at times to hold true because they’re driven by common recurring factors like poverty, minority stress and socialization.

Regardless of how we want to couch things, society needs to recognize and respect any life that is lived with care to the safety of others, with responsibility in our interactions, with mutual respect, and with mature / informed consent from those we invite into critical intimate areas of our lives, such as (but not limited to) our sexual behaviours.  When people are living within those parameters, it is not acceptable that they should ever be excluded, invalidated or hated — regardless of how different their choices and lives may be from what we live, ourselves.

As much as homophobia and transphobia are driven by a societal stigmatization of sex and denigration of the shades of feminine gender expression, it is also informed by a shunning of Difference itself, and the persistent use of social engineering to eliminate it.  What happens when we magnify the use of choice (as is being done by the far right regarding LGBT people) as the wedge differentiating the acceptable from the unacceptable, and as a tool to be dismissive of entire populations?  For that matter, what happens when the elimination of difference by social engineering becomes bolstered with genetic engineering?  The scientific journals are already musing over the moral implications introduced by the possibility that the use of dexamethasone in pregnant women might reduce or eliminate behaviours indicative of lesbianism or transness.  To what length is society prepared to go, in order to eliminate difference, and does denigrating choice provide the means to do so?

Part of change rests in owning, respecting and defending choice, and our right to choose.

(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project)

    • Sara Wylde
    • September 5th, 2010

    Thank you Mercedes…Love this!

  1. Interesting and always timely reminder. I have felt that choice and determination are often interwoven. For while brain and chromosome study show that gender identity IS in some part biological, the human will has shown that it can be personally hidden, or for example in the case of Patricia Highsmith, who went around from 14 to 18 telling all that he was male, they were socially smothered (the forced solution of marrying, subverted by marrying a gay man proved not so great). Lesbians, particularly those in conservative churches come out 10 years later than those not. And are more likely to marry, having been told they will be cured, or having a child will ‘cure’ them.

    We can know early on that our world view is not what others expect it to be, but that still leaves a lot of choice of what to do about it. Those who transition, and early, particularly in toxic Canada (any country where you have to sue the government multiple times for over a decade to fulfill a health commitment THEY made is toxic, the book Pink blood narrates some of the extreme hate crimes against trans individuals in Canada – a country that does not track hate crimes specifically so no legislation or self image issues arise – as the two years they did a limited hate crimes tracking it turned out we were far more brutally violent against LGBT individuals than the US. The choice of change our society or ignore the problem got the typical collective reaction).

    I completely concurr that we need, not just our human rights act, but bodies which are willing to ensure they are enforced, and further acts to clarify how, as the police, which in BC are tasked to enforce BC human rights do not, are often are unaware that is even written into their mandate.

  2. This is an excellent explanation of choice, and how the increased incidence of transition doesn’t necessarily mean an increased incidence of transsexuality.

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