11 Jun 2015
Your name has been a sacred one in this house full of writers, with our dog-eared copies of Bird By Bird, Stitches and Traveling Mercies. So it pained me more than many when the transphobic tweet blowing up my Twitter feed this morning was yours. Your response to the hurt and anger produced by your comment on Caitlyn Jenner;”Will call HIM a SHE when the pee-pee is gone”, was to suggest that we can agree to disagree. But that’s bullshit.
You don’t get to agree to disagree about someone else’s experience, or negate their existence and NOT be called out for that bigotry.
Perhaps you’re embarrassed to admit that you are ignorant about transgender people. Maybe you honestly don’t understand that the dig at Catlyn Jenner is a slap in the face to every single person for whom gender is complicated. Especially those who look up to you. Or looked.
I want to believe that your heart was in the right place but you just didn’t know. Because I don’t want someone to have to think of this ugly incident and your snide misgendering when they read this:
“You need to apologize to your grandmother.”
“Is she going to apologize for being a bigot?”
“Probably not, kiddo.”
She rolls onto her back and shoves her hair out of her face with both hands. “Grandma Jo doesn’t think you can be gay or transgender and a Christian at the same time.”
“Yeah, well she doesn’t think you can be a Christian and a Democrat either. But what one person thinks doesn’t change what’s true. Even if it is your Grandmother.”
I sit on the edge of the bed and start untying her shoelaces like I did when she was little. She lets me, flexing her feet and wiggling her toes when I pull her shoes off.
I say, “Anne Lamott says that ‘You know you created God in your own image when He hates all the same people you do.’ I shared that quote with your Grandma once, and she thought it was great. Maybe one day she’ll realize that her picking and choosing what God disapproves of is the same thing, but we’re never going to win that battle by fighting with her.”
Alice shoves my hands with her feet, and I tickle the bottoms of them until she squeals and pulls them away.
“She loves you,” I say.
“But she doesn’t like me.”
“Of course she does. You just challenge people’s assumptions about things they think they’ve already got sorted out, and that’s terrifying.”
(excerpt from The Complicated Geography of Alice)
I SO hope that you didn’t fully understand how your jokes wound women who will never have access to necessary healthcare, children who hope that one day their bodies will align with their inner selves and the parents, partners and loved ones of those people who fight such ignorance and cruelty every day. Because then, we can fix this. You can take the time to learn about the lives of trans people and perhaps even teach others to be more open and accepting.
The truth is, Annie; I’ve learned so much from you over the years and through your books. But maybe it’s time for you to listen and learn. It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as we correct them.
Jules Vilmur (aka laurastina)