Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Our Whole Lives

At 9:35 Sunday morning, Carol asked me if I wouldn't mind showing up at an OWL (Our Whole Lives) workshop in the afternoon. "We're doing the unit on LGBT today," she said. "I've got the LG&B covered..."

"But you need the 'T'--the silent 'T'," I replied. "Sure. I'll just need directions."

She approached me because I'm the only open transgender (in the umbrella sense) person in our congregation. Because, it was a group of High School students, I tailored an ad hoc mini-panel, where I would first suvey what they knew to get started, tell them about myself and open the floor to questions.

I accepted this because theorizing about people has its limits. See the following article from today to see how theory can run amuck:

If you're reading that and you have gotten to know people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, then you know that the research must be skewed, since the results show causal factors that are only coincidental (or biased?).

The problem that seems to be left out is that people are very complex organisms, with complex thoughts, living in a complex society. It also leaves out that some of the effects could be due to circles of abuse or circles of inclusion.

As an example, in a circle of abuse, the child, who has not yet realized their gender identity, but who does have behavior that may indicate that, may receive abuse as a family member tries to get them to engage in their expectations. The child typically realizes the expectations are outside of their own feelings, but may try to fit in. Because they don't fit in the expected model, the abuse continues, cycling over and over again until the child buries themselves from the outside world and lives under increasing anxiety of being critically judged by people who don't know them. As this person grows up, when the anxieties are justified that they are not accepted when they take baby steps to be themselves, they quite often make an attempt on their own life.

The cycle of inclusion, on the other hand, occurs when a person is accepted for who they are, relieving some of the anxiety that they feel. They become more confident as a result, and confidently outing themselves to more people, while increasing the risk of some rejection, building a stronger emotional base to handle the criticism. Eventually, this continues until the anxieties ebb to a comfortable level.

But to come to this conclusion experimentally, without taking LGBT people at their word, is next to impossible. It takes interviews of people after they have overcome their anxiety, because anxious people are very closeted. The fear of judgment and its consequences is primary in their hearts.

And all of this makes OWL a great program. The kids get to meet and know lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people if they are present. They get to hear what it means to be LGBT and the struggles that they face. They have the theory, they can get answers, and they are empowered to make their own decisions.

Because I was covering the T (transgendered in the umbrella sense), I also discussed the gender spectrum, gender fluidity, androgynity and crossdressing all as components, from my experience, of a degree of cross-gendered feelings; how on one end of the spectrum there is a sense of some *contra-gender part that needs occasional expression, to the other end, where a person feels almost completely or totally *contra-gender.

I don't know the whole curricula, but LGBT is only a small part of OWL. They were scheduled to cover sexually transmitted diseases and their prevention as I was leaving. On the way out the door, I just barely heard, "Sophie is interesting." I was so relieved to have made a positive impression.

This is my reply to the article posted above. When I re-read it, I decided I wanted to keep it for posterity:

You have done a lot of work here and it is very shocking, but the causal connections have not been proven. Just because A occurs frequently when you see B, doesn't mean that B causes A. It just means a correlation has been established. Just like the famous proof that eating ice cream causes rape, because rape occurs more frequently when more ice cream is consumed. People are complex and society is complex, and you are looking for simple answers. Not only that, but individuals and society interact with one another setting up circles of reinforcement. We are really dealing with a chicken and the egg problem. Do eggs cause chickens or do chickens cause eggs? In addition, taking social snapshots to determine "behavioral problems" doesn't work because highly anxious people don't talk. Personally, I don't buy into the causal link direction because I personally know numerous counterexamples where B occured and A didn't.

They are typically correlated in some way,and its usually and underlying cause or friction.Without getting to really know LGBT personally without threatening them, you will never understand what it is they are going through.

Until you have really listened to someone who has fought the feelings they know to be true, you will never understand the anxiety of judgement they felt. You won't understand how they are one of the lucky few whose suicide attempt failed when they realize they can't be what's expected.

Until you learn to appreciate people who have learned to show a little compassion for themselves, you will not see their loving hearts.

Until you see the re-oriented person who has hung himself for their inability to maintain the lie that they reformed just to get judgement off their back, you will not understand those who have chosen to live.

Until you get to know me, you don't know me.

posted by : Sophie HawesWednesday, March 17,
2010 at 02:32 PM

Hugs and God Bless,

- Sophie

*contra-gender- I am using this term to indicate a sense of gender identity that is contrary to the gender identity that a person is expected to have, rather than spelling that out everytime I need the concept.

1 comment:

  1. My second daughter went through the OWL program last fall. They spent a day on LGBT, but I never got any idea from her what conclusions she had reached. I really wanted to know, but parents were instructed not to pry about what happens in class, keeping it a safe and free environment for the kids. One day, I'm sure I'll find out what she thinks!