That solitary word makes up one of the comments on Youtube for one of my video reviews. It also appears in plenty of other comments, in delightful turns of phrase such as “this guy sounds like fuckin faggot.” Never mind that the video clearly states my name as Carolyn within the first few seconds. Yes, I am a transgender woman, and okay, I certainly still have some room to improve where my voice is concerned, but really, calling me a “faggot,” which is never an acceptable word to use under any circumstances, is just wrong on so many levels. Youtube comments: You will never find a more wretched hive of idiocy and cruelty.
Once upon a time, such language would have wounded me. In fact, even very recently I couldn’t have imagined putting myself in a position where I can be so easily targeted for such comments. But now, I am too secure in my knowledge of myself and in the casual acceptance of those who matter to me most to be shaken by those who voice their own ignorance and misunderstanding. Now, it doesn’t hurt at all. It just makes me a bit sad. I am sad for those who feel this kind of hate—I believe it needs to be taught, that it’s something that’s absorbed from society (I certainly knew very early on to hide who I was, that certain expressions of self that felt natural were to be repressed and to be ashamed of). And though this commenter is still presumably quite young, escaping from the gravitational pull of such pitiable ignorance is something that only occurs in rare circumstances. There’s a very good chance that he has a life of closed-minded hatred to look forward to. It saddens me to know that he is not a rare example of prejudices we are rapidly leaving in our past, but instead is giving voice to a fear, an ignorance, a hatred that is still deeply woven through so much of our society.
But more than that, I feel sorry for those young people who encounter such ignorance, be it on the internet or in their schools, at the mall or at church, and who may internalize it, feeling that there’s something deeply wrong with them. Young people who learn from the verbal and physical lashings of their peers, or perhaps the disapproving glances or stern words of their parents, that some aspect of themselves is wrong. They will learn that it is to be denied and hidden away, curled up and caged in some remote corner of their souls, its starved cries echoing under the surface of every aspect of their lives. Yes, it gets better, and some day, if they are lucky, they will learn to set free and to embrace this part of who they are. But the scars these experiences leave may never fully heal.
For my part, I am thankful, not for the cruelty directed at me, exactly, but to be in a role where some people are brought into contact with the reality of someone like me, and though it may make some of them uncomfortable, well, the spreading of understanding and acceptance has always been a long, awkward process. And while I am unaffected by the criticisms leveled at me (except for one comment I read, “why is this reviewer sound like the dead michael jackson,” which made me laugh heartily), I am moved by the kind messages I’ve received. One was from a transgender teen in a small town, who says it’s “extremely encouraging” to see me in this public role. Another was from a young man who had just finished celebrating Transgender Awareness Week at his school, and thanked me for “representing.” It’s not something I ever set out to do or saw myself doing, nor is it something I’m consciously doing even now. I’m just being myself as I do my job, which is greatly preferable to being someone else as I do it.
There have been many more very kind, supportive comments. I’ve been touched by each and every one of them, and I am truly thankful for them.
And I am hopeful. I believe we are moving in the right direction, and that LGBT people of future generations will have an easier path. There is a strength found in freedom, in love and acceptance and honesty, that the lashings out of ignorance and hatred cannot shake.