Today’s latest: a noted pagan blogger, who shall remain nameless due to the inflammatory nature of the remark, commented on a post on another site that one chooses, among other things, one’s gender identity. My reply to the repost on Facebook was that the remark was on a level with saying that people choose their sexual orientation…and she said that there was “no good answer” to whether sexual orientation was inborn. Without knowing more about her personally, I can’t say for sure that she is straight and cisgendered, but I can’t imagine hearing something like this from someone who knows what it’s like to live outside the binary norms of gender and sexuality. She went on to say that even those who “say [they] were born” LGBT choose whether or not to identify as such. I’m really bothered by this. One of my best friends, whom we will call Linda to protect her identity (and because the name means “pretty” in Spanish, and she’s beyond adorable), is a transgender woman. She didn’t choose to live with the kind of stigma that is put on people who don’t fit the binary gender mold. She simply is who she is, and to live otherwise would be a lie, aside from the deep level of emotional strain it put on her when she used to look in the mirror and see a face and body that didn’t match who she is. I remember watching her suffer in those days, and I know that hurt a much as it’s possible for a cisgender person to know (which means, I will never fully know, but I’ve seen it in action, up close and personal, and gotten in fights to protect her from those whose bigotry turned them violent towards her). Linda didn’t choose to be born in the wrong body. I have thoughts relevant to the sexual orientation topic, too, but I haven’t unraveled past my initial “oh fuck no” enough to put them into words. But I’m about ready to say, if this is the way the pagan community is, then who needs community?
On another topic, there is something my readers need to understand. When I talk about having Native roots, I’m not talking about some nineteenth-century ancestor, or even earlier. I’m talking about Big Grandma, who, according to my dad, had a hand in helping to raise him. And I don’t say that to make myself look “special.” I say that because issues relating to white American imperialism are personal to me, and this is why. I remember, as a kid, listening to her daughter (whom I knew as Grandma Willis) tell about how the bigotry against Native Americans at that time caused her mother to falsify census records, claiming to be half black in North Carolina during the Jim Crow era, so that her children would not be faced with the stigma attached to being of Native origin. These are real people to me, with whom I connect on a personal level because I knew Grandma Willis and her sister Nellie. I take the issues that have affected my family, as opposed to my Honored Dead whom I respect but didn’t know in life, rather personally. This is not me trying to be a special little snowflake. This is part of my family’s collective memory, and as such it colors my perception.