1998: Christmas Remembered
1999: What's In A Date?
2000: Peace On Earth
2001: Dark Days
2002: The Little Things
2003: Shop Till You Drop
2005: What Are You Waiting For?
2006: Peace In Our Heart
2007: The Greatest Of These
Say It Loud
I'm T And I'm Proud
Presented at the
Colorado Gold Rush
February 27, 2004
Hello Colorado Gold Rush!
My name is Becky Allison and I bring you greetings from sunny Arizona, where it's actually been cold and rainy for a couple of weeks now.
I like to describe my occupation by saying "I blow up balloons." I'm an interventional cardiologist in Phoenix. I left my practice in Mississippi when I began transition in 1993, and settled in Arizona where I've been for ten wonderful years.
I've recently returned from Los Angeles, where it was my great privilege to work with a marvelous group of women on V-Day LA 2004, the first ever all transgender presentation of "The Vagina Monologues." The author, Eve Ensler, had written a special monologue for our event dealing specifically with the trans experience. I can truly say it was a high point of my life to be a part of this theatrical performance.
All the women in this presentation had one thing in common. We were willing to be "out" about our history, to stand up and say with pride, "This is my life. This is what I've had to go through to be where I am now. I am not afraid and I am not ashamed."
Please do not think I am demeaning anyone who does not follow the same path. I am very aware that some of us have built a wonderful life over years, and it would be jeopardized if the truth were known about their trans history. I respect their choices. Years ago, we were encouraged to blend into society after completion of transition and SRS. The term sometimes used to describe this blended state is "Deep Stealth." This term is now used with delicious irony as the corporate name of the company which organized the V-Day LA 2004 event.
I have begun using a term to describe the mindset which produces the need for deep stealth in 2004. I call it "The Culture of Shame." We hide from our trans past as though it were something of which we should be ashamed. One of my major goals is to overcome this culture of shame and point the way to pride in our transgender heritage. Not everyone agrees with me.
I received a very nice letter from such a long time post op a few months ago. Let me quote some of it without revealing any details about the author's identity.
In one of your articles, you refer to blending into the normal world being based on a mentality of shame.
I think I disagree. Perhaps it was because I was physically lucky and was possibly able to get away with it (and I realize others may not be so lucky) but, for me, the completion of the journey lies in changing my very nature. That doesnt happen with surgery. Part of it happened about 6 years ago (18 years after my surgery) but the next (and maybe final) stage is just beginning.
There is a piece in Homers Odyssey where the ghost of Teiresias predicts that Odysseus, the great seafarer, will only find peace on the day he travels so far inland that no-one recognizes the oar he is carrying for what it is and mistakes it for a piece of agricultural equipment. He can then plant the oar in the ground and die at peace.
I see it something like that. I am a TS and that is one of the most significant things that I am in my life. I will find peace as a woman when I metaphorically reach a land where no-one has ever heard of TSs, where the very concept has ceased to have meaning, where I have no other history but that of a woman. That is when I may have changed my nature.
You are standing in a threshold position and are happy to be there and I wish you all the luck and joy in the world. It is a very modern position (even though it has existed in many times and in many cultures, right back to the Bronze Age) and a very fluid one but I have made the choice that it is not for me. I was one thing and I sought to become another and, for me, the change was a thing of destiny and I feel I have to see it through to perfection so far as I can. I have to find the place to plant my oar.
I am saying nothing except that each sister has her own story and her own destiny to fulfill. There is no shame anywhere because we are all humans trying to find our True Will.
Much love to you and yours and (in case you were wondering) I was just trawling the net trying to find some sensible information on what dosage I should be taking now and I accidentally bumped into your interesting piece. But I am off now. Please dont reply because this is a semi-public machine ..!!
Do you see what I mean? She can't take a chance on actual contact with me because those who share her computer might ask questions about "those people." As much as I respect her intelligence and choices, it seems to me that she is just in a larger closet now, from which there is no escape.
Going into "deep stealth" may seem to be desirable to many persons. I can't deny that jobs are easier to find, and to keep, if one presents as a nontrans woman rather than a trans woman. Friendships may seem easier to make and keep. Church membership may be an issue for some: if our trans history is known, will we be considered outcase or unwelcome? I am aware of persons who remain incognito for any and all of these reasons.
But consider the implications. If your friendships are contingent on living a lie, and if they would be destroyed if the truth were known, shouldn't you question the worth of such fair weather friendships? Would you prefer a friend who loves you without respect to your circumstances of birth?
What do you think of a church which would reject you under similar circumstances? Do you really want to be a member of an organization which would not want you if the truth were known? Or are you comfortable with maintaining the "big lie," hiding in a different closet, and watching silently as your "out" sisters and brothers are disparaged and persecuted?
With respect to employment, many larger employers have questionnaires which ask if you have worked under a different name. If you feel you must lie to answer "no," just realize you are vulnerable to being fired just for falsifying a document. Isn't it better to be truthful from the start? If they do hire you, you'll be more secure in your job.
Let's talk about pride. Why would we be proud of being transgender? I would offer several reasons.
First, all of you here have overcome the greatest of all obstacles - fear. How many are here for your first public event? Please give them a round of applause. It takes courage to venture out in public in a new role. I will never forget my first time out in Atlanta. I met a number of wonderful people who have become lifelong friends. I am so proud of all these courageous folk.
Second, being transgender forces us to face life's difficult questions. A "non" doesn't have to consider the realities of such issues as gay marriage or the persecution of intolerant religions. We have no choice but to consider them, and we grow in maturity as we do.
Third, transition is a life challenge unlike any other. To succeed in crossing the gender divide takes maturity, wisdom, and emotional strength. The years of good therapy don't hurt, either. We are better persons because of our achievements.
I am so proud of my friends and what they have overcome - and yes, I'm able to admit my pride in being a member of this brave community. We live in a time when old paradigms are challenged and changing. We are the threshhold of the new attitude toward transgender - the out and proud.
Let me read the closing passage of a remarkable essay, Sandy Stone's The Empire Strikes Back, a rebuttal of Janice Raymond's diatribe The Transsexual Empire. Stone writes:
The essence of transsexualism is the act of passing. I could not ask a transsexual for anything more inconceivable than to forgo passing, to be consciously "read", to read oneself aloud--and by this troubling and productive reading, to begin to write oneself into the discourses by which one has been written--in effect, then, to become a [look out-- dare I say it again?] posttranssexual. Still, transsexuals know that silence can be an extremely high price to pay for acceptance.
I want to speak directly to the brothers and sisters who may read/"read" this and say: I ask all of us to use the strength which brought us through the effort of restructuring identity, and which has also helped us to live in silence and denial, for a re-visioning of our lives.
I know you feel that most of the work is behind you and that the price of invisibility is not great. But, although individual change is the foundation of all things, it is not the end of all things. Perhaps it's time to begin laying the groundwork for the next transformation.
Marianne Williamson also exhorts us to "shine." This passage, which I quote on my Web site, is from her 1992 book A Return To Love:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people will not feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It's not in just some of us;
It's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
So, as I close, I am going to paraphrase a well known philosopher, James Brown. In the late 60s the civil rights movement had already won many victories through bravery and sacrifice. Individual black persons, however, were often fearful of standing up for justice. Changes came about as pop culture helped define black pride. Remember Aretha Franklin singing about R-E-S-P-E-C-T? Or Sly and the Family Stone - "We Are Family"? James Brown got right down to business with "Say It Loud! I'm black and I'm proud."
Okay. Are you ready? I'm going to give you three chances to get this right. Follow my lead.
SAY IT LOUD
"I'm T and I'm Proud."
SAY IT LOUD
"I'm T and I'm Proud."
I CAN'T HEAR YOU
SAY IT LOUD!!
"I'M T AND I'M PROUD!!"