I’m sure that Leelah Alcorn would be happy knowing she accomplished one thing with her final act. She got all trans people to agree that her end was tragic. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only thing that trans people; hell, any sort of marginalized group, can agree on. That tragedy is bad. I think that is the biggest reason I waited so long to write anything about it. I really hate the tragedy bandwagon. Hashtags, retweets, petitions, indignant op-eds, all come flooding out when these tragic things happen. I think my personal favorites are the teamsters that drive the indignation wagon. You know the one I’m talking about; the loud shouty ones who write article after article that are nothing but wailing and lamentations, even when nothing is happening. When it’s a slow week at the angst mill, they go out looking for that faux pas that someone makes out of simple ignorance to have a reason to break out the pitch forks. This is because if you leave those pitchforks and torches laying around they get rusty and tarnish.
I just…I can’t live like that. And I can’t stand the thought that this is the way that we portray minority peoples lives. That our lives suck. This whole, “It Gets Better,” line of crap we tossed around the last time something like this happened was empty hollow garbage; a catch phrase to make ourselves feel better. What a load of shit. Why should we say it gets better? It just is. Life is a whole series of shitty things that happen when other things aren’t happening. Life is not always shitty, nor is it A Very Special Christmas Episode all the time.
This is not to say to people to suck it up, to grow a pair, to get over it, “Life sucks, wear a cup,” though I’m sure more than a few of you already think this and are writing your own raging response, but hear me out for just a second before you post about it on Tumbler. Life sucks. It does. Shitty things happen to you. Feel free to complain, to cry, to moan. But after a while, you have to heal. You have to callous up a bit. Ask any doctor, cop, soldier, fireman, or other person who trades in the tragedies of life; “You have to toughen up a bit to survive.” That’s not to say you can’t cry, feel terrible, or complain, but if that becomes your entire worldview; that the world just sucks and you’re always going to suffer, and that others will suffer too, you’re not living a life worth living. What you have become, is a trafficker in misery. When we do this and spread that misery around, we propagate what’s called the “Mean World Syndrome.” Why do you think these people who work in dark professions become connoisseurs of black humor? I have yet to meet in my life a doctor, cop, soldier, who didn’t appreciate a good joke in the face of a bad situation. Okay, that’s not true, I’ve met a few, but those people were assholes and no one liked them.
That’s why I love to laugh at my own shitty misfortunes. It makes things sting a bit less. It seems the number of transgender writers who cash in on misery outnumber those of us who trade in humor, and that’s a damn terrible thing. If you look at a lot of other social movements in our history, some of the most celebrated people to come out of them, were people who got a laugh about the whole situation. Everything from the biting satire of A Modest Proposal, the subversiveness of Moms Mabley and Dick Gregory, the in your face nature of Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, women like Joan Rivers, Rosanne, and Carol Burnett, on and on and on. Humor in the face of adversity is strength and power. It’s a way of saying, “There’s still resistance in me.”
Uhg. This is heavy isn’t it?
Being miserable is easy. I can look around my apartment and find ten things to make me miserable about my life. Which is being conservative because I actually stopped counting at thirty five… man my life is shit. But look. When terrible things happen it’s easy to unify, to rage, to opine and give the kind of speeches that make an American flag and Battle Hymn of the Republic appear in the background. These speeches are best when presented by Jimmy Stewart in a Frank Capra film.
When good things happen, we tear each other apart instead. When one trans person achieves something, they’re leaving someone behind, and isn’t that a tragedy? Look, I’m glad Laverne Cox, Carmen Carrera, and Janet Mock are wearing designer clothes on a red carpet in Hollywood. If I had their figure and fame I would be rocking out in some Jimmy Choo’s and Prada myself, but I’m not. Sure they’re propagating a stereotype, sure they’re reinforcing Hollywood standards of beauty. So fucking what? You act like that’s new and shocking. Welcome to what cisgender women have been dealing with for, well, eternity. What’s new and shocking is that we’re looking at these transwomen as sex symbols, celebrities and role models, and not as circus freaks to be paraded around on Jerry Springer type shows. I consider that two steps forward and one step back. I’ll take the positive and whip that horse until it’s dead, then worry about the bad stuff later. I’ll make some jokes about it, I’ll satirize it, but I won’t think it’s a damn tragedy.
I won’t read an article in a magazine, paper, or website, and start to rend my garments when a wrong pronoun is used in an other wise positive article. There is no reason to nail my identity to a cross when an unsurprisingly bigoted right-wing religious nut job says something that sounds like a quote from a Christian Eugenics manual. There are minor shitty things happening every day to people like me. I’m not going to cry crocodile tears and try to cash in some freelancer articles on the internet about it. I’m not going to look for the shitty things in life to focus on and get angry about them, or twist good things into bad for my own self-righteousness. I’m not going to make those who disagree with me into the liHitlerly worst people ever even though we share the same end goal, just different paths.
That’s easy to do.
Instead, I’m going to laugh about my misery, I’m going to mock things that are so transparently stupid, ignorant, and bigoted, and I’m going to forgive the ignorant but well meaning. Why? Because living any other way makes this world a shittier place to live in than it already is. Learning to laugh at it all, and not always see the world as a terrible place and people as enemies is hard. If we do nothing but make the world seem like a terrible place out there, then those who are just entering it won’t see it as a place where it can be better, a place of hope. We’re helping them want to leave it as fast as they can because you make it seem like it actually doesn’t get better.