any of us are having to deal with and control our fury on a daily basis, primarily due to the nonstop dumpster fires that Drumpf and his cronies set and then fan. Lethal anti-semitism! Birthright citizenship! The Migrant Caravan of Doom! Misogynist drunks on the Supreme Court! Look over there — it’s the Roe v. Wade bonfire! Those black smoke clouds in the distance are from climate deniers rolling back EPA regulations! Oh wait, the destruction of Obamacare and pre-existing conditions has zero containment! Our bucket brigades are exhausted and the water is getting scarce. If it weren’t so tragic, one could conjure up an image of Keystone Kops with limp hoses and teaspoons of water attempting to douse firestorms in all directions.
By the time you read this, our mid-term election will have come and gone and we’ll be… what? Cleaning up the mess this wicked version of Charles Schulz’s character “Pig Pen” spews in his wake? Or girding our loins for more insults and indignities to human rights? Or an attempted return to a semblance of social and political balance? Time will tell.
Perhaps we need to pull a “Spartacus” and all declare ourselves Jewish! A refugee! Or trans and proud! What are they going to do, pull our pants down to check? Oops, BAD idea; don’t tempt these gender fascists. Mandatory trouser-drop checkpoints loom too easily in the imagination.
When you look at the roster of “non-desirables” marketed to the Drumpf base, it reads like the heretics that the Inquisition burned at the stake: Jews, Gays, Uppity Women, “Moors” (Muslims and people of color). Nonconformists and free-thinkers have always been the perennial enemies of dictators and orthodoxy. My main push-back against conformism has been through feminism. As the actor Ellen Page put it, “Where but in a patriarchy would ‘feminist’ be a dirty word?” Giving the finger to authority is the hallmark of social progress of any sort. On the other hand, totalitarianism’s main scheme is to enforce conformity, even to death.
Women who said “no thanks” to rigid gender roles helped lay the foundation for gender nonconformity, even though there are transphobic feminists. So of course the Drumpf administration wants to erase trans folks from existence by declaring that one’s gender is what is assigned at birth, even though what’s in our pants is not always a determining factor. Decades ago, I was friends with an endocrinologist at Children’s Hospital in LA. She said that the number of infants with ambiguous genitalia would blow people’s minds if they knew infant “junk” is not so cut and dried (excuse the expression). Pink and blue blankets are terrible at determining people’s eventual talents and gifts. Plaid blankets would be so much better!
There are people who assert that women runners are targeted for sexual assault and murder precisely because a woman who runs is contrary to the passive and romantic notion of a “proper” woman who is stationary and available for viewing. A statue-like woman on a pedestal literally knows her place, although that pedestal can turn into a funeral pyre with just a few sticks and a match.
I chose to go against the gender grain and defied expectations every step of the way. And yes, I’m cis female and Nordic white so my bravery does not equal what Jewish folks, trans folks and people of color deal with every day.
Recently, at a university screening of “Beauty Bites Beast,” a gender nonconforming student asked the most questions about our movie … and with good reason, because gender nonconformists are often targeted by violent haters. The assault and harassment statistics against the trans population is much higher than the ones against plain ol’ cis females. That, in and of itself, is disgusting.
When I was a freshman in college, Nathan Shaw, my boyfriend, hitchhiked to Billings, Montana to visit me. On the way he was beaten up for having long hair. The misogynist and homophobic epithets and fists flew at Nathan, a gentle soul whose “crime” was to grow his locks and look like a “girl,” arguably the biggest affront to so-called toxic masculinity there is. In 1998 Matthew Shepherd was beaten and tied to a fence in Wyoming to die for his “sins” of gender noncomformity. Shepherd’s remains are finally at rest in the National Cathedral in Washington as of October. It took this long because his parents were afraid to have a public memorial that could be vandalized.
Build your firefighting muscles — the flames won’t go out by themselves.
Ellen Snortland has been writing “Consider This” for decades. Reach her at beautybitesbeast.com.