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Friday, July 28, 2017

Why Is Understanding Mandatory?

Over the last few days—against my own better judgment—I've engaged others on a few friends' Facebook timelines on the subject of Trump's transgender ban earlier this week. To say that some of the responses I've gotten are disheartening is an understatement. So much fear (which leads to hatred) of that which we don't understand.

When cornered by logic, some of these respondents went radio silent, others lashed out with that underlying transphobia you knew was there the whole time bubbling under the surface. Some finally acquiesced in frustration to just "not getting the whole thing." And here's the thing: Why do we have to understand something to exhibit kindness and human decency?
I'll readily admit that I don't understand every facet of transgenderism. That's largely because I am not transgender and have therefore not experienced what it feels like to have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from my biologically assigned sex. I likely don't always get the preferred idioms correct or readily identify with every nuance of the transgender experience. But I try to learn by interacting with trans men and women, by reading more on the subject, by listening to the experiences of others. And still I don't understand every aspect of someone who is transgender.

But I don't have to. I can still choose—and make no mistake, it *is* a choice—to be compassionate and kind and to consider the totality of the individual with no judgement or malice. If I feel uncomfortable with some aspect of someone's gender identity or expression, that discomfort is mine and mine alone. It's based on some deep-seeded bias within me and has nothing to do with the other person. I try to push myself through that discomfort or aspect I don't understand and try to expand my mind...to try to figure out the reasons and origins of that discomfort. What I don't do is make a trans man or woman feel less than because of any shortcoming of mine. That's cowardly and morally wrong.
All human beings deserve to be loved and to be able to express love. They deserve to be treated with kindness and respect— what we've come to know as basic human decency. I may never know or fully understand what it feels like to be born into the wrong body, but I can treat people who do with empathy and compassion. It takes nothing away from me to do so. I subscribe to the philosophy of inclusive humanism, which embraces the idea that all human beings matter and deserve equal respect and dignity, regardless of geographical region, age, achievement, ability, appearance, ethnicity, religious beliefs, nonreligious beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, or gender.

This is not rocket science, folks. People are different. Some of those differences will be easy to understand and accept; others may prove more difficult based on our biases and preconceptions. Work through them...or at least try to. There are no pitfalls to doing so and an expanded world and worldview are among the many benefits.

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