Girls Don't Cry, Either
2003-12-18 - 8:17 a.m.
Okay, I know I've been away more than the two weeks I said, and to the one person who has expressed concern, I apologize. I have had work and grad school app stress coming out my ears.
And this morning was absolutely terrible.
Part of what made it terrible was that I woke up a little bit hungover, but that alone cannot make for a terrible morning. After all, having a hangover means you probably had at least a bit of fun the night before, and I certainly had fun last night at Ginger and Cindy's, enjoying a bit too much egg nog and red wine along with plenty of pizza, cheesecake, and good conversation. So hungover, not too bad.
A better candidate for what ruined my morning was the fact that a breakfast that usually takes less than 10 minutes to prepare took over 20. I don't know how much over, since I had to run out of there in order to make it to the office on time. And also, I didn't exactly run out of the restaurant telling them it was okay that they kept me waiting. more the opposite, really. So now I am hungover with no breakfast tacos, and that is pretty close to a horrible morning, but it's not quite there yet.
What made my morning one for the books was the newspaper this morning. Now, of course, newspapers have a tendency to ruin mornings, especially these days. This is why I tend to avoid them. I really don't want hear about how a certain someone's approval rating is rising because we caught somebody who probably didn't attack the World Trade Center. Call me crazy.
But something caught my eye, and so I read.
Seems there was this young girl in a small town in Central Texas. Her name was Tesia Samara. Now, granted, she wasn't born with that name, she gave it to herself, but it's a beautiful name, isn't it? I looked at her picture and I said, "Y'know, she looks like a Tesia Samara; there's just enough of an exotic look in her features to pull it off." At the time Tesia's picture was taken, she was fifteen years old and in love with Shakira (no, not that way). She danced around her house to "Wherever, Whenever." She choreographed her own personal dance number to "Estoy Aqui." She walked down the halls of her school humming "Underneath Your Clothes." She was a Fan in the grand tradition, and I respect that. I even respect her choice of idols, in many ways. Shakira is pop, but you can dance to her songs and she refuses to sing anything as obnoxious as "Oops I Did It Again." Also? Writes her own songs, something important in my book. So something tells me that, were Tesia and I the same age, we'd probably chill together.
Now, when I wrote that last sentence, I was going to write "hang together," but then I flinched and I almost started crying, just the way I almost started crying in the middle of Juan and a Million. Because Tesia committed suicide by hanging last month. Tesia committed suicide because people refused to acknowledge that her name signified a change in herself, that her name told more about who she was than the body she was given. Tesia killed herself because she thought she was ugly and unwanted. Tesia died because too many people thought she was still Benjamin.
I have said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not transgender because I'm too lazy. I don't feel like a man and I don't feel like a boy. I don't think I'll ever feel like either of those things and I don't much care about that (actually, that's a lie; I'm damn glad I'll never feel like a boy because boys, and this is something I've noticed since first grade, tend to be dumb). I think if someone was coming onto me and said, "I've been looking for a man like you" I'd get turned off. However, I don't do anything to indicate that I am anything other than a boy, man, guy, male, whatever, and that's because it takes way too much effort. Make-up takes time in the morning that I would much rather devote to sleeping. Growing my hair out would mean allowing it to pass through many stages of fugly, including bouffant, fro, and power fro. I hate shaving my face enough to ensure that shaving legs, chest, and armpits are not going to be happening except for very special, Rocky Horror related events. And to make matters worse, I am a woman's size 18, at least. Lane Bryant is going to have to up their sequins by a factor of 50 if I'm going to defy American society, know what I'm saying?
That's why I look at the transgendered with a mix of pity and awe. The pity comes from the fact that they have to cross the most impassable border since the Berlin Wall. They have to make the decision to start going into different bathrooms, to get whole new wardrobes, to insist that everyone around them stop referring to them by their given pronoun. It's way more than i would ever want to handle, and I pity them because they have to handle it in order to survive as themselves. I admire them because so many do. I admire them for correcting pronoun mistakes with grace and consideration. I admire them for enduring the hassling and the staring and the violence perpetrated against them. I admire them for going into department stores with their head held high and selecting exactly what they want to wear, and when the salespeople come around asking if they're sure they're in the right department, for saying, "Yes I am, but if you ass clowns are working on commission, I'm in the wrong store."
I admire Tesia Samara for going to school in her favorite hip huggers, decked out in sparkly lip gloss and violet eyeshadow. I admire Tesia for walking down the halls of a high school in Central Texas in heels. I admire her for surviving as long as she did, because I don't know if I could ever be that strong.
While we're at it, I admire Tesia's mother for saying to the daughter she had thought was a son, "You can wear whatever you want to school as long as it fits the dress code." That is a mother who kicks ass, and my heart breaks for her even now just as it broke in the middle of a Mexican restaurant waiting for the tacos that never damn well came.
I would have been alright, I think, if I hadn't read that article. Now, however, I am enraged.
I am enraged at the Austin Chronicle for calling this young woman Ben, and for referring to her as a "him."
Tesia Samara was not a him, and her name wasn't Ben. She looked within herself and found Tesia in what was a process so difficult that she could not survive it. Tesia deserves to have her name and her gender correctly recorded in the newspaper article covering her death. She deserves to have her story told properly.
Today, I'm going to write a letter to the chronicle asking that they acknowledge Tesia's name. If you live in Austin, it would be cool if you did the same. If you don't, keep an eye open for misuse of pronouns, and if you're lucky enough to know someone who is transgender, make every effort to refer to them by their proper pronoun. He, she, or ze needs to know that people respect his, her, or hir decisions.
And if you live in Philly, go to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center on the Penn campus. Ask to see the picture of Shel that JJ took that's hanging in the library. You'll see a picture of a boy looking very comfortable in pants and a shirt, and looking very ridiculous in a dress that, if I recall correctly, his mother felt was a very proper dress for a young lady to wear. It's a shame his mother didn't respect that her son wasn't Michelle anymore, but the dress served a purpose in that picture. It is my favorite piece of art that JJ has ever created, and I love him for doing it.
And I love Tesia's mother for scattering her daughter's ashes far away from the town that she couldn't survive. And I love Tesia for being a brave and beautiful woman for as long as she could. I hope there are some fierce hiphuggers waiting for you wherever you're headed.1 comments so far The End - 2005-02-11
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