Friday Philosophy: An awful waste of space

Since we had to go house hunting Friday afternoon, I decided to put together a summary of some trans news items for Friday evening’s column.  But while I was doing so, one of my favorite movies came on, namely Carl Sagan’s Contact.

The news, of course, is what it is.  The movie put a different spin on the whole thing,  so maybe this will come out as not only commentary on those items but also a statement about the state of the universe.

Just maybe a few readers out there will get the point of what I am trying to say.  There is always hope for that.

Wanna take a ride?

–S. R. Hadden

My favorite scene in the movie occurs at the end, when Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) speaks with the alien who appeared in the form of her deceased father.

You’re an interesting species, an interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.

Many of us transfolk try to share some of our “beautiful dreams”.  Many of us are extremely happy with our life changes, though it should not be taken as a requirement that we must be.  Like all other people, our lives are human lives and we are not required to chose between being happy all the time or failures.

Carmela Etienne, 22, is planning on starting college this fall to become a fashion designer.  She was walking home in the Queens neighborhood of St. Albins Wednesday night when she was attacked (video at the link).  Her dream became entangled with other folks’ nightmares.

“They were yelling homophobic slurs at me. They threatened to kill me.  Chunky rocks and empty beer bottles they were throwing at me,” said the aspiring fashion designer.  “Don’t ever walk that block anymore or we will slash your throat,” one of the defendants said, according to cops.

When the cops were called, one of the two men shouted, “The police don’t care about you, they won’t do anything to us.”

Unfortunately that is too often the case.

Less than three weeks ago, also in Queens, Leslie Mora was also attacked, again by two men.  I mean, two men beating the crap out of one transwoman is fair, right?

Leslie Mora, a 30 year old Nicaraguan immigrant and transgender woman, was walking to her home in Queens at 3:00 a.m. when she was brutally attacked by two Latino men who left her on the ground naked and bleeding, reports El Diario/La Prensa.

The assailants fled the scene but were arrested by police soon after the attack. Both were charged with assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon, a felony, and released on their own recognizance.

The New York Blade

Own recognizance?  Really?  Did Leslie “deserve it” or something?

Her dream again was turned into a nightmare by others.  Fortunately, someone driving by stopped and the men ran away before they beat her to death.

In his book Cosmos, Carl Sagan, said the following.

An extraterrestrial visitor examining the differences among human societies would find those differences trivial compared to the similarities.

Our lives, our past and our future are tied to the sun, the moon and the stars…We humans have seen the atoms which constitute all of nature and the forces that sculpted this work…and we, who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, have begun to wonder about our origins…star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth…Our loyalties are to the species and to the planet. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that cosmos ancient and vast from which we spring.

We are one species. We are star stuff harvesting star light.

Why then do some of us try to evict others of us from this species?

Sometimes there is positive news.  But even that get tinged in this day and age.  The article Tranz-Central Coast: Providing support for transgender residents at (The San Luis Obispo County Tribune), came with the following comment attached.

This is only a community issue because this stupid world accepts these freaks. A few ounces of lead in the diet would help all the problems. Why do we continue to force feed our youth with the B.S. that everything is ok as long as you want it to be. that is not the truth some things are just not right and that’s life. We as a society shouldn’t be forced to accept this if we don’t want to. I have a right to think this is a freak show and wrong.

A few ounces of lead?  Another dream, the dream of a safe place to live with a supportive community becomes a nightmare.

I wish I could say that comment was a lone aberration.  Sadly, such comments are typically attached to any article which concerns transfolk.

Hatred lives.  Do you sense it?  We do.

Canada is not altogether safe either.  A “women born women” pharmacy is opening in Vancouver.  Transgender women, you know, are not really women, so being part of The Vancouver Women’s Health Collective should not be allowed.

Why?  The reason given is that “we don’t bleed.”  We don’t give birth.  We don’t menstruate.  We don’t belong.  So help, me, I fought this battle nearly fifteen years ago and I thought we mostly had gotten past this.

But no, the nightmare continues.

Sometimes we win one.  The Maine Human Rights Commission ruled in favor of a transgender girl.  This was the case of a fifth grader.  Consultation between the parents of the girl and Asa Adams School (Orono) authorities had resulted in her being allowed to use the girls’ restroom…until she got to fifth grade.  

One grandparent, upon hearing about the case, instructed his grandson to not only harass the girl in class, calling her “faggot,” but also to follow her into the restroom on multiple occasions.  He instructed his grandson to stalk this girl.

The school’s initial response was to force the girl to use the one-person restroom reserved for teachers…on the other end of the school.  Once again, a decision was made, without consultation with the parents, to punish the victim.

The grandfather claimed, of course, that his grandson was being discriminated against for being heterosexual.  Apparently that happens a lot.

School officials claimed that segregating the child had been done with “the child’s interests in mind.”  

“The message that was sent from the superintendent said that it is OK to segregate this child, it is OK to ostracize this child,” Mehnert said. “I think [the parents’] biggest challenge is their fear – it’s a very real fear – that the Orono school system has told them that they don’t think they can protect the child.”

I’ll tell you one thing about the universe, though. The universe is a pretty big place. It’s bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it’s just us… seems like an awful waste of space. Right?

–Ellie Arroway

Isn’t the space that we force in between us, to insure that we are separate people, enforcing the fact that some of us belong as acceptable members of this species but some of us don’t…isn’t this also an awful waste of space?

Funny, I’ve always believed that the world is what we make of it.

–Ellie Arroway

What do you believe?


Compare and Contrast

This space is vast

with room for all of us

to try to live

fulfill our dreams

yearn for love

pursue happiness

The difference

between us

is that some of us

hate the others

and it is not us

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–July 10, 2009


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    • Robyn on July 11, 2009 at 00:03

    …currently being renovated.  If this works out, we’ll be moving in during August.

    Perhaps it is interesting that, having grown up in a town that was the home of Poet Laureate William Stafford and double Nobel Prize-winner (Chemistry and Peace) Linus Pauling, unless something disastrous happens, we will be living in the home of Thomas Alva Edison.

  1. that points out the two ends of the spectrum of humanity better or more starkly!


  2. thanks for this essay.

    The story of the school girl in Maine…? What is it with all these people obsessing over this whole Bathroom thing? sheesh.

    Robyn, I try to avoid reading the comments oftentimes when I scan articles re the release of Guantanamo prisoners. I get too upset…. and I just cant believe people can really be that stupid.

    Thanks for the colorful blockquotes from Contact. 🙂

    • pico on July 11, 2009 at 01:26

    Even though much has been made of the executive branch’s ‘duty’ to defend its laws, the Obama administration is not appealing a case that resulted in a big victory for a transgender employee of the Library of Congress:

    The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Schroer’s behalf in 2005, and two months ago a federal judge awarded her $491,190 in back pay and damages because of sex discrimination.

    The Library of Congress and President George W. Bush’s Justice Department had argued unsuccessfully that discrimination because of transsexuality was not illegal sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.

    And we’ve got the vote coming up next week on transgender rights in Massachusetts, so if anyone’s in town and can make that rally, it’d be really good to make an appearance and support this.

    Also, this hardly qualifies as good news on its face, but I’m curious and optimistic about what may happen in the Terrell Carter case.  If y’all haven’t followed this, one of the actors who stars in a lot of Tyler Perry’s hyper-Christian movies has been outed by his former boyfriend (along with pictures, so it’s not just a he-said/he-said story).  This is interesting not only because of the nature of Carter’s movie roles, but because he’s so widely seen as this hyper-masculine star (Sheesh, just look at the guy.)  So now that he has no choice but to address his sexuality, this could be a really good opportunity for someone with a very high media profile to address things like perceptions of what gay people are like, etc.  We’ll see how the dust settles.

    Now, some not-so-good news: while ENDA looks like it’ll clear the House with no hurdles, the latest report I’ve heard is that it’s some 15 votes short in the Senate so long as trans protections stay in there.  I’ll post more on that as I get more information.

    Thanks as always, Robyn.

    • Robyn on July 11, 2009 at 01:27

    …in Orange.

  3. tired of this crap

    I can't believe

    Either there is equality under the law or there is no justice.

    • Alma on July 11, 2009 at 03:18

    and the opportunities endless.  Why do so many waste so much time and engery with hate instead of seeing that each person is precious, and an asset to the world?  I’ll never understand it.

  4. the less I understand people! Don’t they have nothing better to do than to dip into other people’s business.

    How did these thugs even know the girls are transgender?

    I feel so ignorant!

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