Friday Philosophy: Pride and Prejudice

Every year about this time, I feel the need to write something about pride.  Or maybe I should capitalize that to Pride.  The first is more personally and the second describes the month, sort of officially.  But is there really any difference?

Isn’t…or shouldn’t it be that…Pride month is when we get a chance to review and proclaim the personal pride we have in who we are?

Over the years I have, of course, encountered different voices, with different views on pride…and Pride.

When I first transitioned, I encountered quite a few transpeople who believed that it made no sense to express pride in who we are…just like it makes no sense for people who are not trans to express pride in not being trans.

I disagree with that sentiment.  I have always been and shall constantly strive to remain proud of who I am and what I have accomplished.

Of course, we live in a society which has an historically poor view of pride.  The Bible likes to contrast it with humility.  Pride is viewed as one of the seven deadly sins.  Indeed it is named as the source from which all the others arise.  So maybe we should do some delving into that.

Dante defines pride as “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbour.”  But surely the hatred and contempt is not required, nor the perversion of the love of self.  Isn’t loving oneself a good thing?  Can’t one accomplish that without being excessive about it?

We’re not talking about acting out of vanity or being vainglorious.  Although transpeople have gotten accused of it many times and in many places, we do not change sex because of narcissism…or strive to be narcissistic in any way.  We just want to be able to love who we are and what we have accomplished…and love others and accomplish making this a better world.  Can people who don’t love themselves possibly know how to love others and acquire sufficient empathy to work for a better society?

I’ve got a couple of stories about transpeople which might shed some light on what I am trying to get at.

Reuben Zellman is the new assistant rabbi and music director at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, CA.

Every transgender person has decisions about what kind of questions they want to answer. There are many people in society who are outsiders in some way, or their experience is new and unfamiliar to others. All those people, myself included, have to reflect about how we’re going to arrange with a world that does not totally understand us.

–Reuben Zellman

Reuben is the second transman to be ordained at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.  The first was Rabbi Elliot Kukla of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center in San Francisco.

Zellman and Kukla have collaborated with others on, which attempts to support Jewish communities “in becoming welcoming sanctuaries for people of all genders.”

Do good for yourself.  Then do good for others.  A credo to live by.

In case anyone missed it, and I know many probably did, the new International Mr. Leather 2010 is transman…and self-described Leather gimp…Tyler McCormick, Mr. Rio Grande Leather of New Mexico.

In his speech to the audience, he quotes the words of Marianne Williamson, which I truncate here:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

I’d love to be able to grasp those words firmly to my chest…and hope to hell other people would feel the same way.  But I have some truths to tell.

It’s nice to have June be declared Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month by a sitting president.  But it is difficult to fully experience that pride in a society which offers no legal protections for voicing that pride…a society with a large segment which believes that LGBT expression of pride marginalizes their religious belief.

Like Reuben and Tyler, I try mightily to be proud of who I am and what I have accomplished in this life…about all parts of who I am, including the transwoman part…and all that I have accomplished, which includes earning a PhD in mathematics and being a college teacher for 34 years, as well as standing up for those of us who struggle to exist in this society…and to educate about who we are…in the hopes that one day we will reach the top of the mountain and see the promised land…maybe even one day, perhaps even before I die, set a foot in it.

Too often, however, we have experienced the promises to help us obtain equality being withdrawn until some better time…some other decade…some future century…which has the feel of being sometime after we are long dead.

We will not be allowed to serve in the military, even if DADT is repealed.  The DOD has other reasons for excluding us.  Heck, even those of us who did serve in the military before transition can’t seem to get treated as humans by the Veteran’s Administration.

And then we wonder if we are not rather being asked to be proud of being useful…or even quite useless…dupes.



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    • Robyn on June 5, 2010 at 12:02 am

    …for equal rights.

  1. You have mentioned this to me before.  How does the military exclude transpeople?

    I don’t believe in first-steppism.  It would seem to me the proper thing to do, from the very beginning, would have been to modify the UCMJ to forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

    I get tired of the homophobes/transphobes always trying to withhold .. something.  It’s like they can’t just give it up.  And I worry about leaving transgendered people behind.

    • Robyn on June 5, 2010 at 1:02 am

    …available in Orange.

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