Prompt: “If you wanted to make money by writing a self-improvement book for Americans, what topic would you choose??”
If I were to write a self improvement book I would choose the topic of unconditional love. Unconditional love and understanding for all living beings, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or anything else we label as other. The fear of the “other” has clouded the minds of cultures across the world for centuries, and it’s done nothing but isolate, shame and destroy. I believe we are moving into a time not of fear, but of love. If I were to write a book I’d want it to be about that.
My personal experience, and what I feel comfortable discussing is being Queer. Queer is a broad spectrum that includes many different gender identities and sexualities. For far too long LGBTQ people have been demonized and oppressed, for no reason other than us not fitting into the box of what we “should” be. A man loving another man was labeled an abomination. Genders were put into boxes so strict there was no room for personal interpretation or exploration. Anyone who strayed from these rules of cisgender heteronormativity was ostracized, arrested, and even killed. These were primarily heavily religious societies doing this oppression, ironically doing the opposite of what Christ preached: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician and scientist during the early 20th century. Often considered the father of modern computer science, he created the first modern computers and the Turing Test which would form the basis for AI. He was also responsible for cracking the enigma machine. This was a machine used by Nazi Germany in WW2 to transmit coded messages. Turing personally cracked the Enigma used by U-boats preying on North America Merchant convoys. By 1943 he had created machines that were cracking as many as 84,000 codes a month, two messages every minute! His efforts were crucial in helping the Allies gain the upper hand against the Axis. I bring him up because I never learned about him in school, and this is because many of his accomplishments have been more or less swept under the rug.
This is because he was gay. He was arrested for homosexuality in 1952 and put on estrogen which he opted for over prison. Estrogen does not stop homosexuality, but it does make people grow breasts and overall feminize. So in practice estrogen used as a punishment simply made gay men incredibly uncomfortable in their own bodies. His accomplishments were swept under the rug, because a gay man couldn’t be seen as a war hero. This is just one example of queer people being needlessly punished and demonized, even when we do amazing things.
Not every culture punished queer people, some worked to understand us. Native American culture is a wonderful example of such. In the Wabanaki creation story the hero Gluskabe fired an arrow into a brown ash tree, splitting it in half. When the tree got split in half, so did its spirit. He asked this one spirit that was now two if they wanted to become people, and they agreed. Gluskabe breathed upon the tree, and from each side stepped the first Wabanaki woman and the first Wabanaki man. After that there was a little bit of each essence left over, so Gluskabe recombined them and the first two spirit person stepped out of the tree. In this tradition people like me who are gender non conforming haven’t spiritually separated from themselves.
Two spirited people are the ones who learn all of the gender norms and walk all the paths, we’re then the ones who become the teachers. While the hunters are hunting and the gatherers are gathering, the two spirit people are the ones teaching the youths how to do all of it. I think this a beautiful way to view gender non conforming people, and gives much more room and possibility for a individuals growth into themselves.
But sadly fear of the other often comes in many ways. When Europeans colonizers came over and saw these traditions Natives were labeled “sexually ambiguous” and demonized. This built up political fear of the other that we still see today, in systemic racism, sexism and discrimination against LGBTQ people. Power is often held through control. Controlling the narrative of what men and women are, who we’re allowed to love and what our lives “should” look like has historically helped groups hold power. Be it patriarchy, church, or government, dividing people with different labels makes it harder for us to realize our true unity as people.
Today most people don’t know any transgender people in their lives. This makes it so their only experience with trans people comes from outlets like news, which more often than not talks ABOUT queer people instead of WITH queer people. I’ve seen many news stories where a cisgender person (a person who identifies with the sex they were born into) is criticizing transgender people without even talking to us. This leads assumptions and falsehoods to dominate the narrative. An example of this is the bathroom issue. Trans people have been once again demonized, accused of being dangerous or sexually demented. The lie is well known that if we let trans people into bathrooms they’ll assault people. Ironically the opposite is true, trans people are MUCH more likely to be assaulted themselves!
I personally feel very uncomfortable using public bathrooms because its dangerous for me to use them. Sexual assault happens very often to trans people. It’s as if people feel entitled to us, as if because we’re different than them they have the right to ask us sexually degrading questions, touch us without our permission and even attack us. Just trying to pee can be a horror show, just because people haven’t taken the time to understand us.
Transgender people, especially those of color, are one of the most vulnerable minorities for things like rape, assault and murder. So why is it we are the ones being accused of doing these monstrosities, when in reality these acts of violence have continuously been happening to us? It’s because of the fear of the other. The fear of someone different. The fear that has been systematically worked into our culture for hundreds of years.
The cure for this fear, in fact the cure for most fear, is love. Unconditional love, and the willingness to understand and get to know us as individuals instead of as news stories. Queer culture aims to embrace love, for yourself and for others. It aims for people to feel comfortable within their own bodies, whatever they may look like. It aims for consenting adults of any identity to not only be able to love each other, but for that love to be celebrated. It aims for justice for the innocent. It aims for self expression to be allowed to grow and bloom. It aims for a world where people are safe to exist as they are, not to be trapped in a stifling box of what has been the norm. It aims for unconditional love. Unconditional love is the cure for fear.