An Apology to the Queer and Trans* Community

I need to offer you, the Queer and Trans* community, an apology.

I was wrong about you, especially about transwomen. It took some devastating personal life lessons to change my mind. For every harm I’ve done you, I most humbly apologize.

I came out as a radical lesbian feminist with strong separatist tendencies at the turn of the 70s into the 80s.

The gender polarity of the 50s was a completely defining structure in my life. It was such a strangling, restrictive feature, that by the time I was in my late twenties I knew that I daily fought a war for my life against the repression of male-dominated social structures, male authorities, most men and most women.

I rejected even the gender designation of “woman” because of the root gender designation of “man.” I became part of a group that called ourselves wimmin, wombyn, womyn, womoon. We were not an appendage of men. No one created us from the ribs of men. We were not a prefix attached to men; who were not the default gender. Even now, spell check refuses the alternate spellings that felt like our lifeblood. We were on a journey of discovery. Who were we, once freed of subordination to men?

Trans* people, predominately transwomen, began to show up at the Michigan Wimmin’s Music Festival in the early 90s, demanding recognition as women.

You expected entry into a sanctuary that was hard won and seemed fragile. Many of us were fragile, still suffering under the burdens of rape and sexual abuse. Your claims to be women seemed deeply suspect, if not outright impossible. How could anyone possibly claim to be a woman, under any spelling, who had grown up with the privileged status of a man? Your cries for recognition felt like an invasion by the very people and social structures we were still trying to escape.

At that time, I could not imagine that people in the trans* community might also need sanctuary from those rigid old gender definitions. I could not imagine that you were exactly who you claimed to be, people who could not live within that intolerable, suffocating gender binary, any more than I could.

That was no excuse for my blindness. I am sorry.

That was a failure of understanding, imagination and compassion on my part. I was wrong about you.

What I failed to realize, is that you, all of you, of the many beautiful and varied gender expressions, are exactly the future I had hoped to live long enough to see. You are the unimaginable future I could only hope might unfold, not knowing the form that future would take. I was so blinded by ingrained thought patterns that I was not able to recognize you when you appeared. That was my failing, my damage, not yours.

What courage must it take to be determined at birth to be a man, the dominant gender, and reject that gender designation for yourself, casting your lot with women, the subordinated gender — despite having to fight every moment for the right to be who you know yourself to be?

What courage must it take to be born as part of the socially subordinated gender and somehow make your way into your known identity in the dominant gender, all the while redefining what it means to be a man, knowing in your gut, how it feels to be treated as a woman?

For those of you who proudly claim the designation of Queer or refuse any gender designation at all, what courage and imagination must it take to insist that no gender role can confine you? You who are neither wholly woman, nor man, maybe both, maybe neither. You have persisted, despite rejection and denial, without needing any evidence beyond your internal knowing — to be who you are.

I had to have the physical evidence of a hysterectomy to understand that I was born slightly intersexed. You and your unflinching honesty in the absence of such proof — amaze me.

I see you.

You are so much more awesome than I could have imagined.

Thank you for your courage.

Thank you for your persistence.

Thank you for being exactly who you are.