Thursday, 31 May 2012

On the topic of Transgenderism

At long last, I am blogging.  It’s been a bit busy around here, what with marriage and a new home and a child who is moving into toddler-hood!  No more room for excuses. 
I stumbled across this topic a couple weeks ago now – and when anything is even remotely consuming of my thoughts I tend to want to write about it – so of course this went on the list of “blog topics”. 

A couple of weeks ago, something happened – my brother sent me the most heart-felt, unprompted, emotionally charged email I have ever received from him in all my years overseas.  Turns out he was feeling betrayed; lied to; a victim of fraud.  As it happens, Tom Gabel, the lead singer for Against Me!, an American punk band, is a self-confessed transgender.

For more than 10 years my brother has been a faithful Against Me! Fan.  The shock of this news sent him reeling, if only briefly, into a state of confusion and uncertainty.  He was quite apparently upset that such a “vital” part of someone’s identity had been kept a secret to him for so long.  He shared ideals and values with this man.  He identified with him, and some days, in a round-about sort of way, even idolized this man, although I will just clarify that Brad isn’t the sort of person to make idols, or wish that he was someone different – he is quite comfortable with himself as he is – imperfections and all, and I think idolizing is a weaker trait that he doesn’t seem to demonstrate all to often, unless its under the pretence of respect and self-improvement.

A brief post on his facebook led me to the 8-or-so page article in the Rolling Stone mag, which consisted of Tom Gabel giving a revealing interview about himself and his sexuality. 
Now, before I go any further, I am going to apologize to Brad, my brother, for baring his soul and revealing his thoughts and emotions for all of the interweb to see.  But he’ll get over it.  As I state in all my other blogs, everything is somehow or another all about Jack.  This is no exception. 

So, this “event” consumed my thoughts for a number of days.  Possibly because that’s how long it took me to get through the mammoth Rolling Stone article – but also because I couldn’t help thinking how it was affecting Brad.  He LOVED this band, their music, what they stood for.  What was he to do?  He couldn’t relate to a man that wanted to be a woman! A man who, from now on, was going to BE a woman.  How random.  How alienating.

In the article, Tom is quietly pleading with fans to please accept this truth and have faith in him.  He swears he will still rock as hard as ever, still give his all-consuming performances and keep writing thought provoking, instigating, poetic-like lyrics.  And I find myself inwardly praying that Brad does find it in his heart to forgive, and accept this news.  After all, Tommy is just a person – a person who is at the mercy of an unforgiving society, where transgender issues still lie in the “taboo” basket.  If you’re from a small town and have never had to deal with an issue like this personally, you cannot be expected to understand and accept the news at the snap of a finger. 

Look, at the end of the day, Tommy Gabel – now to be known as Laura – is a wildly talented and passionate individual.  His personal struggles and trials of growing up have channeled his talent and unique way of thinking into a form of art that has affected and influenced thousands upon thousands of individuals.  I’m not much of a punk-rock fan these days, yet I will always have time for Against Me! – it triggers a sense of nostalgia, remembering a time when, back in the day, listening to them while smoking a joint was the only way my brother and I could sit in peace without bickering or being spiteful.  But more than that I can fully appreciate his one-of-a-kind voice, his fist-in-the-air, anthem-style sing-along chants that prevail in his paradoxical, rebellious, anarchy-fuelled yet feel-good lyrical compositions.  To listen to him belt out a tune is to recognize that he has a deep understanding for societal values, and can quickly point out which of those values tend to be hypocritical crocks of shit, yet doesn’t go so far as to demand societal rebellion by his faithful followers – he is merely pointing out truths, sometimes in an apologetic manner.  And that’s pretty much all.  And the way he can go from that to a light-hearted, good quality pub rock anthem, or an acoustic guitar strumming rambling love song, often just puts a smile on my face and a warm sense of familiarity in my belly. 

So.  How is this about Jack, then.  Well… what if Jack has been born with some trait that society is unaccepting of?  What if he has some major personal struggle that lay ahead of him?  Not only will he have to deal with it personally and with his loved ones, he will also have to face judgement and persecution.  Whether it be a sexual preference, a religious view, a political stance – I just all of a sudden felt vulnerable to the world – the cruel, cruel world – for the sake of my son.  I had a pang of desperation for my brother to accept Tommy Gabel (a.k.a. Laura) and support her in what must be a terrifying time in her life.  Because, if some day Jack needs to out with some truth perceived as “wild” and “outrageous”, yet it was how he was born, I need to know he will be accepted and supported at LEAST by his loved ones.

It’s not about conservatism or liberalism or progressive thinking.  I am fully convinced that a transgender is someone trapped in the body of the opposite sex, and a lot of times we as a society can show a lot of ignorance due to lack of understanding, and that ignorance will be manifested as cruelty and mean-spiritedness.  

Upon hearing about the end of Tom Gabel as we know him, I went into a period of what felt like mourning and memoriam.  It was as if I was remembering a band that was deceased, cherishing the best of what they had to offer, as if there was going to be no more water to flow from that fountain.  I played their music at every opportunity, searching for some clue or cryptic inscription about his secret.  I explained this to my brother, and he said he was going through the same thing.  But then he resolved to accept what he had learned, and provided me with some optimistic insight – he said he is looking forward to their next album, which he believes will be more “raw” than the last couple more commercially refined productions, (which would come as a relief to any Against Me! fan), and he envisions them becoming more famous.  A wave of relief washes over me as I read this; he has accepted.  He has forgiven.  He is not judging.  He is still letting the talent be what it should be, and not letting it be overshadowed by some irrelevant aspect of Tom’s personality.  Alas, if someone as cynical and black-and-white as my brother can find it in his heart to resolve this internal struggle, I think there is hope in the world.  Hope for my son, who, one day, will need acceptance and forgiveness in some form or another.  Thank you Brad, for giving me hope. 

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