On the 4th, my thoughts on equality

Because you all wanna know what the unicorn cartoonist lady thinks about that, right?

Longtime fans, and people who know me well, and maybe people who have done their research (do people research me?) know that I am not just the chick who does the unicorn comic and the fox comic; I have a history as a political cartoonist, too, though I mostly gave that up years ago. I did not, however, give up having political opinions. (Very liberal ones, which occasionally leads a right-wing former fan to loudly disown me IN THE NAME OF AMERICA.)

I am also a transgender woman, something I’m always surprised people don’t know, although I don’t know why that should surprise me. I don’t plaster it on things. I don’t consider it directly relevant to much. As far as how the vast majority of people encounter me, in person or through my work, it really doesn’t come up, and that’s as it should be. That’s the goal when you transition to a new gender, really. You want to settle into it and move on with your life.

But now and again, the realities of being LGBT (the T specifically) in America do rear their heads, directly or otherwise, and so it is on this unique July 4, when so much has been achieved for the L’s and the G’s in that acronym just in the past week and a half, that I find myself with something to say.

I had an exchange with someone on Twitter yesterday that left me rolling my eyes, because it’s something I’ve been hearing from fellow liberals for ages, although I think less so these days. On behalf of a close friend, who is also a trans woman and whose mother won’t accept her transition, I tweeted this:

A lot of people liked that and retweeted it, but one person decided to argue with me, and accused me, basically, of being too rude to transphobes. (“You have to be respectful of them. Who are you to say your opinion is more valid than theirs?”)

I’m ME, that’s who. My word on who and what I am is the last word.

But it reminds me of how people used to talk about gay rights stuff. Ten years ago, it seemed like even most allies viewed the issue as one with two sides, on which people could respectfully disagree. I found it frustrating. Some issues, like drunk driving or child abuse, simply don’t have two legitimate sides. I’ve always viewed the humanity and dignity of all people, regardless of race, gender, identity, or orientation, as one of those issues.

I’m not old enough to remember the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s, but I’ve read my share of books, and it does seem to me like there was a fair amount of that, mostly but not entirely from white people, in those days, too. “Why do you have to be so rude to the segregationists? Who are you to say your belief in your own humanity is more correct than their belief to the contrary?”

It’s always seemed to me like one of the main delusions of my fellow progressives: the idea that what separates us from our political adversaries is that we’re nicer than them. And so no matter how offensively prejudiced the opposition is, we must treat them respectfully, or we’re “no better than they are.” As if what defines us as progressives is style, not substance.

No. What separates us from them is not that we’re nicer. It’s that we’re RIGHT. I’ve known some very nice bigots. They are still bigots, and they are still wrong.

To be clear, I’m not calling on anyone to be gratuitously rude to anyone else. Be nice to people. It’s important. I’m just saying, if you believe in equality, standing up for it is more important than never offending the other side.

Black people and gay people achieved equality, to the extent that either group has, by insisting on it rather rudely. Literally, or figuratively, at some point enough of them got sick enough of sitting at the back of the bus, and stood up and said “we will not be second-class citizens anymore,” to affect real change.

Those who are prejudiced are simply wrong, and those of us who oppose it are simply right. Happy Independence Day, everybody!

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