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!

  13 comments for “On the 4th, my thoughts on equality

  1. Suzi
    July 4, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    This was really great to read, as I’ve been dealing with trying to ‘stay nice’ during a lot of stressful situations in my life right now.

    I don’t know what else to say other than, thank you. I’m glad I stumbled upon you today.

  2. July 4, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Didn’t you do a comic as part of the IDT series about that? I seem to remember something about “One person says that the president eats kittens for breakfast. We’ll hear from both sides after the break.”

  3. Steve
    July 4, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Well-behaved people seldom make history. It has always bothered me when people said that those in minority groups that face discrimination should be more “polite,” bow their heads, and follow and just follow the rules that others made for them instead of making assertive demands for what they want and deserve. Such arguments for “politeness” can even become another way of justifying discrimination.

    We have made some great strides in gay rights, but what trans people still have to go through in this country is appalling. I am not going to cite all the depressing statistics. Anyone with Google at their disposal can type in words like “violence,” “bullying,” “hate crime,” “discrimination,” “youth homelessness,” and “suicide attempts” between the words “transgender” and “statistics” and see the stats for themselves, if reading this paragraph alone is not enough of a downer.

    Even the media when they try to act like allies often comes off as clueless idiots when they talk to trans people (“So, tell us about your junk”). John Oliver is one of the few media figures who was not transgender I think explained trans people and the issues they face with knowledge and good sense.

    You say you do not make a big deal about being transgender, and it should not be a big deal. The only things about a person that should matter are their character and their accomplishments. However, with all the young trans people out there still facing discrimination and worse, have you thought about how your being open about being a trans woman and advocating for LGBT rights could be inspirational to many young people as well?

    • Dana Simpson
      July 4, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      I’m actually writing an autobiographical graphic novel about it, that’ll come out in the next couple of years some time hopefully! My publisher has suggested I should aim for middle grade readers. So we shall see.

      • Steven
        July 4, 2015 at 7:58 pm

        Awesome! I would really like to read it. Hopefully it doesn’t get censored or banned from the school libraries.

        • ronrab
          July 4, 2015 at 9:28 pm

          If it does, that just means it’s worth reading.

          • Steven
            July 5, 2015 at 8:57 am

            True, banned and challenged books usually end up being the best ones. I just notice how many people still find books about LGBT people and issues aimed at young people to be “controversial.” Which, of course, the mere idea that such books should still be controversial is silly. God forbid LGB or T young people learn that they aren’t alone, or that young people learn about how gay or trans people are also human beings.

          • Dana Simpson
            July 5, 2015 at 1:04 pm

            Because, you see, if we never teach kids who are different that they can be happy, maybe we can shoehorn them into miserable, ill-fitting lives, as God intended.

  4. c.bavota
    July 13, 2015 at 5:46 am

    This is a test.

  5. Arvetis
    July 29, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Is that right-wing guy the crazy nutbar from the old Ozy and Millie e-mail list? God, is he STILL at it?

    • Dana Simpson
      July 29, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      I never know; they all sort of blend together. If you mean the twitter person, though…I should have made it clear that that person wasn’t a right-winger, as far as I know, but that her profile said she was a fellow trans woman. “But not an ally–people ruined that.” Whatever that means.
      With friends like these…

  6. Ron (timmainsson) Ham
    August 2, 2015 at 5:35 am

    Thank you for this food for thought. your statment “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.” Is a fact that should never be forgotten. Either the Constitution is for everyone or no one.
    And by the way I love Phoebe and Her Unicorn I cannot properly express the joy I get reading and re-reading the series.

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