“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” – unknown
How do we differentiate enemy from friend? What extremes does someone have to go to in order to be deemed “enemy”? I would like to take this time to share some thoughts on how I believe we should be determining friend from foe and how we should be treating them respectively.
These are the short definitions of friend and enemy from Merriam-Webster:
: a person who you like and enjoy being with
: a person who helps or supports someone or something (such as a cause or charity)
: someone who hates another : someone who attacks or tries to harm another
: something that harms or threatens someone or something
: a group of people (such as a nation) against whom another group is fighting a war
In February, Piers Morgan hosted Jane Mock, writer and transgender advocate to promote her memoir, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More”. Trans issues hold a personal resonance for me and having a trans woman promoting herself in a positive way is amazing. For anyone who watched the interview, they know it was not executed well. There are many articles and posts on social media chastising Piers Morgan for his ignorance of issues facing transgender people (including what is focused on when a transgender person is interviewed). He failed at a crucial point, he was not prepared for the interview. I cannot condone his lack of understanding of people who are so marginalized already. Is he an enemy to transgender people or the LGBT community? I do not believe so. My hope is that he was trying to bring transgender people even more into mainstream media. I believe he had good intentions and he was trying to support our community. That makes him a friend.
On the other side, several months ago there was a “huge” story of Phil Robertson and his interview in GQ magazine. I will not get into my agitation that this garnered so much media attention. Mr. Robertson made some comments about not understanding how a man could prefer another man’s anus to a woman’s vagina. I can’t respond to a preference of one over the other – I’m bisexual so some people assume I want to have sex with everyone. He made some other homophobic remarks but the one item that I kept noticing was left out of the media was the fact that he said he cannot judge anyone, only his god could do that. I’m paraphrasing. Phil Robertson definitely isn’t a friend but that last statement makes me think he isn’t an enemy, either. He is a gray area. We’re not at war with him, only his ignorance. And I wonder if anyone from the LGBT community has tried to talk to him. I haven’t heard about it if they have. If someone has then they have my gratitude for the effort. If not then its shame on us.
The people in our community and our allies have more enemies than we can count. They are easy to spot, though. They are the people who kick their children out, leaving them homeless simply for loving someone of the same sex or who does not go by a gender norm society has placed on us.. They are the ones who deny trans people homes or jobs because they are uncomfortable. Ignorance is the biggest enemy of them all.
We know our friends and our enemies. What do we do now? We educate. We don’t alienate our friends because of their ignorance. We don’t attack those who don’t agree with us because there are people who believe we are going to hell but they also don’t believe anyone should have their freedoms stripped. We also need to stop segregating our own community. Stop making enemies out of our friends. Its called the LGBT community but I believe it is the LGBTQPSA with many other letters for the labels we put on ourselves. I can sum it all up in one word – DIFFERENT. We are wanting to be accepted for our differences with “normal” society but we are not accepting of each others’ differences. We are hypocrites. Bisexuals are having to validate we exist and combat stereotype after stereotype. Even within the different communities, we still create hierarchies to validate ourselves and invalidate others. B. Scott recently came out as transgender while dealing with a dispute with BET. Some trans people do not believe he is trans because he is not planning to medically transition to female. He is more feminine than many women I know and he doesn’t fit into the normal gender role. If he wants to be considered transgender, he has the right. Janet Mock is another situation of further segregation. I have read where people don’t feel she is the best role model for the trans community because she “passes” to easily as cisgender or someone whose gender identity coincides with their birth sex. That’s not simple ignorance; that’s jealousy which is much more dangerous.
I know this sounds like me preaching but the sad fact in all of this is we could be one of the most powerful forces in the world. We wouldn’t have to wait for Congress to pass ENDA or allow same-sex marriage. We would not have to ask. It would not be questioned that these rights are ours from birth. But we get in the way of ourselves.
In closing, I want to leave you with an example of what educating someone can do. This is a video with Janet Mock and journalist, Alicia Menendez. (I know I keep repeating her name but she is an inspiration.) The flip side of this is she is doing the interviewing and she’s asking the same kind of questions that many transgender people are asked.