The Growing Rend In The Fabric Of Western Society
Presented To the XIV Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Symposium
The remote in time or distance is always strange. The familiar present, is always natural and a matter of course. Beyond the narrow range of our horizon, imagination creates a new world, but as we advance in any direction, or as we go back over forgotten paths, we find ever a continuity and succession. The human race is one in thought and action. In Lakota we say "mitakuye oyasin", 'we are all related'. The systems of our highest modern civilization have their counterparts among all the nations, and their chain of parallels stretches backward link by link until we find their origin and interpretation in the customs and rites of our own barbarian ancestors, or of our still existing aboriginal tribes. There is nothing new under the sun.
More and more transsexuals around the world are appearing on court room dockets. We are demanding our rights as equal members of our society and of the Human race. Our demands are for recognition, not approval. We are not asking for this recognition in spite of our transsexuality.. .but because of our transsexuality! Because of what and who we are!
However, the discussions which we are met with in court, especially in cases of sexual and gender discrimination in the work place, are both extremely dangerous while at the same time exciting, refreshing and promising. But the process is also difficult and emotionally demanding for those who are principal. In the first, the danger lies directly in the path of the individual living within Euro-American society. The world which western man has created, where ever he has invaded, has been and still is, coloured with a foundation of fear. Fear born out of discrimination towards things different, things unknown. Or at any rate things that are different from that which Euro-American society has to offer the world!
The dismissal case which was recently before the European Court in Luxembourg concerns a person who, while working for a public teaching institution in Cornwall, England, began her period of transition, her 'real-life-test'. Her case is similar in detail to my dismissal case which is currently running against the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. The legal discussion in both cases, has focused on the issue that existing equal rights laws refer to 'men and women' and not to transsexuals. It is the legal community who demands this distinction and by taking this path the 'legal eagles' have stated through implication, that "equal rights laws" do not apply to this group of people. 'Equal Rights' laws are based on and born out of, Human Rights ideals. The danger we are witness to here lies in the possible legal conclusion which can be construed......"transsexuals, because of the psychological phenomenon which is enjoyed by them, have ceased to be legally human". With this argument, we demonstrate how we have become inflated with the conceit of our own technology. We demonstrate to that extent that we must depend entirely on our own technology in relating to the natural world. We prove that the dependence into which we have grown has made us not merely servants of our own technology but we have become, one of its products! (l myself, am a product of that technology, in a limited way and on a physical plane, at any rate!) Motivation and use are the keys to our inner balance. My people recognize balance as the centre of the "red road" to peace and universal personal power. Can we as a race and at this level of our sociological development, afford the creation of a class of non-human 'humanoids'?
While in the second instance and viewing the lawyers dialogue from another location on the "medicine wheel", their demanding that equal rights laws to stipulate..."men, women and transsexuals", the conclusion could lead to the legal recognition of transsexualism as the 'Third gender'! This discussion is refreshing, promising and exciting. Re-innovative, if you will! Especially to my thinking as a Native American. I am Sihasapa, Lakota, or rather, that is to say, I am of the Blackfoot tribe of the Sioux Nation. As a gender crosser, as a transsexual person in Lakota society, we are known as "Winkte". My people call me "two-souls-person". As Winkte I have always been an important personage in my society. Culturally, socially and religiously we function as a social adhesive, offering continuity and the promise of our continued existence as a people. We were never a threat to a rigid, polarized and discriminating sexual structure. That is to say, not before the coming of the white man's priests and their confused and narrow view of the manner of things. The 'third gender' solution snakes into the past and connects with Native American societal structure from thousands of years ago. Our societies and our cultures existed, functioned quite well, yes even flourished, long before the Europeans ever thought of challenging the 'monsters' which lived in their tears and which swam in the middle of the Atlantic!
Last June I had the privilege to attend the "United Nations Workshop on the Establishment of a Permanent Forum for Indigenous People", which was held in Copenhagen. I was present as a delegate for my people as were 50 others from native societies from all over the world.
During my research for that meeting I uncovered something quite unrelated to the reason we are all here this week just outside of Ulm. I wish in passing however, to share my findings with those of us who are interested in historical sidelights. To me it is thought provoking and intriguing that in March of 1857 an event occurred just northwest of where the Big Cotton River runs into the Minnesota River in the mid-west of the USA. This event later came to be known by the whites as the "Spirit Lake Massacre". It was in fact, the opening battle of the tragic human event which American history has called the "Sioux Wars". I will not tell you what we refer to it as. It seems that a group of German immigrants, quite contrary to the treaty of 1851, had built their farms and a town in the middle of the hunting grounds of the Santee, the Eastern Sioux, the 'Midiwakanton'. Forty whites were killed during this first 'outbreak', as it was referred to by contemporary accounts, in the town of 'New Ulm'. My people came back and finished the job later that year, when on August 23rd the entire town was put under siege. New Ulm, by the 31st of August, was abandoned by the fast-learning Germans and the town was subsequently burnt to the ground.
With the study of history, as in this seemingly unrelated event, especially when taken in a social and cultural context, patterns begin to appear. Patterns which can point to a process. That same process of "thinking that we can rule nature", whether it be natural or human nature, continues today! By working ourselves into these corners, western society is in danger of beginning to pick itself apart in a destructive manner. By attacking this minority, our transsexuals, instead of protecting them, we destroy ourselves. While on the other hand, through an awareness of what the collective unconscious contains for us, these discussions have the possibility of being the fertilization which affords western society and mankind continued growth. The immediate danger is faced by those whom we, the international medical community are treating. As we view the "real-life-test" becoming a "real-life-war" for all of them...everyday... all of the time, we stand helpless as we see our clients Civil and Human Rights being trampled upon!
As a direct consequence of the enormous social and technological changes of the last century, the world is not working well. We do not live in traditional and static societies. But our governments, in resisting change, act as if we did. Unless we come to destroy ourselves utterly, the future belongs to societies that, while not ignoring the reptilian and mammalian parts of our being, enable the characteristically human components of our nature to flourish; to those societies that encourage diversity rather than conformity; to those societies willing to invest resources in a variety of social, political, economic and cultural experiments, and who are prepared to sacrifice short-term advantages for long-term benefit; to those societies that treat new ideas, even if they follow ancient patterns, as delicate fragile and immensely valuable pathways to the future.
The ever growing international transsexual community is a threat to the very structure of western society, as well as a personal threat to the rigidly accepted sexual and gender norms now prevalent in the social and legal community in which we live. Sexual roles and gender roles must be recognized in national and international law as the continuum which they are. In life we do not all of us go directly from birth to death in an instant. Rather there is a great deal which we experience from the beginning point to our terminating moment. Society and the law allow for and even encourage this! The law recognizes changes due to our age as more privileges are given and more responsibility demanded. Society recognizes our growth with 'rites of passage', wither formal or informal. The continuum represented in ageing is approved and celebrated in different ways around the world as a natural part of life. Why do we continue to follow such a polarized and puritanically "white" line of thought when we consider sex and gender?
Peter Bastian, the Danish experimental musician has said, "Borders are only borders, if you will not cross them". If nothing else we, as transsexuals are "border-crossers"! It may be that it is for some of you a kind of security to live within such a polarized structure...but without the patterns of diversity, such that transsexualism represents, it leads to death of the possibility of a meaningful future for us as a race. Our professional cry to the establishment shall be ..."Stop pissing in the corners. Stop marking your borders. Stop limiting your possibilities".
Four hundred years ago, Wm. Shakespeare suggested that we should "take all of the lawyers out and shoot them first". No matter what we feel personally about these "rule makers" and "rule players".... perhaps that step is just a bit drastic. I propose another course. It is time that we of the international medical community developed a greater solidarity. A solid and impermeable network to deal with the issue of the legal position of our clients. After all the work which we do with the individual, this is the final step in total 'rehabilitation'. ..the completion of the task at hand. It is not enough that we help our clients to function in a society which at best, only tolerates them as freaks of nature or that accepts them within its own rigid and polarized structure, within its own limited understanding. Causing them either to hide an entire section of their past, or deny and reject a portion of their existence, or on the other hand leading them to become outspoken crusaders for the cause of equal rights of transsexuals. Again, limited possibilities are set before them. Our task is in fact, much greater than any of us perhaps have ever imagined...we are forming the very building blocks for the restructuring of society itself....that is...if we are doing our jobs and not just going through the motions, not just putting in the time and collecting the pay checks!! What must exist in our relationships with our clients is referred to in Lakota as, 'ohokicilapi' or rather..."mutual respect". It is necessary, if we are to be true to our commitment to those who come to us, that we take a stronger line in the work in which the legal community seems to be publicly floundering in. It is up to us to become not only our clients "gatekeepers", but the "guide- posts" for society's future as well. Dare we avoid our fulfilling this responsibility any longer?
It is my primary intention to alter the general thinking about transsexuals within the society in which I am now living. And then secondarily, to effect the necessary legislation which comes out of that new thinking. The legislation which can afford this fascinating group of "Gender Adventurers" the protection against discrimination which they deserve and which is merely the same as that which everyone else enjoys (or thinks that they do!!!).
I would like to invite those of you who are interested in the formation of such a network to contact me before the end of the conference. I invite the discussion which could follow and in that way, perhaps we can explore what possibilities are open to us to effect these long over due and necessary changes.
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Citation:Schützer, M, A., Napewastewin, 1996),The Growing Rend in the Fabric of Western Society, XIV Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Symposium, ed. by Friedemann Phafflin Deutschland Forschungsgemein scaft,
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