The Supremes Have Spoken; and, A Coronation of Drag Queens
You wouldn’t think that hair color had any real play in identity politics, but, in my case it does. I’m a redhead, born and raised. A real redhead. We had an extremely rude retreat guest one weekend at Cupcake Manor, and I said something about being a redhead. She responded instantly, “You’re not a redhead!” It ticks me off to this day.
So you can imagine, I’m sure, how I felt about this little goodie in yesterday’s Times. “One of the country’s leading conservative legal organizations, the Alliance Defending Freedom, warned in a blog post to its supporters on Tuesday that a major piece of the decision — the recognition of gender identity as legally protected — ‘creates chaos’ and could compel people ‘to refer to colleagues with pronouns and other sex-specific terms according to gender identity rather than biology.’”
I honestly don’t think using someone’s preferred pronouns has ever killed anybody. Correct me if I’m wrong.
And, alright, the pronoun thing, especially for we elders, among whom I count the over-50 crowd, can be treacherous, especially if those to whom they apply are impatient with our learning curve about it. But, honestly, no one ever died from having to stretch their use of pronouns, and, on the other side, plenty of people have died of being mis-pronouned.
Let’s get a grip, darlings, shall we?
The Editorial Board of The New York Times declared yesterday morning, “Gay Rights Are Civil Rights.” “In an emphatic win for civil rights, equal justice and common sense, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that federal law bars employers from firing workers for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The vote was 6 to 3. It should have been unanimous.”
Why? Are we such special snowflakes that we cannot tolerate dissent? In a country as polarized as ours is right now, six out of nine feels like a landslide to me.
Staunchly conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who [gasp] has queer friends, as well as Chief Justice John Roberts, sided with the liberal minority of the court handing LGBTQ activists a genuine victory by upholding Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. You and I know, of course, that the proper word choice is gender, but I’ll take it.
And oh my, is the mediascape, especially those of the conservative variety, up in arms over his alleged defection. Not only that, but the damn Justice wrote the Opinion himself! Quelle horreur! Bret Stephens in his weekly conversation with Gail Collins opined, “If Isaac Newton were a pundit today, he might say that every action in American politics has an equal and opposite overreaction.” Duh.
One commentator announced that Justice Gorsuch had besmirched the legacy of the Justice he replaced, Antonin Scalia. I beg to differ. Mr. Scalia left his own legacy, and even though Justice Gorsuch took his chair at the table, and presumably his vacated office, he has no power to touch Justice Scalia’s legacy for good or for bad. Honestly. Drama queens.
Ken Mehlman, the former chair of the Republican National Committee who came out as gay, said, “Justice Gorsuch’s opinion proved that being conservative and believing in L.G.B.T.Q. rights are not incompatible, and that people should not rush to conclude that they are.”
Nor should they damn anyone who is more than a cardboard cut-out for ideology. Justice Gorsuch is a jurist, and a conservative, and a friend to persons who happen to be gay. None of those things are incompatible in one being. None.
This addiction to singularity, to the bottom line, to the common denominator, to reducing everything and everyone to one-dimension is one of the things I believe God — yes, I said it — God Almighty is addressing in the legions of children who are questioning their biological gender even now. Look at the diversity in roses, in ants, in trees. None of them reduce to one-liners. None, to sound bites. None, to simplicity except insofar as they are fully what they are.
Why must we be so reductionist? If it isn’t fed to us, on a silver spoon, and as simply as possible, can we no longer find a way to encompass complexity? Diversity? Heaven forfend, contradiction! Living with contradiction, especially in interior belief systems, is what allows us to create new and exciting inner structures that then manifest in form.
Here’s a contradiction I live with these days.
I thoroughly disapprove of the punishment motive that underlies our system of mass incarceration.
I am only beginning to wrap my head around its racialization, but I am doing the work necessary to start on the path to understanding it.
At the same time, I reject the death penalty as utterly barbaric.
AND … here it comes,
I resent my taxes paying for prisoners who could, were we to allow it, spend their time improving themselves and learning from their mistakes so as to rejoin society in a productive way if we would invest in them.
So, it’s a conflict. And I live with it. And I wrestle with it. And one fine day, when I least expect it, I’ll probably wake up with a really bang-up idea on how to resolve the conflict. But no conflict would be dull, dull, dull.
“One of the things that life and the law both teach us is, don’t assume things about people,” Mr. Mehlman said. “It’s an important lesson for our community.” It’s an important lesson for our planet. It’s assumptions that have gotten us into the police brutality mess we’re embroiled in, and no, I don’t mean the protests against it, I mean the brutality itself.
How is brutality ever right? It isn’t. Neither is the prejudgment that is inherent in prejudice.
“‘We’ve come to the point in this country where the lived reality of most Americans, and certainly most of the justices, is that they know, like, admire and probably even love someone who is gay,’ said Roberta Kaplan, a prominent civil rights lawyer. ‘It takes that closeness for people to understand the dignity of the other.’” Ohhhh, you mean queer people are people, too?
It’s just this closeness to people other than ourselves that is the right response to the protests. We must become up close and personal with race issues. We must get connected to prison reform. We must own our part in allowing the othering of the brutality that has ravaged our Black communities. We must notice and redress poor nutrition, unaffordable housing, uneven and imbalanced opportunity for advancement. We must get close enough to see and honor the inherent dignity in all beings.
The American Medical Association said last fall that killings of transgender women of color in the United States amounted to an epidemic.
Gloria Steinem and S. Mona Sinha co-wrote in a Letter to the Editor yesterday, “Now more than ever, discriminatory policies are tantamount to legislative violence.”
And then, before the ruling, I repeat, before The Supremes made their Monday ruling … as they so often do, the drag queens dreamed up “a rally for black trans people that would evoke one of the most notable protests in New York history, the Silent Parade, when the N.A.A.C.P. assembled nearly 10,000 people in 1917, all wearing white and silently marching down Fifth Avenue to demand an end of violence against black people.”
“West Dakota, a drag queen in Brooklyn, was checking in on a fellow drag queen and mentor when they began discussing what they said was a painful reality about the George Floyd protests: Black transgender people are disproportionately the victims of police violence, but attending demonstrations against police brutality can often put them in further danger.
“Her mentor, a drag queen named Merrie Cherry, who is black, said she had seen silent marches in other states and would have felt safer attending an event like that, West Dakota recalled.
And so she had an idea. Two weeks later, West Dakota’s idea blossomed into one of the most striking demonstrations that New York has seen since the killing of Floyd, a gathering of thousands of people in a sea of white. Its size and intensity stunned bystanders, participants and the organizers themselves.”
I love drag queens. It was drag queens who first fought back at the Stonewall Inn. Of course it was those marvelously complicated and magically gifted performers who took a tiny black trans protest in Brooklyn and made it, through costume, and silence, An Event.
And then came the ruling.
It felt like a gift, a ray of sunshine, a bright spot in the richly dark pastiche of our country’s reality right now.
The New York Times Magazine featured a story by a black father, Carvell Wallace. It’s well worth your reading time. “Trying to Parent My Black Teenagers Through Protest and Pandemic.” His subtitle read: “This is the world I let be created. They know this. They blame me for it. They are right.” In the story, he added, “It hurts my heart. Also, would you like dinner?”
God Almighty, I never once thought of this situation that way. Not for a nano. Of course they blame him. I would, too, were I his child. What an awful position to be in. Yet I have read articles again and again by black professionals who repeatedly state that they’re tired. They’ve fought all their lives, and they’re tired. I can’t blame them either.
He writes, “I can think of nothing else to do but tell them the truth. ‘I’ve been seeing these videos my whole life,’ I say. ‘You want to know what my trauma is? It’s this.’ It is a sentence that feels reckless, sharp in my mouth. I don’t know why I say it. Maybe just because it’s true. I don’t know if they understand. I don’t know if I do. I only know that it is incredibly sad to admit to your children that you’ve been seeing videos of black men being killed since you were their age and that you haven’t been able to stop it. I only know that I have spent a long time avoiding loving myself so that if I am killed it won’t be that great a loss. I only know that it is hard to show them how to love everyone if you’re not even sure how to love yourself. I know that it is time to tell them the truths that I have been afraid to tell them until now.”
And here is the story of the terrible divide in this country written on a spiritual billboard with flashing chaser lights. The case before the spiritual court of this world is Us v. Them. It doesn’t matter who are the us or who are the them. For as long as us is v. them in any sense, we will be the poorer for it.
The Supremes, God love them, gave their ruling on the side of Us.
The conservative think tanks, policy wonks, and religious groups bemoaned on the side of Them. For the inconvenience of learning a few new pronouns.
Mr. Wallace posed a vital question to his children. “Finally I told my children that one of the most important questions you have to answer for yourself is this: Do I believe in loving everyone? Or do I only believe in loving myself and my people? I told them that their mother and I had each decided, at some point in our lives, that we believed in trying to love everyone. But there were some people who simply did not believe in loving everyone, and that was just the way it was. I told them that their mother and I had made our choices, but we could not decide for them what kind of people they would be: They had to decide for themselves.”
And you, Beloved, you too must decide for yourself. And I must decide for myself. And the people in the cars next to you or on the subway rubbing shoulders with you must decide for themselves. Are you going to rule on the side of Us? I am. Or are you coming out for Them?
I can’t wait to hear what those stunning black drag queens have to say about that.
Dr. Susan Corso is a metaphysician and medical intuitive with a private counseling practice for more than 35 years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com
© Dr. Susan Corso 2020 All rights reserved.