A dear friend of mine sent me a video on my cell phone the other day of her daughter dancing at The Harvest Festival. My friend's daughter is a wonderful dancer who never stops doing pirouettes, aerials, cartwheels and various other extravagant moves she has choreographed alone and with her dance teacher. She lives to dance. She is also, at age ten, a mermaid who slips on her mermaid tail, shiny blue with golden fins, and turns into an ancient myth in the pool at The Hollywood Roosevelt. She is able to mesmerize even the most hardened poolside hipsters and tells me that when she is in the water with her fins and tail she feels the freest. She is unique in may ways, one of them being that she is transgender. Since the age of four she has stood her ground that she is a girl, and now at age ten it is clear that she is.
Many eyebrows will raise at the thought of that, but this mermaid has gone to therapy and stood up against the nausea of child psychologists who forbade her to "dress up" for more than a few hours a week. Phooey. She is who she is in the purist sense of what that means. And what is the controversy all about anyway? She's happy, smart and social being exactly who she is.
I watched a wonderful video piece in The Huffington Post recently on parents who had come to terms with their daughter, also transgender. It was the same scenario, starting at age four, one of their twin sons wanted feminine clothes and identified with dolls and dollhouses. The father, who had the hardest time accepting it, began to weep as he talked of the suffering and anxiety that denying someone's identity brings. He talked of how he learned to love and understand his daughter who is now in her teens and she is still herself.
Everyone seems to want to weigh in on transgenderism, and many seem to feel that their own non-transgenderism is what is normal and even superior. Those who sit in judgment seem to think they are losing ground when it comes to identity. But why? If "different" people being accepted in society as equals sinks your boat, get on a better boat or fix the one you're in.
My friend's daughter is not going back to being who she is not. Being around her is intoxicating because she insists upon her freedom, and that is what we are really about in this country (or we are supposed to be) -- acceptance and equality, not dividing ourselves into camps and waging war on each other.
I recently wrote a piece on Trump's hosting of SNL, and I called his followers morons. I also called Ben Carson a creepizoid, which isn't even a word. It's hard to come up with descriptive words for these two without stooping down and finding the wrong ones. What can you say about a candidate who declares that once he is president we will all be able to say Merry Christmas again?
Is he going to give everybody a present?
The message of both these candidates fuels the fears of many Americans about anyone who is not who they are. Why assuage that fear when you can capitalize on it? And Trump is nothing if not a capitalist. Carson quotes the Bible and insinuates an apocalyptic future when it comes to women's rights and gay marriage. He condescends to the poor as if they want to be impoverished. He was recently in favor of raising the minimum wage, but now he thinks it would ruin us. He's an evangelical Christian who wants all of us to to walk the walk he does. No thank you. I don't find him the least bit enlightened.
I chose the wrong words in describing the followers of these two front runners, but the word that lingers in the back of my mind to describe their philosophy is fascism, although using that word trivializes the most famous fascist of all.
I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Chicago and we used the word moron all the time. It's still a staple in Chicago-speak. But name calling in my youth was not productive really, nor is it productive now. I decided to leave Chicago in my early twenties and head west to be an actress or playwright. I landed in San Francisco where sexual identity was exploding. The city was filled with people who had left their lives behind to come to a place where they could find themselves. The actor I worked with in my acting class was a transvestite and worked at a high end drag club, my first encounter with that side of life.
As free as San Francisco was in those days, people who were different were living undercover. It was an island and there was a sense that when you left it was like leaving Brigadoon. And here we are now, many years later, after making pretty good ground when it comes to civil liberty, faced with the notion of Donald Trump's Wall, which makes many citizens cheer, and yet is symbolic of more than keeping out Mexicans. His wall is a blockade against who he considers alien, picking and choosing exactly who they are. Is Trump's declaration that he will "do something" about Muslims a real policy? He's not just throwing them under the bus, he seems to want to throw them over the wall.
The cultural revolution is not going to slow down even in the face of a mob or hypocritical dogmatists like Kim Davis and her ilk. Pope Francis has pretty much asked everyone to chill, and her private meeting with him turned out to be evangelical propaganda. The pope's message was about understanding each other and accepting each other. Yes, the Church is not pro-choice and does not give women equal status to men, but for the pope to soften its views on abortion by offering women forgiveness (something women do not need) is a big step. For him to say "who are we to judge?" when it comes to gay people, and open his arms to his gay friends, well, that's a big step too.
There are things we share as human beings that rise above politics, and what bonds humans the most is love. We have a deep capacity for it and it should not be mistaken for zealotry. Love has no religion, it's not organized and it hurts. The more you love, the more you will pay for it, but life, and its complexity, is inescapable. So is who we are. Why can't we just agree on that?
So much suffering has been inflicted on the human spirit by the chauvinist notion that one kind of person is superior to another. The Mormon Church has issued its latest edict, and now will punish the children of any parent who comes out of the closet and dares to marry in a same-sex union. That is a church's response to freedom of the spirit. What kind of faith is that?
America, even with our complicated past and our even more complicated present, is a great idea. We are a society that does not require you to be of one faith or mindset. Evangelical believers insist that the only way they can express their faith is to impose it on everyone else, creating a utopian world of look-a-likes. But we will never look alike in America.
While we quibble about who we are we are losing sight of what we are. America is a melting pot, remember? But as religion makes center stage, we seem to be becoming less compassionate. The gap between rich and poor has become so wide it could be a tourist attraction, like the Grand Canyon. Let's fix that instead of trying to fix people who don't need fixing.
As I watch my friend's transgender daughter dance, her body swirls in several pirouettes and then suddenly her legs sweep off the ground as she cascades gracefully upside down and lands confidently on her feet. Her long blonde hair shines like a halo, and I am moved beyond measure. She is uninhibited and is the brave example of what that's all about. She is adamantly who she is and she's entitled to everything that someone who is not like her is entitled to. To me, she is the future of America. Freedom. She is joy, and she gives me hope. I wish more of our presidential candidates did that.