How many tried to pick me up for sex in Orange County? On any day when I walked from home to the library I’d encounter an average of 9 and as many as 19. Of course, that was years ago, back in the days in which I modeled and I no longer have a model’s body. But male-to-female transpeople often encounter exploitative people during their transitions like roaches that crawl out of the woodwork in a seedy motel. Far too often the same do not or will not recognize a higher level of thought like one needs to have when considering the issue of transition.
Men especially harbor unrealistic ideas about transitioning people and typically focus upon those male-to-female. One writer wrote, echoing predominantly male sex obsessions about transsexuals without including a single picture of a female-to-male transsexual or anyone gender non-conforming: “The facts of life for a transsexual may in actuality be drab and painful but for us they are fantasy beings, the ultimate product of nature and science.”1
Of course, all of us who had any involvement in the sex industry (only 16% according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey worked the sex or drug trades)2 remain pariahs and make pariahs of those of us who never had such involvement. It’s an attitude comparable to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in which the victim of a religious man’s impropriety becomes further victimized through societal shaming. But those appetites abound in those very states in which opponents of transpeople have retained a stranglehold against the civil rights of transpeople according to a study cited by XHamster, who followed Internet activity from the states engaged in a lawsuit against the Obama Administration after issuing guidelines for restroom use by trans students. These states viewed transgender pornography often and even uploaded some of their own..3
This contrasts with an e-mail I received from a Lakota man who left the reservation and earned a PhD. Dr. Ken Dollarhide eventually became a Dean of Religious Studies. He befriended not a few transpeople and spoke at many transgender conferences, drawing upon his Lakota background to assert the proper attitude toward winkte and other 2-Spirit people. Though he’s retired today he still e-mails from time to time. One exchange in 2001 ended up as the seed for something that changed my life forever. I had just started the assessment process for transition when he wrote, “You are beautiful, smart, and also innocent.”
I demurred, knowing my life hardly constituted that of a saint and said, “I am not innocent.”
He said, “You may not see yourself as innocent because of your past. But no matter where you may have been or what you may have done, you are innocent because you never lost the capacity to dream and to wonder, even as a little child.”
None of that made sense to me at the time. But later the proverbial light bulb flashed in my head and I realized what the doctor was trying to convey to me.
Most of us approach innocence in the Abrahamic vernacular: something only available to small children which, once lost as inevitably it must, can never be recovered. Worse yet, religionists often utter their deepest anathemas at those they perceive to “take away the innocence of our children.” Inevitably they point to transgender people who live authentically as offenders for simply walking down the street. But when asked to define innocence, most Abrahamists really don’t know what to say.
I realized this in an exchange with other radio announcers when I hosted a show years ago. We gathered in the front office as we often did when I asked what they thought innocence was.
One announcer declared that innocence is the same as ignorance because young children are innocent and don’t know anything. A rabid Evangelical affirmed the same idea.
“Wait a minute,” I said, “If innocence is ignorance then an all-knowing God cannot be innocent.”
The Evangelical said that was true.
I immediately protested. “Are you for real? God judges our innocence when He isn’t innocent Himself? I’m astonished that you, an Evangelical, a self-styled defender of the character of God, should say that. But do all agree that small children are our example of innocence?”
“And is innocence something to be preserved?”
“Then innocence can’t possibly be ignorance. Why have schools? Why be concerned with moral development? By teaching we would lead children away from ignorance and therefore destroy innocence forever.”
Another said, “We know that innocence means one has done no wrong.”
“As in ‘sinlessness’?”
“Then if children are our example of innocence, I couldn’t agree less. If ever a human demonstrated wrongdoing, a child does. That’s why a child needs instruction. But since children are innocent, innocence can’t be sinlessness by a longshot.”
“But children aren’t accountable because they don’t know any better,” the Evangelical interrupted.
“Then we’re back to an issue of ignorance instead of wrongdoing and we already saw how ignorance isn’t innocence. Righteousness likewise isn’t the issue of innocence. Innocence is necessarily something else.”
“But what about the courts?” another said. “They declare innocence and guilt every day.”
“The courts,” I said,” are a subterfuge. Don’t take their words about innocence and guilt at face value. Here’s a similar example regarding legal words, “several,” which though we commonly speak of many, in the courts refer to the responsibility of only one. Courts can’t judge a heart. They only judge actions through evidence they can see. But what other terms can we offer them by which to judge? They make do with the language we offer and at times redefine words that inadvertently estrange them from their deeper meaning so they could execute the duty assigned to them. They work around natural limitations. When a court declares innocence or guilt, it does so to establish and preserve a milieu in which true innocence can flourish. In so doing, a court is a blessing so long as it’s circumspect.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Perhaps you don’t because we have yet to define innocence. Does anyone wish to try?”
“I suppose you know what it means?”
“There’s one trait specifically, the true innocence, manifest in children, precious beyond all price, for by it we owe the continuance of the world. It’s the capacity to wonder, to dream, to be in awe. From such things we invent all that mankind has made, the affairs of state and education, the assemblies of worship, and the arts of love; for there’s nothing in our world that did not begin somewhere in a dream, including you who are also dreamers. Even your life essence began as a dream in your parents, and that instilled from the mind of God.”
For a moment that uncomfortable dead air of silence hung in the room. Then one said, “So how does this fit with the courts?”
“It’s very simple, “I said. “Will one who is obsessed with wrongdoing have time to be in awe?”
“That’s the dynamic of ‘guilt’. The courts examine the conditions that make obsession crowd out innocence, and so make their declaration. Remember. They only judge action and evidence. Beyond that, they must presume innocence and declare accordingly. They use what language they have been taught for they have nothing better to use. Just take their verdicts for the round-about declarations they are, for it’s the best they can do.”
More dead air left these avid talkers without anything to say.
“There is one side of this issue yet to be explored. Can innocence be lost?”
“By what means?”
“That obsession of guilt.”
“Can innocence be restored? Or it is lost forever if once lost?”
“Perhaps, if you can break the obsession.”
“Yes. The courts attempt this through some sort of retribution. But the superior way to break such obsession is forgiveness, don’t you think? Forgiveness isn’t exclusively a religious issue, but a therapeutic one; the most difficult being to forgive one’s self. Only then can anyone move past obsession. Even if forgiveness is only for the time being, it gives space where one can dream again, re-enter the natural childlike state of innocence, and be restored to health. That’s the object of ministry, humanly speaking, whether a ministry is legal, educational, or religious.”
“Are you innocent?”
“There was a time when I couldn’t accept myself as innocent because I couldn’t forgive myself. I couldn’t forgive myself because I saw what churches did with forgiveness. It was constantly demanded of me in order to force me to remain open to the abuse church people dished out at will in the name of imagined or actual authority. In protecting myself on one level, I harmed myself on another.
“I had always considered innocence to be gone forever and that I could never hope for any more than to be accounted innocent in the context of “justification by faith.” But once I realized that innocence isn’t something that others declare you to be and that it’s a natural trait of the psyche available to everyone, then and only then did I begin to sense relief. Theology didn’t help me. Only understanding the reality of innocence did. Innocence is far more resilient and restorable than we generally give credit.
“Along with that, isn’t it interesting how even in American marriages a woman might be accounted innocent during sex but rarely the man? Think about it. Women get described as ‘angels’ most of the time and men as sorry ‘devils’. Sex isn’t generally accepted as an innocent act in religious society at any rate, though I have yet to see any evidence that should lend anything in favor of that popular belief. Moreover I would consider the best lover to be an innocent one because he has opened himself to the awe that sex was designed to facilitate.”
Not long after I realized these aspects of innocence I walked to the local library to read and to access the Internet in job searches. The city where I lived literally crawled with johns looking for prostitutes, even at high noon. One afternoon they were in annoyingly rare form. I had enough of their bombardment and was in an ornery mood so I decided to turn the tables on the johns. As I walked homeward, a vehicle stopped and a male voice called out, “Wanna ride?”
I climbed into the passenger seat, ready to stalk my stalker.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“O I’m not going anywhere. And that’s not why you picked me up, is it?”
“What do you mean?”
“You picked me up so that you could talk to me, right?”
“…and possibly get into my panties?”
“Er…yeah…Do you charge?”
“I do and my price is very simple. If you can give me the definition of innocence and its ramifications then I will give myself to you freely and in faith. For if this is truly in your heart and experience than there would be nothing in my spirit that can resist you and you will know exactly what to do to me.”
He looked at me with amazement and suspicion, then wasted no time to boot me out of his vehicle.
I laughed hysterically. After all, who is eager to score with a prostitute who cares about a free and faithful relationship with her? What john wants his woman to think? Why would such a one care to think about innocence? Why would one who only cares about his own orgasm on his lunch break want to waste time on something of a higher caliber that might possibly convict him?
My price was too high for him and I knew it. The truth costs more than a day’s wages. If he had been genuinely receptive, he might have revolutionized his life. Instead, he became a laughingstock.
Most while dismissing the possibility of innocence in adults also dismiss dreams as nothing more than the flotsam of thought, unreliable phantasms to be ignored. Most don’t try to cultivate dreams to see how they transform to more significant experiences as they develop over time. In a society of fast food, fast cars, fast women, and fast gratification, few have time to bother.
But nobody who desires fast gratification can achieve anything worthwhile. No such person can be innocent. No such person truly creates.
Neither can such be a true lover.
Therefore, if one would answer the call of love, one must also answer the call of dreams. Cultivating them is the price of true affection; and if that affection be returned, it will be on levels that are beyond what’s physical; and will encompass the entire being, as all truly desire, even if that affection isn’t realized over a lifetime.
What that means for those of us who transition is that dreams, when cultivated, draw us to a higher level of thinking. Those kinds of dreams made the Mysteries, the grist of collective mythos from which the philosophers of Miletus, Athens, Elea, and others emerged. Transition necessarily demands careful self-assessment within a radical set of medical procedures. Innocence cultivates the dream while recognizing truth as necessarily objective but not absolute (seeing truth as necessarily relative opens to turning innocence into selfish ambition), and if preserved in the transitioning individual, will make that person a blessing to the world that the universe intended in the first place.
- Messemer, Dr. Pauline and Hauser, Dr. Johann. World of Good, Safe and Unusual Sex (1986) Merchandise for Matters, North Hollywood CA, no ISBN, p. 16.
- Grant, Jaime M., PhD; Motet, Lisa A., JD, and Tanis, Justin, DMin. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (2011) Web: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. http://www.thetaskforce.org/static_html/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf Retrieved July 14, 2016, p. 3.
- Lampen, Claire. Looks Like the Country’s Most Transphobic States Are Really Into Trans Porn (June 1, 2016) Web: Connections.Mic. https://mic.com/articles/145025/looks-like-the-country-s-most-transphobic-states-are-really-into-trans-porn#.0EpveE0ow Retrieved July 14, 2016.