Thursday 3 May 2012

Am I really a bigot?

I have a confession to make: When I saw the story linked to below, my first reaction was delight that someone who had clearly suffered such a long and difficult identity crisis now had the chance to resolve it, and at such a stage in life when many people would not consider something so drastic.

BBC News - East Sussex pensioner to have sex change op

No, that's not the confession.  The confession is that not long ago I know my first reaction would have been a visceral repulsion, followed by a rational re-evaluation, and shame at the contradiction.

Gender identity is such a deeply ingrained part of human consciousness that it can be a real challenge to accept that which crosses intuitive gender boundaries.  Reason and empathy tell me that homosexuality is perfectly valid, that gender reassignment can be positive and transforms the lives of those in need of it.  But in my teens, when I met a transsexual who came to my family home, I was too confused and afraid look her in the eye.  In my twenties, when meeting a colleague and her girlfriend, at a gay bar in California, I was too afraid to leave the car park and go inside.  I knew it was okay, but couldn't confront the reality myself.  So I was a closet, intuitive bigot, and I was ashamed of myself for that.

But in the years since, I've known many delightful people who happen not to share my bedroom tastes, and it doesn't matter a damn.  For years, I've let my gut get on with what it does, and made decisions with my head.  And now, finally, I find my gut has fallen into step with my reason and my instinctive reaction to this story is joy.

Like many faculties, my gut reactions evolved long ago, for reasons which no longer apply, and I can live with that, allow them to be arcane and accept that as a personal limitation.  But I now know that by getting to know different kinds of people, who are different from me in all sorts of ways, I can become a better person and put aside visceral prejudices and be open to anyone.

So what does this story do to you?  What's your gut reaction?  What does your rational head say, and which are you going to allow to win?  What do you make of my conflicted sensibilities?  Are you shocked and appalled at my inner prejudice, or can you recognise the conflict?  All civil comments welcome!