I had meant to post these thoughts some time ago, but they've not congealed until today when I read today's column by Christopher Goffard in the Los Angeles Times.
About a year and a half ago I put up a post that was critical of Christine Daniels' having taken down her blog at the Los Angeles Times and, without comment or explanation, having resumed writing as Michael Penner. I was very rightly criticized and corrected for this posting. My intention had not been to criticize this very personal choice but the fact that the reportage of it had not been brought to closure. Last November, the person in whom both these identities dwelt committed suicide. The pettiness of my criticism stood before me in full relief.
It is hard enough for anyone to transition. The potential losses can be devastating, not to mention the fact that one stands open to ridicule and unmitigated hatred. No matter how many statutes are passed, the idiot mind of the mass is slow to change, and prejudice has a nuclear half-life. Friends and family turn away or become monstrous. Add to this mixture the fact that someone transitioning from male to female is now held to a brutally unfair standard of beauty. Transition is tough enough in an average setting - how much more difficult if one is already, to a greater or lesser degree, in the public eye. Some are gifted with chutzpah, bless them, and can use the notoriety as a bully-pulpit, but not everyone is made of such stern stuff.
I'm not saying that transitions aren't successful or that there are not thousands of now happy men and women who have solved a major life problem and are now more productive than ever. But it's not a panacea. Chronic depression, ADD, personality disorders, ad infinitum are still there for many and must still be dealt with.
We cannot - must not - judge. We must love. We must support. I regret that posting with all my heart. I had no right to criticize this person's choice on journalistic or any other grounds. I did, however, have a deep obligation to try to understand - as did all who came within the slightest contact of either Christine Daniels or Mike Penner. Stereotype or not, I have felt from the beginning that to be a woman is to be open to the Divine Feminine, which is the embodiment of compassion and nurture. I am ashamed that these qualities were not with me that day. And I am still saddened by the loss of an excellent writer and a good human being.