On Identity and Telling the Truth

Today, thanks to a conversation with a friend, I’m thinking about lying.

Specifically, I’m thinking about being accused of lying when you are, in fact, telling the truth. I had it happen to me a few times as a child, as I’m sure everyone has at least once or twice. I remember how it felt. It was awful, I felt helpless (if the truth couldn’t save me, what could I do?), and I remember how furious my helplessness would make me.

On one occasion, as a young adult, I told my parents that I was sick and could not go to work that night. They accused me of lying and argued about it with me for over an hour until I finally, tearfully, begged for them to just let me go to bed and sleep it off. My mom took my temperature an hour later and discovered that I had a fever of 102. They did apologize, in the face of indisputable evidence, so that was something.

I lost my glasses during the second week of my freshman year of high school. I told my parents and they accused me of lying; they thought that I’d purposely thrown away my glasses in order to get a new pair, so they adamantly refused to buy me new ones. I went through my first two years of high school having to copy my friends’ notes in class because I couldn’t read the blackboard. They didn’t get them for me until I needed them for my driver’s license, at 16.

When I was 19, I was dealing with a serious bout of depression. I was suicidal. I had a huge fight with my parents and ended up leaving home. I stayed with friends for a week, and when I went back home, I tried to explain to them what was wrong with me. When I tried to tell my mother that I was depressed, she told me, “You’re full of shit.” She didn’t believe me. She thought that I was making up excuses for my behavior.

I don’t bring these things up in order to vilify my parents. It was a long time ago, and my parents were/are very young; I genuinely believe that in some things, they just didn’t know any better. They didn’t and still don’t understand much about depression. And I don’t believe that they ever said the things that they did just for shits and giggles. What I’m thinking about is how I can avoid doing the same to Eve; children are people, and people lie. Sometimes people lie for fun and sometimes they lie to cover up what they’ve done, and sometimes they tell the truth even though it hurts to admit and it can be scary. But how do you discern the difference?

This also ties into a debate that I’ve been having about trans women with some asshole on an online forum I frequent. Like most cis people, as soon as the topic of trans folks came up, he started talking about “honesty in relationships” and “I just think they should be honest” or whatever. No one was even talking about relationships; we were actually just discussing the media and LGB’s constant misgendering of Tiwonge as a gay man rather than the woman that she is. I made the point that a cis person jumping up to talk about the importance of honesty in cis-trans relationships is like a white person butting into a discussion about interracial relationships just to throw in, “And I hope the black guy knows not to steal her TV!” It’s offensive and unnecessary to question the honesty of trans folks just because they are trans.

This is not even getting into the fact that trans people are not dishonest for not disclosing their trans status unless you think that “trans” = “not really the gender I say that I am.”  A trans woman who says “I am a woman” is not a liar if she leaves out the trans qualifier; she is a woman. But trans folks who don’t disclose their status are frequently framed as being deceptive by cis folks, as if by claiming womanhood fully, a trans woman is somehow trying to sneak her way into cis lives.

Fuck, while I’m thinking of it, why don’t cis people disclose their status? Something like:

“Hi. I really like you. Before things move along any further, I just wanted to let you know that I’m cis, meaning that I was assigned the gender that I identify with at birth, and therefore I have tons of cis privilege that allows me to ignore the concerns and suffering of trans people, not to mention gives me an unearned advantage in millions of ways, one of them being that no one ever questions my gender identity and I never have to ‘prove’ my womanhood in order to ‘earn’ recognition of it. I also don’t have to worry about people murdering me because they discovered that I’m cis, and I don’t have mainstream feminists idolizing women who advocated for my genocide like Mary Daly did. I hope you don’t mind because I really like you, but I just thought I should let you know, because if you’re trans, I will probably cluelessly stomp all over you with my privileged ways of thinking.”

Yeah. That sounds good. Any cis person who does not disclose their cis status to their partner is a fucking liar.

I remember the helplessness and rage that I felt whenever my parents accused me of lying when I was telling the truth. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to have almost the whole world call me a liar just for saying, “I am a woman,” even though it’s true, and for that world to hate me just because I refuse to placate them with a lie.

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2 Responses to “On Identity and Telling the Truth”

  1. Link Self-Love « She Has My Eyes Says:

    […] want to highlight On Identity and Telling the Truth, which I wrote while reflecting on the meme of trans folks as deceivers. All of my posts in the […]

  2. Valerie Keefe Says:

    Goddessdamn I love this stuff… I never know how to act around allies when they are this level of awesome… do I send you a cookie or something or is that patronizing? ^_^

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