Bilerico Report

Declaring my gender liberation: Why I’m coming out — again — at age 70

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I left San José in January 1971 to work for a progressive educational journal, EdCentric, at the National Student Association in Washington, D.C. Within a few months after arriving, I founded and became the first director of the National Gay Students Center, a national clearinghouse working to connect and exchange information between the newly emerging network of LGBT campus organizations within the United States.

One year after leaving San José, I read that students at Sacramento State University, represented by the student government, sued the chancellor in Sacramento County Superior Court and won the case forcing the university officially to recognize their group. The court upheld the students’ First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association by affirming their contention that “…to justify suppression of free speech, there must be reasonable grounds to fear that serious evil will result if free speech is practiced; there must be reasonable grounds to believe that the danger apprehended is imminent.”

During the early 1970s, I was an active member of Gay Liberation Front in Washington D.C., which formed the leading edge of a movement rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Our first meetings were held at Grace Church, the Washington Free Clinic in Georgetown, and All Souls Church on 16th Street, until we managed to rent a brownstone on S Street NW to establish a Gay Liberation Front living collective. Meetings provided a space for gays, lesbians, bisexual women and men, and trans people to come together and put into practice what feminists had taught us — that the “personal is the political.”

We laughed and we cried together. We shared our ideas and most intimate secrets. We dreamed our dreams and laid out plans for a world free from all the deadly forms of oppression. And, somewhere along our journey, we began inventing new ways of relating to one another.

For those of us assigned male at birth, we came to consciousness of how we had been stifled growing up in a culture that taught us to hate the feminine within – that taught us that if we were to be considered worthy, we must be athletic, independent, assertive, domineering, and competitive. Most of all, we at least began to rejected the idea that we must bury our emotions deep within the recesses of our souls.

Through the years, with the increasing visibility and recognition of people along the trans spectrum and of intersex people who have contested and shaken traditionally dichotomous binary notions of gender and sexuality, I have been able to go even further in my “coming out” process.

Their stories and experiences have great potential to bring us back into the future — a future in which anyone and everyone on the gender spectrum everywhere will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and cultural norms of gender.

I am proud and thankful to those who have laid the path and all who have traveled and extended its course by courageously calling into question this social myth of gendernormativity, the boxes society places us into as it imposes upon us our gender scripts.

Trans and intersex people have opened the boxes for all of us ultimately to obliterate the gender status quo of binary oppositions by demonstrating the visible ways, the options upon an enormous gender continuum — one that does not depend upon a sex assigned to us, a sex that is imposed and forced upon us by others. The trans and intersex communities have shown us the essential fluidity of gender.

In my case, who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks? That is simply an ageist expression anyway!

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