I am not a big fan of rumors. I understand that sometimes they are hard to ignore, especially when they involve celebrities, but I do my best. Now, I understand the temptation to spread them. Having a juicy bit of information whether real or not gives the possessor a sense of empowerment. “I know something you don’t!”
It is most likely that sense of empowerment that makes LGBT people so susceptible to rumors and more precisely, spreading them. If you don’t believe it, listen to the idle chatter at a bar or coffee shop sometimes and you will undoubtedly hear at least one, “I heard he was gay,” or, “you know she’s a lesbian.” Catty and sometimes just silly rumors can really get out of hand, and because of that I do my best to avoid spreading them.
That is especially true when they involve me.
At a recent speaking engagement in Florida, an acquaintance clued me in on a rumor he had overheard that I “used to be a woman.” I was not offended, just amused at the whole idea that anyone would care.
Later that evening I called one of my transgender friends and told him the story. After he finished laughing, he let me know that I shouldn’t worry, those kinds of rumors mean you have “arrived” in the world of LGBT activism.
I thought about this for a while, and remembered what another friend, Dan Massey had often said, that we are living in a “post-gender world.” Massey was a wonderful man. I met him through our work together at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. He was an unapologetically androgynous, and he and his life partner Alison Gardner were tireless activists.
Massey was a scientist by trade, but his passion was his work for equal rights and spreading the idea of the “intrinsic value of sex and gender expression, of personal erotic freedom, and replacing millennia of unreasoned ignorance, fear, and hatred with the true joy of Love.”
I wish I could have called him and told him the rumor; he would have loved it. Unfortunately, Massey died on Jan. 28. Thankfully, his passion will live on, and his estate has funded the “Dan Massey Transleadership Scholarship.” This fund will offer support to transgender youths for sexual freedom conferences, leadership trainings, and internships to help ensure that their voices are heard and that they are a part of the conversation.
His dream was to give transgender persons a seat at the table whenever discussions of human rights and sexual freedom were raised. He understood that even among a marginalized group there were those who got pushed aside and he worked to remedy that injustice.
I wish I could have told him the rumor about me. I feel sure he would have laughed as loud as I did.
He would have laughed at the whole idea that gender should be the subject of rumor. For Massey, gender was not something to be whispered about. He saw sexuality and gender as aspects of a love that linked us all to the true nature of the universe. For him, it was all part of a joyous communion and I share that vision as well.
Meanwhile, back in Florida where my rumor lives, there are folks who still waste their time trying to leverage their gossip into some kind of power. Perhaps they would be better served if empowered themselves by actually going out and doing something to change their world? It takes no more energy to do that than to spread rumors and it’s far more productive.
And as for me, I feel kind of honored that people think I realigned my gender to match my soul. Those folk who do that are bold and courageous. They risk so much to bring the person inside them to the surface. My transgender friends are heroes to me, for the immense effort it takes to just be who they truly are.
So as far as the rumor goes? Well I am delighted to be a rumor in my own time.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and board member for the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.