I stopped, smiled, and the conversation continued. It wasn’t until about 5am this morning that what she said really hit me. Our pageant would be insulting to people who were transgender. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
My friend made this comment after I checked my email at our wine date yesterday afternoon and found a message telling me that someone had said that our Relay “Womanless Beauty Pageant” was offensive to men.
My response was guttural – how in the world is this degrading to men? No one is forcing anyone to perform, and if anything, women should be offended by the way men sometimes portray us as stupid and hyper-sexual. “It’s not degrading to men.”
That’s when Lia said, “Just to people who are trans.”
There it was, my own ignorance and insensitivity. Right there, on the table next to my glass of South African Chardonnay.
Fast forward two hours, and I’m standing in the middle of the Richmond International Raceway. My friend Danny and I were grabbing some dinner as he told me more about this race – The Denny Hamlin ShortTrack Showdown, a charity event to raise money for cystic fibrosis research.
Between laps on the track, Danny asked how I was liking the race. I told him it was awesome, “but I never thought I’d be at a NASCAR event.”
“Not the kind of thing you’re used to, huh?”
“No, I’m more the type to read and books.”
“People here read books, too. Some of these guys have written some as well.”
Remove delicious hot dog and insert suede-clad foot.
Did I really think that? Had I so fully absorbed the stereotypes about NASCAR that I actually thought people who watched it or raced it were uneducated, illiterates? Apparently, I had.
At 5am, when sleep would not return to my eyes, it was because there was this little cracking pain in my chest. I was mortified by my own ignorance and prejudice. As I lay there tossing and twisting beneath my sheets, I wanted to defend myself.
I wanted to come up with all kinds of reasons for why it was justified for me not to see the inherent mockery and disregard that a womanless beauty pageant had for trans people. I wanted to tell myself that there weren’t any transgender people here so it didn’t matter.
I wanted to justify my stereotypes about NASCAR by thinking through all the people I’d seen and trying to hone in on the folks chewing tobacco or making myself believe that this sport doesn’t take skill or education.
I couldn’t do it. I knew I was wrong. I could either lay there until sunrise tearing myself up for my ignorance, trying to reinforce it, or give it up.
I confessed to the One who listens to the dark hour rambles.
Then< I felt that little cracking in my chest. My heart had just broken open a tiny bit wider. Sometimes it takes something breaking for it to grow. My friend Lia Scholl – the woman of the wine who opened my eyes and heart a bit wider – has a new book coming out in June – I <3 Sex Workers. I’m very eager to read it because, obviously, I have a lot to learn about how to love this group of people. You can also find Lia’s blogs at Rogue Reverend and follow her on Twitter – @roguereverend.