Skip to main content

Should have kept quiet about the shoes

                          Image result for man's legs in high heel shoes
My extremely progressive religious denomination is currently facing a crisis. While striving for years to extend a welcoming hand to LGBT+ folks, they fell horribly short this month, by publishing an article about transgender people that showed an abysmal level of ignorance and insensitivity.

The backlash will go on for a long time, and the shaky (at best) foundation that had been established is showing some serious cracks that will take considerable time and patience to repair.

Last fall, a subgroup that represents LGBT+ people within the denomination conducted a poll, and the results showed that the transgender people who attended our churches frequently encountered behaviors and attitudes that reflected the tone of the article.

To review: a transgender woman is a woman. A transgender man is a man. Don't ask transgender people (don't ask anyone, really. C'mon!) about the status of their genitalia. And don't take for granted that a transgender person has nothing else going on in their life beyond being transgender.


Reading the reactions to the article and the survey made me recall one woman who attended our local church. I'm going to call her Stephanie. She was always impeccably dressed, tall, beautiful, soft-spoken. One day, for some reason (ignorance and insensitivity, actually), I passingly remarked "You shouldn't wear those 3-inch heels -- you'll kill your feet." Stephanie's body language told me she really wanted to tell me to f___ off and mind my own business, but she restrained herself. I knew in that instant that I'd said the wrong thing and ought to apologize, but because I didn't know precisely why it was the wrong thing, I wanted to think it over before apologizing. Turns out, I never got the opportunity. Stephanie left the congregation not long after that.

It's been a few years...reading the article and the reactions to it made me realize that if Stephanie took that survey and said that people at the church made her feel uncomfortable, she may well have had that conversation in mind.

So, why was it so out of line for me to offer unsolicited advice about her shoes? After all, it's fairly conventional wisdom that women's dress shoes, especially the high-heeled variety, are incredibly rough on the feet. Toes get pinched and squeezed out of line; the calf muscles are bunched, and the hips and back go out of alignment, eventually leading to all manner of income for chiropractors. I haven't worn anything like a heel in over 10 years due to worsening arthritis and balance problems. Yes, I think avoiding pinchy, heely dress shoes is one of the nicer things you can do for your feet.

But who would I normally say that to? Let's see...if I had a daughter and she were 11 years old or so, I might encourage her to avoid wearing that type of shoe. Maybe once or twice more before she got to be 16. Then I'd shut up and do little more than encourage her to dress the way she felt comfortable dressing. A mother has a child's best interests at heart, after all.

Stephanie, however, was not my child. She was not a child, period. And if I wouldn't think of telling an adult cisgender woman to whom I was not related that she was making a mistake with her choice of footwear, I had absolutely no right to make an exception with an adult transgender woman. My remark told Stephanie that I thought she needed "schooling." Truthfully, yes, I did make the assumption that Stephanie had not been wearing women's dress shoes for very long, but where did I get that idea? In reality, she may have been wearing them since she was 12 or 13 and had no trouble walking in them. She undoubtedly had read magazine articles and blogs and spoken to a doctor about optimum foot care, and made an adult decision to wear whatever the hell she felt like. So I made a bunch of ignorant assumptions about an adult woman, all the while piously parroting religious platitudes about the inherent worth and dignity of every person and equity and compassion in human relations. Take that one instance and multiply it by several hundred each month and tens of thousands each year, and it's no wonder that this liberal denomination's efforts to be welcoming and inclusive toward transgender people can seem so shallow and hard to trust.

On one level, every person on the planet owes at least one other person an apology for something. But this is especially true for people who literally make a religion out of trying to be just a little better than people in other religious traditions. 

So lots of apologies, and a lifetime of learning, are in order for all of us, especially those of us who really care about "the interdependent web of existence, of which we are all a part." 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Door Of Life - part one

Turning to look at her mom, baby Jessica said, “Mommy, why do you have a door on your forehead?” 

It was after lunch and Jessica sat on her mom's lap holding her picture book, Creatures of the Forest.

“Oh honey, nothing awful. It's so I can get my bad thoughts out of my head," replied her mom.

Jessica turned to her book and touched the face of a bear. “Mommy, how come daddy doesn't have a door on his forehead too?”

“Your father has a door by his heart to let love in.”

Jessica rubbed her hand along the page, petting the bear. "How come I don't have a door?"

"You will, sweetie. When you grow up, you get a door where you need it the most."

Turning to reach for her mom. "Can I touch your door?"

Her mom leaned her head back, "No Honey, only I can do that. It's not nice to touch other people's doors."

"Oh, okay." Jessica turned back to her book and turned the page to a picture of four robins perched on a tree branch. S…

The Meaning of Success

Previously in this blog, I’ve mentioned Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I self-diagnosed about 8 years ago, and it’s made a significant difference in my ability to organize, plan, and manage my time. This revelation about myself arose from an idle question: What was wrong with Dad?

My father (gone nearly 27 years now) had chronic problems with finishing projects and getting all excited about random things in unpredictable patterns. He did what many folks with ADHD do: He overcompensated, getting up hours and hours early in the morning to ensure he wouldn’t be late for work. He was obsessive about making sure his belongings were put away the same way every time – and he hounded me to do the same. My father never knew he had ADHD. He grew up in the 1920s and 1930s, when no one had heard of such a thing. His inability to figure out math, and no doubt a lot of other self-management difficulties, led him to drop out of high school and live with that stigma throughout…

The Caped Crusader

Clarke was unusual for a caveman, he was a superhero. He could leap over tall buildings. 

His problem was that there were no tall buildings and would not be any for another ten thousand years. It was quite a dilemma for our superhero so he was reduced to leaping into tall trees. His current problem was that he had no superpowers to leap out of tall trees.

One day while climbing down from a tall tree, Clarke watched a squirrel leap from a tree. The squirrel spread its excess skin and floated to the ground. Eureka! problem solved. 

Clarke ran to the cave of his beloved girlfriend, Lois. After much description to Lois of the squirrel, Lois sewed him a scarf made from the lightest and softest bear hide. 

Clarke donned his new scarf around his neck and shoulders. He leaped into the nearest tall tree. He jumped from the tree, spread his scarf, and fell face first into the ground. 

Oops.

Clarke sought out his friend Einstein. Clarke explained what he had seen of the squirrel, what he wanted to do,…