August 28, 2016
Russell Wilson and You
To be trans is to be alone.
It's feeling like you are different when you are 9. It's getting a clear message from your Dad when he goes SHITHOUSE on a dude at the hardware store who mistakenly thought you were a little girl. Whatever feelings you have are weird, and wrong, and dangerous. You aren't even close to sorting those feelings out, but you know it's a secret you have to conceal at all costs.
It's a cycle of confusion and depression and shame that leaves you feeling horribly isolated and disconnected. You find a thing that makes you feel connected to other people, though. You pour everything you have into it. You learn all you can about it. When you go on a bus trip from the Tri-Cities to Seattle for a Seahawks game when you are 11, you know more about the team than all the adults. You're a snot-nosed little shit who SCREAMS at the Steelers all the way through warm-ups from the Kingdome upper deck, either not knowing or not caring that they can't possibly hear you (You don't remember).
For three hours every fall weekend, you forgot those feelings you were pushing down inside yourself. You lost yourself in something bigger, and felt that connection that eluded you in every other facet of your life. You'd walk on air for days if they won. You'd sink into a deep funk all week after a loss. But you felt SOMETHING. Something other than the doubt you felt about your identity, your personhood, your existence. In fact, it becomes something that you use as a cudgel against those percolating feelings. You weren't like those characters on Jerry Springer. You weren't that girl from The Crying Game. You liked football! How could you be trans if you liked football? What was girly or feminine about that?
You tread water in your life. Jobs and people and relationships come and go, but two things are constant - The rumbling cloud of gender sadness that's always overhead, and your Seahawks. You're 25. You're 30. You're 35. As the rationalizations lose their power, and the sea walls in your psyche crumble, you're terrified. There are some rational reasons for your fear. If you are trans, you fear that you are FUCKED. You're a nerd, so you gather all the imformation you can. What you find out is bracing, to say the least.
You can get fired for being trans. You can get kicked out of your apartment for being trans. You'll likely lose family, friends and more. You read horrifying statistics (disturbing in general, but gobsmackingly catastrophic for trans women of color) - about how the unemployment rates and levels of poverty for trans people are much higher than the general population. About how over half of trans people reported being verbally harassed in public, About how a toxic stew of discrimination, limited resources, and constricted life options led to trans people living with HIV at a rate FOUR TIMES HIGHER than the rest of the population. How FORTY-ONE PERCENT of trans people attempt suicide (compared to 1.6% of the general population). In fact, you are told more than once that being trans is such a treacherous life path that you should only step upon it if it's a choice between that and suicide.
You finally get to a point where you feel like you can try to reconcile all these various parts of yourself. You start living authentically and you find that you CAN be trans and a Twelve. It's glorious. You come out on your blog, and the response is overwhelmingly positive. You start presenting your authentic self just six weeks before the Seahawks finally win a Super Bowl. You're in the house when Sherm tips the ball to Smith. You witness 43-8 and you break down in tears afterwards, feeling like they were waiting for YOU TO BE READY before finally hoisting that Lombardi Trophy.
You notice that slowly but surely, things were changing. You see signs of progress. You see, for the first time, that the President of the United States gives a crap about people like you, and actually does quite a bit to help you out. You're a positive, optimistic sort, so you see things going on a trajectory that bends toward freedom.
But progress provokes backlash, both socially and politically. Trans women, particularly trans women of color, are murdered simply for being themselves at an alarming rate. States like North Carolina pass draconian laws that criminalize people like me using the bathroom, and the official position of the Raleigh government is that you must be "delusional" and unworthy of full citizenship.
Back home, there was an effort to pass a similar law in Washington State. You did what you could. You gave money to the effort to keep that shit off the ballot. And you succeeded! Hooray. But even back in the Evergreen State, there were far too many people marinating in ignorance, hatred, and fear of trans folks. You wondered when the anvil would fall - when would someone on your beloved Seahawks say something brazenly, openly transphobic?
You looked around and saw that far too many NFL players, coaches and owners held retrograde views- some even supported the vile Tangerine Mussolini Donald Trump. Sure, your owner is a huge Democratic donor, your coach supported Obama openly, and one of your defensive superstars backed Bernie - But when would a Seahawk say something disgusting about people like you? It seemed inevitable.
You see on the news that a trans woman of color was murdered right here in Columbus. It hits way too close to home. You go to a vigil for Rae'Lynn Thomas. Your pain is nothing compared to that of her family and friends. You don't face nearly the same discrimination and danger that trans women of color face, but you feel powerless and hopeless. You feel darkness encroaching.
Your favorite player is Russell Wilson. You've always had a thing for quarterbacks, from Dave Krieg to Matt Hasselbeck to the WolfBadger. You love that he PROVED YOU WRONG about him (along with every NFL team that passed on the chance to draft him multiple times). You love how electrifying he is on the field. You think he's handsome and personable. Your kids seem immediately drawn to him. You love that he WINS. He seems to do damn near nothing but win, and he does it with style and flair.
But you worry. He's pretty religious. Sadly, it feels like there's a correlation between certain American flavors of Christianity and transphobic attitudes. He's also very controlled and corporate in terms of his public persona. Was there some hidden reservoir of hate within him that he smartly concealed from a fan base that contains a huge number of LGBT folks and their straight cis allies?
Then you see the piece in Pro Football Talk. With his new wife Ciara, Wilson decided to move his wedding out of North Carolina because of that hateful "bathroom bill" that dehumanized people like me in the Tarheel State. When asked about it, RW3 said “I just believe that Jesus loves all people. That’s honestly what I believe.”
As an activist, part of you wishes that he would have delivered an impassioned rant about the injustice of laws like HB2, but you're still ecstatic. You know that this is still a big deal - Not just to you, but to every trans person who wears College Blue, Wolf Grey, and Action Green. You know that Wilson has roots in North Carolina, and he must not have decided to move his wedding lightly.
YOUR FAVORITE PLAYER DOESN'T HATE PEOPLE LIKE YOU. That might sound like an unbelieveably low bar to clear, but it means everything to you. Can you imagine being a Patriots fan (BARF) and having to root for Trump-loving Brady (BAAAAAAARF)? You trash those plans for buying a Baldwin jersey (Sorry, Angry Doug), because for a good long spell, all you are going to wear is nothing but #3 and #12.
You see that minds are already changing on this. You see the Seahawks Stadium chef who had previously spewed ignorant bile do a near-tearful 180. You feel a little bit of hope again.
You're not alone.