Believe It or Not: The Greatest American Antihero27 August, 2011
“Believe it or not
I’m walking on air
I never thought I could feel so free
Flying away on a wing and a prayer
Who could it be
Believe it or not it’s just me”
~ The Greatest American Hero Theme (Believe It or Not)
In the last four months I have had a number of people tell me how courageous I am and some have even called me a heroine. But I feel neither courageous nor heroic. In fact, much of my day is felt feeling cowardly. I was born female and male. Really, that’s the ultimate cosmic joke. Once I realized who everyone else thought I was I began molding a role that would allow me to become in the public eye the boy, and later the man, they believed I was. I bottled up my identity in order to preserve the status quo and make as many people happy as possible. That sort of self-sacrifice—akin to Spider-Man pretending not to love first Gwen Stacey and later Mary Jane Watson in order to guarantee their safety—is an act of heroism. It is like firemen and police officers and soldiers stuffing down the instinct of self-preservation to protect others. Self-sacrifice, the putting of others before yourself, particularly when no one knows you are doing it, is noble and heroic.
I lived that way as long as possible, but it got to the point where doing so was killing me and that’s when I wussed out. Yep. Wussy. Part wimp, part sissy, all coward. My regeneration, my giving up the struggle to play the part of man, was not to make others happy but to preserve my health. It was a selfish, coward’s choice. (Please don’t allow my use of the word choice to confuse you. Being female is not a choice for me, it is simply who I am, presenting as male despite being female is a choice, it is an actress’s role I choose or choose not to play.) Plenty of men and women have died trying to preserve the happiness of others. Better people than I. Ultimately, I was a failure as a man because the role could not enable me to do to what was required to maintain the role: sacrifice my health and personality for the good of my family and marriage. I failed at this despite having role models in my life to show me how. My father worked a job he hated, that gave him ulcers and stressed his heart, because it was the only way to earn enough income to take care of his family. My brother is doing the same thing. Like our father, he should have been an artist by trade, but he works with “clients” that stress him out and make him physically ill because he has a family to support and no other job in the area will enable him to do so. These men are courageous, these men a heroes! I couldn’t find the same courage to maintain my role. I couldn’t continue living in away that might have saved my marriage and definitely wouldn’t have put my family in the awkward position of needing to explain me to others, like my poor sister-in-law who went round and round with a group of people who refused to understand that I am female not male. She would not have been in that skewed situation and been judged by these people if I had not failed to live up to the role my body fated for me to play.
Another comparison to the courageous and heroic people make is my comments for equal rights for transsexuals. I don’t understand that thought. I’m not in the community making political statements or engaging in activist platforms and demonstrations. I’m just a woman trying to get by on a day-to-day basis and hoping that one day she will blend in or at least be accepted. There’s nothing heroic in that, if anything it’s just a more socially acceptable version of self-orientated behavior. Recently a good and wise friend drew a comparison between what I am experiencing and what Frederick Douglass experienced. I love and respect that friend deeply and am honored she should think of me in such away, see that sort of greatness in me. But, it also makes me a little sad, because I don’t see that greatness staring back at me from my mirror. Douglass was an early pioneer in the civil rights movement and a powerful and outspoken advocate for equality in education. Douglass was an author, an abolitionist, a diplomat, a statesman, and a reformer. He was bold and brave; he declared “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” He did not live quietly nor did he make others comfortable; he would make others uncomfortable in order to make his point, “to do right.” But I just want to write my stories, teach my classes, and reach those kids I can. What I do for trans rights I would do for homosexual, minority, gender, age, and religious rights. My cry for across the board equality does not make me heroic, because it is a call that all people in an educated society should take up. I’m not trying to be a hero, I’m trying to be human.
If I am anything I am Ralph Hanley, The Greatest American Hero. A bumbling, slightly incompetent but dedicated teacher who hates the mantle that has been thrust upon him by fate (in this case a super-suit delivered by aliens). Ralph doesn’t want to save the world, he just wants to teach his kids. He is an anti-hero in many regards because he hates the position he has found himself in and would give it up in a heartbeat to go back to being ordinary. He is only doing what he has to do, what fate has forced upon him. I did not transition to become a representative for others like me, because I am a poor representation of the transsexual community. I do not pass well, I am a joke to many, if anything my presence in the community confirms people’s bigoted beliefs that the MtF is a guy in a dress, a bad sketch on a British sitcom. So many others do this so much better than I, that I don’t understand why anyone would look to me and say: there is an advocate for equality, there is a courageous person, there is someone to emulate, there is a hero.
I’m no hero. I’m just trying to be me.
- Anti-Hero: Can We Relate? (epicwriter88.wordpress.com)