Beyond Appearances


1186 words

I stand before you as a contradiction in appearances. Those who know me understand that I am transgender, and perhaps that I am asexual.

Those who judge by appearances, however, often see me as a projection of their worst fears about themselves, who then scapegoat me to avoid their own projected shame. Transspirits like me tend to be targeted by such appearance judgers.

Being outside the norm

First, let me reveal to you what it means for me to be transgender, and then what it means for me to be asexual. Both are steeped deep in my spirituality as a transspirit.

Despite appearing as a masculine person, I am transgender. I transcend the gender binary.

Others may exist with only one set of gendered traits of the gender binary, but not me. I am spiritually compelled to co-exist with both. Love compels me to be both nurturing and protective, both intuitive and rational, both reflective and decisive. Spirituality compels me to connect all feminine and masculine traits into a holistic union.

Others may feel it wrong to not appear as their God-given gender, but not me. Responsibility compels me to internally integrate my feminine and masculine energies into one whole being. Then to express this gender integration outwardly.

Others may feel completed by a gendered other, but not me. I must be continually gender whole. Others don’t complete me; I complete them.

Despite any appearance that I should feel easily aroused if attracted, I am asexual. I’m not interested in sex with others.

Others may feel instantly aroused when attracted to another, but not me. Like the Apostle Paul, I do not “burn.”

Others may freely function sexually with a stranger, but not me. I am a specific kind of asexual, known as a demisexual. I only experience sexual feelings toward a person after I’ve developed a deep emotional connection over time.

Others could boast of many sexual partners, but not me. There’s only one person in my life with whom I’ve connected emotionally deep enough: my former and now future spouse. Our union produced four wonderful children, who are now having wonderful children of their own. But appearance judgers robbed them of a father.

Appearance judgers

Second, now let me share with you what happened when I was outed by people who judge by appearances. And how these appearance judgers project their own shame, when scapegoating a sacred misfit like me.

Please travel back in time with me to 1993. The nation was in the grip of a moral panic. You turn on the cable news and you frequently hear reports of child molesters. They appear to be everywhere. The news would have you believe pedophiles are right in your neighborhood, stalking your own children.

Believers were also easily convinced that gay and transgender people were sexual deviants. They can’t breed their own, these appearance judgers believed, so we have to recruit their children into our “deviant sexual lifestyles.” That’s how we appeared to them.

The only recruiting of children was unscrupulous investigators enlisting young people into accusing adults with false promises and leading questions. “You can rejoin your parents soon,” they assured, “Just tell us where your daddy touched you. Did he touch you down there?”

A coerced testimony of a child is all it takes to convict. What if the testimony is inconsistent, or simply too fanciful or bizarre to be true? No problem. Lack of corroborating evidence? That’s no problem either. As long as the jury believes the grown-up words the prosecutor can manage to bring out of the mouth of child.

“We must believe the children,” they’d say, while they themselves refused to believe them at first, until these vulnerable young souls said exactly what these investigators wanted to hear. In 1993 you likely didn’t hear about these interrogation methods performed on children, or its associated problem with confirmation bias, or about its many resulting wrongful convictions.

In 1993 these appearance judgers indoctrinated some child I’ve never met to point an accusing finger at me. Once accused, I learned, all credibility gets shot. Despite all I’ve just shared about being transgender and asexual—or perhaps because of it—I am now a convicted child molester.

Let that sink in for a moment. Convicted. Child. Molester.

Think about it. Judging. By. Appearances.

Now chew on this. Coerced child testimony. No corroborating evidence. No accusations from my own children. Transphobic prosecution. Conviction affirmed by appellate court. Judged by appearances. Judged by mere appearances.

The high price of not fitting into a broken world

Over twenty years later, it’s hard enough finding a job as a transgender person. It’s next to impossible with a sex offender conviction. When I found an employer willing to hire ex-felons and not discriminate against gender identity and its expression, I was encouraged. They denied me a job because I’m on the sex offender registry. I’m condemned to be on the sex offender registry for life. All because of who I am, not because of anything I did. But because of appearances.

Perhaps I now appear to you as just another criminal trying to avoid responsibility. “Don’t all prisoners claim to be innocent?” No, they do not. The majority of prisoners actually admit to their criminal behavior. They may deny its harmful effects, or blame their actions on others, or complain about the unfairness of the sentencing. But contrary to popular belief, as one study notes, only 15% of prisoners claim full innocence.

When a prisoner maintains their innocence throughout their lengthy prison sentence and beyond, it’s time to listen. When they repeatedly get denied parole for maintaining their innocence, forcing them to serve their maximum sentence, they likely are innocent.

Unfortunately, prosecutors deny or minimize their damaging errors, for appearance sake. We live in an era where it’s now easier for convicts to admit their human imperfections than for prosecutors and law enforcement to admit theirs.

Called to account

Enough. Self-righteousness is a weak savior. Who will watch the watchers? Where is the accountability? Where can one turn for justice?

Those who judge by appearances shall be judged by appearances. The measure they give shall be measured right back to them. Those who deny justice may find their own needs for justice easily denied. But those who respect the needs of others allow others to more readily respect their needs.

Today, there remains a shortage of resources to overcome wrongful convictions like mine, so I wait. Tomorrow, every self-righteous prosecutor and judge will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

So today, I officially remain as a convicted child molester. For those who judge by appearances. Tomorrow, I expose the self-serving façade of the criminal justice process.

Today, I remain listed on the sex offender registry. For those who judge by appearances. Tomorrow, my stellar innocence shall indict anyone who still judge by appearances.

When the very ones we trust to uphold what is good arrogantly ignore the facts to keep judging by appearances, it is a quite an evil. Ultimately, it’s not my shame in question. It’s theirs. And when evil calls me evil, I am virtually affirmed as good.

I am already standing on the right side of history. Where do you now stand?

Steph is a self-described transspirit, which is a kind of sacred misfit. By transcending conventional limits—gender norms, religious identities, political polarities, and more—Steph experiences a unique connection in life. And suspects others do as well. This blog shares that spirituality, and affirms others of a similar state of being.

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