Americans continue to underestimate peer pressure, but I’m not sure that there is a manipulation force in the west that is more powerful than that of peer pressure. In fact, the dangers of peer pressure are ones that I constantly watch out for; as I’ve said countless times, it will only take one drunken idiot jokingly saying, “We should teach that fag a lesson” for it to grow out of control. We all know how it will play out next: his friends will agree, and the next thing you know they’re on their way to my house with chains and bats, and the first drunken idiot’s reservations about it are kept quiet.
I think it was in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that Dumbledore remarked that standing up to one’s friends is among the most difficult things that a person can do, and this remains true today. Yet I’m seeing a lot of condemnation for the cops who stood around and did little, or nothing, to stop the arresting asshole from being an arresting asshole.
Absolutely, yes–that was wrong of those officers. But let’s not pretend like most of us would have done otherwise in that position. The overwhelming majority of us would have stood around silently, keeping our reservations quiet. The top-right officer, who you can see in the video putting his hand on the asshole and attempting to calm him, is the only one who did something to try to calm the situation, and I daresay that it was far more than what 99% of people would do.
We all like to think we’re immune to peer pressure. But we’re not. Because he says it infinitely better than I can, take a few minutes to watch this short video on conformity by therapist and psychologist TheraminTrees:
This is an observed phenomenon that affects the majority of people.
It’s easy to stand there and condemn the cops for doing nothing. Yet how many of us have stood and watched a fight play out, and one person be kicked in the head while they lie on the ground? You know what you see when you watch the video of the nurse being arrested, and everyone else standing around and watching?
Notice all the people standing around, watching, as “a few bad apples” engage in being bad apples. Those “good apples” in Antifa–they’re doing nothing to put a stop to this, to calm the situation, to de-escalate it. I’m not ripping on Antifa; the exact same thing is seen in the cop video, or in any video of a mob targeting a single person. The horrific murder of Kelly Thomas certainly applies. You’re watching animals–bloodthirsty predatory animals–who smell blood circle around and pounce on their target.
I remember being in high school, my ninth grade year, when a friend of ours wanted to put together “a gang.” I don’t remember what he called it, but it wasn’t “gang,” though it had the same effect. Naturally, we all agreed, and the rule was anyone who wanted out had to fight the guy who put it together. None of us took it seriously, of course. Then one guy said he wanted out. They fought in the locker room of the Fieldhouse. These two large dudes shoved each other through lockers while everyone else watched. No one moved to stop it. No one went to get the coaches. No one jumped in, because these two behemoths would have crushed most people purely by accident. But there were more than enough of us to rally together and break up the fight.
And none of us did.
On September 11, 2001, a number of planes were hijacked by a relatively small number of people. The passengers, despite being numerous enough to overwhelm the hijackers, consistently did nothing, in at least three out of four of the alleged hijackings*. Because it’s not just a simple matter of “Hey, everyone, we can take these guys! We can put a stop to this.” Anyone who thinks it’s that simple has never been in such a situation.
The reality is that, even if “everyone else” joins in, that first person who acts is as good as dead. Even if five other people would have jumped in and overpowered the hijacker and his box-cutter (or whatever), the first person who jumped for the hijacker was still dead. Of course, in the grand scheme, they were all dead, weren’t they? Surely we have to wonder why, once it became clear that they were all going to die, they did not take over the plane? It was not cowardice; they were not cowards. No, it’s too easy to call them cowards, but that doesn’t carry water. If you tell an animal they’re about to die, they’ll not passively submit.
The answer is more insidious and more dangerous: peer pressure.
Further, we have to ask ourselves what would have happened if one of the cops had moved forward to put a stop to it? Even though it’s pretty clear from the video that most of the cops present had quiet reservations (anyone familiar with body language can see this), only the one guy did anything about it. What if he had done more? He’d have been fired, or at the least reprimanded for questioning another officer’s authority during an arrest. You know how a mother occasionally says to the father, “How dare you challenge me in front of the kids?” or how the father says that to the mother? It’s the same thing here.
Good apples and bad apples is too simplistic of a view. It’s not that simple. There are good apples (yes, coming from me), and you can often see their reservations about how things are developing. It’s easy to criticize them for not stepping forward and putting a stop to the bad apples’ bullshit, but this criticism drastically underestimates the power of peer pressure–the same power that caused the Salem Witch Trials, the anti-clown hysteria of last year, the anti-Russian hysteria, the current Neo-Nazi hysteria. The same power that causes peaceful Antifa protestors to stand around and do nothing as their comrades pile on single individuals and beat them.
We can’t address this quickly or easily. We have to go to the source, and the source is peer pressure. It takes far more forms than the simple “Ah, you know you want to smoke this marijuana” indicated by afterschool specials. Watch the video I linked to get a more complete picture of what, exactly, peer pressure can do–what that innate desire to conform to others can do. It’s powerful.
I’ve been discussing the matter a bit with the colleague who emailed me yesterday, and they’re pretty solid, as far as explanations go, so I thought I’d edit them a bit share them. I’ve not edited out anything important, though. I really, really hate talking about myself in third person, and referring to “my female self” and “my male self.” All I can do is keep making this qualification that it’s not really like that, because this is necessary until society stops linking a person’s gender so tightly with their identity.
I do go places, yes, but not very often. Increasingly often, but that’s more or less normal–kinda like being in high school and going to class with a new haircut. At first it’s like “Are people going to say it looks stupid?” or something to that effect, but that ceases, and then it’s just the way things are, and no one notices–and people noticing may have been all in one’s head in the first place. But that’s high school and hair cuts, so the analogy fails in a few places.
To be politically correct, the term would be non-op transgender, though I don’t like that because it didn’t communicate anything to you unless you already knew what that meant. The term that I use is shemale, because everyone knows what that is, but that’s not entirely accurate either since I’m still my male self, at least part of the time.
I don’t think most people make a choice about [their gender]. Or, at least, I wasn’t allowed to. Although hindsight makes it obvious that I was trying to make that choice, dad and grandma basically made it for me. Imagine, though, that you’re sitting on the couch and using your laptop. The television is on, but you’re not really paying any attention to it. It’s just background noise, maybe with a show you like but a rerun that you’ve seen before. But then the show changes, and it’s Teletubbies or something equally irritating. Suddenly the thing to which you’d given no thought is bothering the hell out of you, and you have to change the channel.
As analogies go, that one is pretty close, because gender isn’t something anyone thinks about until it’s an issue. And the critical moment is when they get up to change the channel. In my case, I was smacked back down (literally, at that) and told I had to watch it. But last year I realized that I could change the channel, that no one could actually stop me any longer, and that I’d fallen into watching that channel out of habit, had convinced myself that I liked Teletubbies because I had been forced to watch it. I realized that I hate Teletubbies (strong, not-really-applicable language) and wanted to change the channel–and needed to change the channel, to thwart some self-destructive behavior that was leading me to try to get my fix of South Park by having a friend tell me about the episodes. That metaphor kinda fell apart… But… not really, because it’s surprisingly applicable.
But it’s definitely accelerated, because I’m making up for lost time–I don’t want to watch that show more than I have to. But I do have to watch it some for the time being; I’ve made peace with that. In real terms, it’s only a difference of appearance. For like the last nine months, any emails you received after about 9 came “from Aria, not [my male self],” and that’s what I mean–I’m still the same person, same thoughts, same tendencies, but now with less issues eating at me.
Obviously, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking along the lines of masculinity and femininity. You’re not wrong to say that [my male self] is pretty much all male (having to talk about myself in third person hasn’t gotten any easier), and that’s intentional. Mannerisms, stances–all that is ingrained in kids without their even noticing, and all of these combine to project masculinity. The same is true regarding women, as well–women blink a lot more, angle their joints more, walk and sit differently. These are mostly learned, though. I remember being a kid in Pontotoc and learning that “men cross their legs like this, women cross their legs like this.” All this probably has some Nature root, since it’s not all Nurture by any means, but it can all be learned. And yes, it requires constant awareness to keep from sitting the wrong way, crossing my legs the wrong way, tilting my head the wrong way. But that’s still behavior that can be trained, becoming automatic based on whatever I’m wearing.
It’s like learning a new language, in some ways. Did you know that people always curse in their native language? It doesn’t matter how many languages I learn–I’ll always yell “fuck!” and not something in Italian or Russian. But the real point of this line of thought is that it can be differentiated when to speak English and when to speak a new language. Even though I may speak Russian 90% of the time, I still know when to speak English, and it becomes natural, around English speakers, to speak English, and natural, around Russian speakers, to speak Russian. But yeah, if the cats randomly run across my feet and claw my toes open, [my male self] will be the one who cries out, no matter the other circumstances. Maybe that can be trained out, too.
I don’t know whether most people decide, but that decision was made for me, and it was only recently that I realized I could change the channel. For the first time in my life, really, and, as soon as I realized that, everything else made sense. The deep, chronic need to have a slender, long haired brunette in my life–it was suddenly obvious. Going back the past twenty five years, everything suddenly made sense. But it’s also the case that in 1990, expecting my parents to be on board with that would have been expecting them to be decades ahead of their time. And my mom probably was, because she never minded. But I don’t blame dad and grandma for not being way ahead of the curve. They didn’t handle it nearly as well as they could have, but my issue isn’t that they failed to be ahead of the times; my issue is that that, even then, they were behind the times, and that love for me wasn’t a priority–falling in with the fundamentalist christian line was the priority.
But no one was discussing this in 1990, and I only knew that there was some kind of issue there. “Transgender” wasn’t even a word then, and damn sure not a word that would have reached a four year old in Mississippi. So I was confused, and it wasn’t until my early 20s that society had gotten to a point where I’d have been able to make sense of things, because I was still thinking in those ingrained binary terms. It has never been the case that someone is male or female–these terms only identify sexual organs. Behavior and identity have always been enormous spectra of varying shades, but society has always drawn a dividing line along the spectrum. But, even so, it was still a long uphill battle because I was married then–and it’s so much easier to just go along with what is working than it is to throw a wrench in things.
Is this why I left [my ex-wife]? I don’t know. If it is, then it was extremely unconscious, because this wasn’t on my mind in those months at all. But considering I’ve never come up with a sensible answer why I left [my ex-wife] in the first place… I don’t know. And then it was a struggle just to get my life back on track. Then, despite working at the best possible places in the state to have such a realization (and, to be clear, the realization hadn’t come then anyway) because they’re an international corporation and wouldn’t have risked the bad PR, Harrah’s closed and my life got thrown out of whack again. Then I did the Vegas thing.
And only when I was picking up the pieces of what was my heart and soul did I catch a glimpse of a little shard I’d largely forgotten–but never entirely. And that’s why [my ex-wife] would say she saw it coming. None of my exes would be surprised, because it was never something I was able to repress indefinitely. It always came back to the surface. “Bare minimums,” though, so your junkie analogy isn’t far off. I just misinterpreted what you meant. But yes, it’s similar to an addiction, and one that I’ve always had to fill occasionally. But it’s not an addiction in the way that a drug addiction can destroy, just to be clear. It’s more like your addiction to hunting (presumptuous of me) than my old opiate addiction.
It would be like you being unable to play the guitar, hunt, or even meditate, while being forced to watch a show that you can’t stand. I include all those things because identity is pretty all-encompassing. But I don’t know. As far as relating to the emotions it involves, I’ll have to think more, because that one doesn’t quite hold up.
The genie has never been in the bottle, though–not entirely. When [my ex-wife] first moved in with me, I wasn’t expecting it, and [my ex-wife] found some… “odd”… articles of clothing. [My sister] covered for me and said they were hers, and that her dog probably dragged them in there. I was 18 when [my ex-wife] first moved in with me. I was 3-4 the earliest I remember, hiding all my underwear in the closet because, whenever all mine were dirty, my mom let me wear [my sister]’s. I still remember the night I first dropped the hammer on [my ex-wife], in the gentlest and most non-chalante way possible. I was likely 22 or 23 then. I was 13 when my grandmother, snooping, found clothes that I’d stolen from [my sister] hidden between my mattresses, as well as a porno mag called Lesbian Licks. Lol–the obviousness of it, in hindsight. Girl clothes and a lesbian-specific porno mag. Captain Obvious himself would have been speechless.
When I moved in with my dad a few years later, I found a treasure cove that my great grandmother had left behind. No, don’t get me wrong–I never wore my great grandmother’s clothes. But she had, for unknown reasons, a lot of clothes that had clearly belonged to some contemporary girl around age ten, I’d guess, based on the sizes. And since my dad was never there, that was awesome. But I still didn’t have everything, so I would sneak out when people were gone and steal [my female cousin]’s clothes off the laundry line. I don’t regret that, looking back, because I had no other way to get them, but I did steal them. See why I say it’s so obvious in hindsight? I even broke in through [my male cousin]’s window once, because he always left it unlocked, just to get a pair of jeans or something (I don’t remember the article I needed). Then I started dating [a really awesome ex], and she knew–she even had me wear her prom dress before she’d worn it.
Everything is obvious in hindsight, and that’s truer here than anywhere else. But life went on. I couldn’t have gone to school like that, not in Mississippi, no matter how popular and respected I was. So I just had to “keep on keeping on.” Which, I’m sure, is exactly my dad and grandma wanted and expected when they did all that they did. Or maybe they just seriously underestimated the significance. Since they never gave me the chance to speak, it’s no one’s fault but theirs, though, if they didn’t understand.
That was actually the end of the email, but I want to continue on the subject.
Oh, my dad asked, of course… after I’d overheard him and grandma discussing that they would send me to a home for troubled youth if that turned out to be the case, because my grandma wasn’t going to have that in her house. Only after did I hear that long conversation did dad take me into the backyard and, with his belt in hand, demand in a voice that mixed disgust with anger, “Do you wear them?”
Many people would say that the fault is mine for not answering honestly–in fact, I’ve had a few people say that to me. “You can’t blame them,” they said. “They asked you and you lied, so of course you had to start hiding it. How do you know they wouldn’t have come around?”
There’s this pretty common mentality that people will come around. My sister will come around, they say. My dad will come around, they say. “You should have told them the truth then. They would have been mad and disappointed, but they loved you–they would have come around.” These people infuriate me, because they clearly can’t even relate to life in Mississippi and my life. No, my sister won’t come around. No, my dad won’t come around. No, they wouldn’t have come around back then, either. They’d have sent me to a “home for troubled youth,” at best, or simply kicked me out. I was thirteen.
See, they get their ideas from Hollywood and television, and, never having been in such a situation, they have no idea what the real world is actually like when it comes to this sort of thing. The ignorant remain ignorant. Oh, sure, if we made a movie about this, in the final act the family would come around, realize that they had been wrong, would apologize and welcome me back, and there would be a nice, heartwarming scene as the movie ends on a happy note. This is what informs those people who say “They’ll come around eventually” and “They would have come around eventually.”
Stop looking to Hollywood to tell you how people act. I live in the real world. In the real world, it doesn’t work that way. The ignorant remain ignorant. The closed-minded remain closed-minded. When the degree of closed-mindedness is so great that there are actual threats to kick out this thirteen year old kid, then nothing will pry that mind open. That’s just reality. This isn’t a movie, and if you go around acting like it is, you are going to fuck over a lot of people who take your advice. I can just imagine if some friend had said, “You have to tell them. They’ll react badly, but they’ll come around. They love you.”
I’d have been sent to a home for troubled youth, where I would have gotten no privacy. I went to school with kids who lived there. There was no privacy, very little joy, no luxury. And when they turned 18, that was it–they had to go. And sometimes they had to go at 17. While I did move out of my dad’s at the age of 17–because he kicked me out, actually, it wasn’t “moving out”–the only reason I was able to was that I had a vehicle that my then-girlfriend’s mom had loaned me the money to buy. And if I was living in that home for troubled youth, I wouldn’t have been at my then-girlfriend’s house that day when I got the phone call about the vehicle for sale, and I wouldn’t have had a job to pay back the money. And I lacked any care about school–the greatest mistake of my life. Trust me when I say that having to live in that home would have destroyed me and would have destroyed my life, and that I would almost certainly now be a gas station attendant, at best, living in government housing, on welfare, and on drugs.
I know my dad better than you. When he asked, he wasn’t looking for the truth; he was looking for me to say “no.” He wanted me to say “no,” and the truth would have gotten me beaten that day, even with the neighbors having come outside to see what all the fuss was about. And even if I could have gotten girls’ clothes after being sent to the home–which would have been impossible–there would have been nowhere to hide them, and I would never have gotten the opportunity to wear them. The lie would have devoured me even more than it did.
I would urge everyone to watch this brilliant video by the only YouTuber I support on Patreon: TheraminTrees. He’s brilliant, and his videos are incredible, well worth watching for everyone. This one reiterates exactly what I’ve said in the past: before coming out, you must consider whether or not you can safely come out. If your life is in danger, or if you’re in danger of being kicked out and unable to survive, then you don’t come out. Like I do, TheraminTrees lives in the real world, where there are consequences, and where those consequences are real and have a real effect.
Did you know that I’m on Patreon? You can help ensure that articles like these continue coming regularly as I struggle in Mississippi with a transgender transition by becoming a Patron: https://www.patreon.com/aria_dimezzo?ty=h or by purchasing my short story on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AS5NJHM?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
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