Are You Cisgender? Do You See What Eye See?
Since my college days I have been fascinated by the writings of Maxwell Maltz. His ideas on self-image and self-concept, and his theories of Psycho-Cybernetics, were revolutionary in the field of psychology, but that isn't what fascinates me. What I find most interesting was that Maltz was a practicing cosmetic surgeon, and his clinical and personal insight into his patients' lives and self-images led him to formulate his psychological theories. He has likely helped improved the lives of thousands of his patients not with his surgery, but with his words. I have practiced optometry for over 30 years, and have become pretty skilled at understanding what my patients see. I didn't wear glasses until I was in my forties, but was still able to appreciate the world as seen through their eyes. The most important part of an optometric examination is the case history, where doctor and patient openly discuss what the patient sees and what the patient wants to see. The ability to listen, empathize, and understand the patient's view of their world is essential to the delivery of high quality patient care. As a middle-class, white, cisgender male, I've had the luxury of viewing the world through privileged eyes. But the optometrist in me now realizes that not everyone sees the world as I see it. I have never been discriminated against, offended, abused, abandoned, left homeless, or denied a mortgage because of my gender, gender identity, or race. I can use the men's restroom, get a loan, receive medical care, get a drivers license, marry, or check one of the two choices of gender on an application form without being judged, shamed, or lectured. What's the big deal? What's the problem? Hearing the stories of my transgender friends has opened my eyes and my mind to another view, another perception, another reality. There is a big deal, there is a problem. My vision has expanded and improved tremendously because of the opportunities I have had to meet new people and make new friends. It's very easy to be closed-minded, especially given a privileged view of the world. It's very easy to label and to unfairly judge. It's very easy to not take the time to listen, empathize, and understand. Ignorance and hate are easy choices. It's much more difficult to be open-minded, caring, and accepting, and to be an advocate and a friend. But those are much better choices. There are too many closed-minded and privileged individuals who hold a very narrow view of the world and of others. But I also know there are many open-minded cisgender people who do care, and who want to understand. I just wish there were many more.