It amuses me to no end that society can look at others that are different than them and, as they judge those differences, act as if they are meeting a talking unicorn.  Too often the words ‘exotic’, ‘foreign’, or ‘alien’ are used to describe those “different” people.  The fact that all of us are human leaves the picture as our differences become what identifies us.  No longer human, you are just a specimen in the freakshow that others have constructed.  People ignore the performance, the narrative of the life in front of them, and focus on the “obscenity” of the performer in front of them.

Being both transgender and psychopathic, I see this all the time should I choose to disclose.  Many, upon learning that I am transgender, immediately ask what I have between my legs.  Many ask why I altered my body.  Hell, one person even immediately asked if I was HIV-positive.  They were asking invasive questions and making ridiculous assumptions because they wanted a voyeuristic look at my life and wanted to justify their own prejudices based off one trait that I was willing to disclose.  They were not interested in the story as a whole.  They were more interested in exaggerating the differences between us.

The questions I often get when others learn that I am psychopathic are not much more intelligent.  I’ve been asked if I have murdered; I’ve been asked what terrible things I would like to do.  Others so desperately want to see the differences that they lose the narrative in its entirety.  By going for the extreme, and assumed, differences, they can take solace in their own existence even as I have no reason to be unhappy with mine.  I am not a freak nor a talking unicorn; I am human – I just simply am different in core areas.

I remember a time in which I saw a sideshow artist perform.  He would pierce himself onstage as part of a performance.  Dozens of needles, in various places, headlined the act.  The blood could be seen from anyone’s seat and he showed little pain.  He was performing, but many were not staring for the performance; they were staring for the “absurdity” and “vulgarity” of the act.  I was not.  I was merely watching a performer give the performance that he chose to perform.  I had no judgement, only appreciation, of the act in front of me.   I was not like the others that wretched and shook their heads at what was in front of them.  I was fixated on the performance, not the performer and how he differed from I.

There is a fine line between intelligent curiosity and voyeuristic disrespect.  When so many are focused on identifying what separates those that are like them from those that are different in order to justify their own prejudice and phobias, there is no chance for positive discourse.  No one asks the bearded lady how being such affects her life.  They stare, taking pleasure that they are not the “monstrosity” in front of them.  Society gets so caught up in the “exotic” differences between others and themselves that they lose the true education and appreciation to be had of simply watching the performance.

Image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Use of this image should not imply endorsement of this post by the image author, Carlos Ostos Sabugal.

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