How to Change the World, Justina
Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 11:05AM
Elena Taurke in Aging, Dance, Evolution, Inclusion, LGBTQ, Outsider, People Getting Old, People of Color, PsychoZen Meets Life, Racism

One morning on the way to Ballet class, I hear the news that Black Americans are moving away from northern urban areas toward the South and into the suburbs.  This interests me for what it will mean for diversity, so I remember it.  

As we chitchat before class, Justina, a young Black woman just returned from a family visit to Tennessee, comments:  "The South never changes."   I argue briefly and then ponder her comment for the remainder of class.  (You can blame all my mistakes on that!)   When class is over I ask her what she meant.  A graduate student in Social Psychology, she is frustrated by entrenched patterns:  expectations shape behavior, behavior reinforces expectations, and the cycle perpetuates itself.   Indeed, I agree.   Except here she is, an exception.  Is she an exception?   Identified as the smart one in the family, she was honor tracked, expected to excel, and she did.  Then she moved to NY to receive the kind of education that enables her to question the status quo.  Will she change the world?   She wants to, but is daunted by the mighty obstacles:  people who can't think for themselves, politicians who cater to and foment greed, anger and ignorance, the perpetuation of the us/them mentality.  I get it.  I do.  But listen….

A hometown boy from Silverton, Oregon encounters The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and decides he wants to dress up too.  He starts with nails, adds costumes and finally acquires a nice set of boobs.   The town?   Denial, surprise,  laughter, disdain, criticism and then…..and then….acceptance!  The guy becomes the freakin mayor of the town, boobs and all, and though the sexually repressed among the citizens complain about his cleavage at town meetings, they just want him to button up, not change his essence.   What is my point?  My point, Justina, is that we change the world through intimate encounters.  The townsfolk of Silverton, had they not encountered the mayor's boobs, would have maintained their ideas and opinions about trannies.*   Instead they are mixing it up.  

A little later, the horrid Proposition 8, the prohibition against same-sex marriage in California, is ruled unconstitutional by a judge who happens to be gay and involved in a long-term relationship.  And a fancy law firm decides to stop helping the government 'defend' heterosexual marriage.  

I am probably 25 years older than Justina.  At her age I wanted revolution.  Well, actually I still do.  I like the excitement.   But in those 25 years, I have noticed that the mightiest methods have the biggest backlash while the imperceptible changes penetrate like a misty day.  You don't carry an umbrella when it's misting, do you?  35 years ago, I thought I had never met a gay person.  Now I'm not sure that anyone is truly heterosexual.  I am drenched in Queer. 

Actually, it is not possible not to change.   We think things don't change only if we keep seeing things our way.  But it won't work, not if we bump into other people.  With each encounter, with each surprise, with each conflict we change.  

Did I mention that I am 25 years older than Justina?  Yes, and I identify with her.  She is younger, her skin is a different color and I think she is an American and yet I identify with her.  Why?  Because I have the idea that we are both outsiders; we are both newcomers to ballet yet evidently have physical and cognitive intelligence.  It's a distinct position, this one.  You agree to strive with all your might and still look idiotic by ballet standards.  It requires a kind of bravery and confidence.  So, she's like me.  But then I see the difference.  She can really jump, her splits are magnificent, and her mind is quicker than mine.  She's not like me.  Scratch the surface and find the difference.  Scratch the difference and you find the sameness.  Later, in a more personal conversation, I discover that her parents are immigrants like mine, not many-generational Americans as I first thought.   Different country, similar isolation from American community.  Different body, similar challenge.   Different person, same humanity.  

As we encounter each other, difference rubs against sameness and we evolve.  How can we not change the world?  

*actually Stu is not a tranny, he's a male cross dresser but it counts a little because he is perceived as an in-between by more gendered onlookers.  

June 2011 

Update on Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:40PM by Registered CommenterElena Taurke



Ballet class peeps rock. :) I adore your blog.

We will change the world, I think, if not by anything but sheer force of will.

(And, Justina's jumps are awesome.)

from Elaine B on Facebook  6/10/2011

‎"...the mightiest methods have the biggest backlash while the imperceptible changes penetrate like a misty day." They do, though frustratingly slowly! Mighty methods are necessary sometimes of course. But the personal, intimate encounters, unless counteracted by other forces, have some effect, eventually.


Frustrating as that slowness is, as I've aged, I came to surrender to the words of Gandhi: "Be the change you want to see in the world." It requires faith and letting go while moving forward. So I try to let go of the mighty method of judging the world for not measuring up to my expectations. Mist arrives...I breathe and sigh... 

Justina's Network Reacts!

Awesome exchange on Justina's Facebook page.  Reprinted here for you. 

i'm on someone's blog! some of the details are a lil off, but hey! i love the message of the post: "As we encounter each other, difference rubs against sameness and we evolve. How can we not change the world?"
    ◦     Meka-Nicole  Interesting... 
    ◦     Justina  haha that sounds like a "i totally disagree"-type "interesting"
    ◦     Meka-Nicole  Actually, I agree with the main thought that intimate encounters will evolve us, thus leading to change. I also believe the South is still following the "good 'ol boy" system and needs to "scratch" more. What was interesting was the train of thought that led to this epiphany, as it is written anyway. It made me giggle. 
    ◦     Justina  yeah - at first I was like, huhhh? but i got the point after a second. i see the point that intimate encounters create change but that's a small piece of change. i have to think about that.
    ◦     Meka-Nicole You know how he mentioned the 25 year age gap? Well that's about how long it takes for that type of change to be felt, if not longer... 
    ◦     Justina  yeah she did say that..change takes a while, but the process is always happening. the challenge is to become a part of it & push it further 
    ◦     Cynthia Yes, to the" intimate encounters" lead to change. But the infrastructure of a typical American setting (including the South) has to allow for these exchanges: in a place like NYC, there are integrated neighborhoods (thanks to gentrification, ironically), and there is "overlap" of "people from different neighborhoods", to put it obliquely. We sit next to each other on the train,pass by each other on the street, minimum. No chance of that happening in suburbia or exurbia. I think urban design and planning, and architecture could really make a difference here---creating living ,working, and mercantile sectors that necessitate pedestrian traffic, bumping into each other, cutting out the isolating bubble of car-driving...That's pretty cool that you're in someone's blog, Justina!!! :)

    ◦     Dana  is it bad that what i'm most intrigued by is the fact that you can do a split like that? i mean... dang. oh, and the change thing is good, too. i'm on board. 
    ◦     Justina to Cynthia : yeah, i see what you're saying: but does that imply that urban areas typically have a quicker social change process? there may be more people fighting for change here, but the disparities are even bigger in urban areas, right? and just because urban areas might have more liberals or democrats (unlike more traditional southern towns) that means nothing to me.. we all sit next to each other n live next to each other n still don't talk, you know - whether conservative, liberal, whatever. anyhow - we need to meet up in astoria sometime n chat!

    ◦     Justina to Dana  you're funny (seriously - you really are.). i appreciate that you are intrigued by that 
    ◦     Wan Ja I dig. Which is why I'm always like it's worth it to interact with the privileged conservative type folks who just seem to get on your friggin nerves. As you already know, this is only a piece of the puzzle. Ha, you're the bomb for engaging in these convos. 
    ◦     Edgar  Definitely likes. Big ups, Justina and I like her message. At the end of the day, we are all the same. . .I could see you saying cynically "The South never changes" ha ha! 
    ◦     Justina  ‎Wan Ja, i dunno about ALWAYS worth it haha (that's some serious groin punches to my general day-to-day sanity) but it is critical. Edgar just imagine it said w/ a medium-intensity side eye & monotonous voice, and you hit the nail on the head haha 
    ◦     Ré YOU ARE SO COOL. 
    ◦     Justina  ‎ Ré , you are too nice! 
    ◦     Casey  love this! :) 
    ◦     Elena TaJo Fabulous reactions! I agree with Cynthia about needing infrastructure to encounters happen, and I add the imperative to push ourselves into truthful conversation, even if it makes us uncomfortable. So, Justina, yes to Astoria and also to family conversations, as we just realized together. 

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