So…before I go into what is on my mind today, I have to thank Tetra for the inspiration for this post. I saw this outfit at C88 and just had to have it! Along with this outfit being super cute…it also made think of tennis. Don’t ask me why, but it did. Ironically, the whole tennis theme ties in very well with what I have been thinking about for the past couple of days.
The other day, I posted a Ted Talk clip on Facebook. I don’t know if any of you have ever watched any Ted Talks, but they are truly fascinating. The series comes here to Richmond every now and then and its amazing to watch these people talk so eloquently for ten minutes or less on an important topic. The clip I posted was a young guy named Jack. Jack just happens to be a transgender male and his talk was amazing.
Jack spent his time talking about how awkward it can be as a transgender person and a few of the common misconceptions the general public has about those of us in the midst of or who have completed transition. He highlighted HRT, coming out, people’s sudden focus on what “equipment” we do or don’t have below the belt and which bathroom we use. Granted, it was kind of a high level overview but it hit some great talking points.
At the end of the piece, Jack makes a very profound statement. He states that he hopes on day, when he says to someone, “Hi. I’m Jack and I’m transgender,” that the only response he will hear is, “Hi. Nice to meet you.”
When I shared this on Facebook, a woman who has been such a sweetheart and such a supporter of me and the LGBTQ population as a while made the statement that for myself and others transitioning, we shouldn’t even have to mention that we are transgender. And you know what, she’s right. And in many cases, we don’t have to. But if we are doing advocacy work, it typically is a bit of a requirement.
So how does this all tie in to tennis? I haven’t dropped the ball, literally or figuratively. I promise.
I think the game of tennis is such a great example of how people like myself need to address society and its misconceptions of us. The easy part to discuss is the fact that tennis is a long, drawn out game. Points are won and lost. Games are won and lost. Sets are won and lost. In the end, it doesn’t matter how many points, game or sets you have won so long as you win enough to win the match. As myself and others battle to be guaranteed basic human rights under the law, I often view that battle much like a tennis match. We will win some points and lose some points. We will win some games and lose some games. We may even lose a set at some point. But its a long game and all I care about is winning the match.
The other reason I think tennis is such a great comparison to being more accepted by society is because tennis is one of the few sports where we have truly seen minorities fight their way to the top of the game over the past 50 years. It also is one of the very few sports where women have just as much of the spotlight as the men do, so you get a very broad based picture.
Growing up in a family that loved tennis, I remember watching Chris Evert Lloyd battle against Billy Jean King and Martina Navratilova. I remember Stefi Graf coming onto the scene and taking the tennis world by storm. I remember Jimmy Conners battling John McEnroe. These greats dominated the scene. But then, as every Virginia native should know, this young African American gentleman from Richmond shocked the tennis world by becoming the only African American man to win the US Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon. This young man was named Arthur Ashe.
Arthur Ashe helped break down barriers all through society because he believed the way to achieve success was to remain positive, focused and treat your fellow man with the same level of respect you expected from others. He was rather soft spoken and yet, on the tail end of the Civil Rights movement, he broke down a multitude of barriers. He used his prominence to become not just an advocate for the African American community, but also an advocate for education in the cities.
He took on a third advocacy role later in life when he contracted HIV during surgery and used his notoriety to influence the course of HIV by testifying before Congress and speaking publicly so that the myth of HIV and AIDS being “The Gay Plague” would be disproven and the government would be forced to put time and money into HIV research. He did this by being professional, courteous, respectful and educated. Arthur Ashe carried himself with the same level of dignity on his death bed as he did when he stepped into the world of professional tennis.
The Williams sisters, while a bit flashier than Arthur Ashe, have done much the same in women’s tennis. These two incredibly talented African American women stormed into the tennis scene and have never looked back. They have worked hard and carried themselves well. Even after an event at the Indian Wells Masters where the Williams sister felt racially attacked, they carried themselves with pride and dignity. They did not speak of the event, not wanting to attack tennis as a whole, until Serena wrote about it in her autobiography. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, despite people wanting them to speak out, they choose to remain true to their selves and their success in tennis has been astounding.
Maybe it makes sense now how Jack’s talk and my little history of tennis tie together in my head. Maybe it doesn’t. I guess my point is this. As much as I should never have to tell anyone I am transgender and have it be an issue, these individuals I mentioned never should have had their race be a factor in whether or not they could play the sport of tennis. They did what they could to show they were people and tennis players first, plain and simple. And they fought for each win and title…sometimes having to lose ground and then fight their way back to victory. They did this in a sport that has had very little minority representation.
As those of us who are transitioning, and our supporters, work to educate the public and press our governments to see us as normal people deserving the same dignity and respect every other human being deserves, shouldn’t we follow the examples of people like Arthur Ashe and the Williams sisters? Instead of becoming negative and deciding things will never improve after we lose one game or set, shouldn’t we stand tall and keep fighting to win the match?
I know where I stand on this.
See Jack’s Ted Talk here.
See it on Flickr.
Poseidon – Anime Saeko 12
Astralia Tennis Collection Set
Single Tennis ball
Tennis balls basket
Tennis balls tube
Tennis Court chair
Tennis Court umbrella
Tennis Racket Pink
“Green Clay Tennis Court”
“Tennis Court metal fence layout”
newly planted birch tree [with dirt mound]