Verdict Rendered

How do we develop an ethical framework for judging past actions?

One might say, we look at how those actions transact with the present and future that emerged with them. That is, if we think about time–even a single point in time–as past/present/future in constant and embodied communication, the question of whether or not one should be held accountable for past horrors and violence committed becomes a question about our present and future.

Padma Lakshmi closes her brave and touching personal essay about her own rape at 16 on a similar point.

Some say a man shouldn’t pay a price for an act he committed as a teenager. But the woman pays the price for the rest of her life, and so do the people who love her.

I think if I had at the time named what happened to me as rape — and told others — I might have suffered less. Looking back, I now think I let my rapist off the hook and I let my 16-year-old self down.

Let us not let ourselves down now (or in the future) when we think about holding abusers/predators accountable for sexual assault.  Our ethics in these cases should be wary of a temporal limit.

The Force in her, strong it is.

Self-love is an ethics of liberation, communication, and community.

Kelly Marie Tran–the first woman of colour to have a lead role in a Star Wars movie**–gives us a salient example of all three of these in her personal essay for the NY Times.

I had been brainwashed into believing that my existence was limited to the boundaries of another person’s approval. I had been tricked into thinking that my body was not my own, that I was beautiful only if someone else believed it, regardless of my own opinion. I had been told and retold this by everyone: by the media, by Hollywood, by companies that profited from my insecurities, manipulating me so that I would buy their clothes, their makeup, their shoes, in order to fill a void that was perpetuated by them in the first place.

Yes, I have been lied to. We all have.

And it was in this realization that I felt a different shame — not a shame for who I was, but a shame for the world I grew up in. And a shame for how that world treats anyone who is different.

I am not the first person to have grown up this way. This is what it is to grow up as a person of color in a white-dominated world. This is what it is to be a woman in a society that has taught its daughters that we are worthy of love only if we are deemed attractive by its sons. This is the world I grew up in, but not the world I want to leave behind.

I am here for Tran’s loving work (and work at loving herself and loving others like herself).  I am here for leaving behind a new world using an ethics of love.

I know how important that is. And I am not giving up.

You might know me as Kelly.

I am the first woman of color to have a leading role in a “Star Wars” movie.

I am the first Asian woman to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair.

My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started.

I am here for Loan.

 

 

**As a Star Trek fan, it is important to note that the first woman of colour that I even saw in space was Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Nyota Uhura.  (She later achieved the rank of Commander.)

 

“It’s a clean slate–and a new world.”

Josie Totah’s (of the television sitcom Champions) personal essay at Times.com about her identity as a transgender woman is generous, thoughtful, and hopeful.  I am excited for her “clean slate,” her “new world,” and most importantly, all of her exciting new acting roles!

There are still things that scare me. Identity documents can be hard for transgender people to change. I’m afraid of that moment when someone looks at the ID, looks at the photo, looks at the gender marker – looks at you. I never want to feel like I’m not allowed in somewhere because of who I am. I’m scared that being transgender is going to limit me in that way. And I’m scared that I’ll be judged, rejected, made uncomfortable, that people will look at me differently.

But when my friends and family call me Josie, it feels like I’m being seen. It’s something everyone wants, to feel understood. And, as a semi-religious person who went to Catholic school, I have come to believe that God made me transgender. I don’t feel like I was put in the wrong body. I don’t feel like there was a mistake made. I believe that I am transgender to help people understand differences. It allows me to gain perspective, to be more accepting of others, because I know what it feels like to know you’re not like everyone else.

Also, hat tip to Jazz Jennings and her groundbreaking series I am Jazz for helping young trans people (and their loved ones) like Josie.