Who Knew Playing The Dozens Would Help Me In My Activist Life?

In the wake of Zoey Tur allowing herself to get baited by conservafool Ben Shapiro into losing her cool on national television, it underscored a few things that we were concerned about in Trans World.

She had already shown this propensity to be hardheaded and not listen to folks who had been in these trans human rights wars decades before she transitioned.   She’d also shown a problematic tendency in intracommunity conversations to be hotheaded, which burned her in that disastrous TLC interview last Thursday.

As I have pondered what happened,  I thought about the fact that our community would have been better served by someone with a cooler head in that situation.

But that’s a subject for another time and post, and I’m going to move on to the main topic of this one..

People have asked me how I stay calm in the face of situations like that or in last year’s HERO battle.  Last year as we fought to pass that much needed Houston human rights ordinance, we faced hours of unrelenting insults by our right wing opponents trying to get a rise out of us that they could seize on to bash us over the head with later..

It’s a skill that believe it or not, I learned in my childhood when I used to play the dozens with my friends.

What’s the dozens you ask?  It’s a game in which you and an opponent square off and hurl insults at each other with two goals in mind.  Goal number one is to make everyone watching the battle of wits laugh at the insults you are hurling at your opponent.   The second goal is to make your opponent lose their cool.

You win the game when either that losing their cool by your opponent happens, you are judged by the people watching to have landed the more humorous verbal jabs or y’all keep throwing barbs at each other, no one loses it, and both of you end it and just go on your merry way.

But little did I realize at the time that playing the dozens in my teen years would have real world applications in my adult life.   Playing the dozens taught me how to think fast on my feet, which is an invaluable quality to have when you are lobbying, doing a media interview, in a tense customer service situation, combating the Ignorati or writing a blog.

And as two faith based haters found out in Houston city council chambers last year when they crossed my path, it also taught me how to quickly come up with humorous insults that would cut to the bone, as when I called them ‘Bible-thumping Barbies’ or shut down an HRC lobbyist who stepped to me the wrong way at the 2000 National Transgender Policy Meeting.

Hey, as I’ve said more than a few times, I don’t have to be nice to or respect people who wish to oppress me.

It also taught me how to even if I’m pissed about something you said, I don’t let you see it, and stay focused on the task at hand.   Depending on the situation, I can either coolly come back with factoids to rebut your erroneous statements in a lobbying setting, or strike back hard with a rapid fire verbal volley of my own capable of making you lose your cool for the world to see.

But who knew that playing the dozens would have real world applications, and become an invaluable tool in my activist toolbox?

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