Fear Factor

Fear Factor

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As my bio states below, I am a classic hard rock and heavy metal fan. These musical genres got their start in England during the middle and late 1960s. One of the most influential and enduring acts of the era was Black Sabbath, featuring lead vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. The group took its name from the English-language release of a 1963 Boris Karloff movie, whose original Italian title was I Tre Volte della Paura (The Three Faces of Fear).

When the band was getting started in 1969 and looking for a name, this movie was playing in the theater directly across the street from their recording studio. (TGForum readers of a certain age may recall the days before cable TV and VCRs, when popular movies would be re-released to theaters every few years.) As the band noticed people lining up to see a horror movie rerun, bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler made an offhand observation about how people are willing to pay to be scared.

With that, the proverbial light bulb went off. The group took its name from the movie, and deliberately set about creating the musical equivalent of horror movies, in order to get rich. Their first, self-titled composition utilized dark lyrics and musical themes to spectacular effect, quickly earning them a fan base. Realizing that they were onto something, they honed and refined their music accordingly. An eponymous debut album — released in February 1970 on Friday the 13th, no less — was well received.

Later that year, they released their second album Paranoid, a classic of incalculable proportions that features songs about war, apocalypse, nuclear holocaust, drug overdoses and random street violence — the complete opposite of the peace and love, flower-power themes then prevalent in rock music. Despite almost no radio play — and scarce promotional support from their own record label — the title track was a hit, and the album a colossal success, influencing fans and musicians alike. Ozzy and the boys are now household names, and remain hugely popular to this day, proving their point.

Black Sabbath (1970) – Bill Ward, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler

In fact, this point can be observed in so many other ways. Scary movies remain a successful genre, from thoughtful themes around war and disaster, to mindlessly violent action and slasher flicks. Beyond arts and entertainment, entire political movements have come and gone over the years, to exploit fear and attempt to channel it into lucrative financial and electoral outcomes for its organizers. Just think of all the money sent to politicians and special interest groups — or even all of the wasted hours of life spent binge watching “news” programs. Many of us seem unable to abstain from our daily disaster fix.

The “climate change” movement is a perfect current example of how to use fear to generate such capital. Going far beyond laudable and praiseworthy attempts to inspire people to lead simpler lives and choose cleaner technologies, it has become a rigid, puritanical, doctrinaire cult that seeks control, and will tolerate no questioning of or dissent from its goals or beliefs. It is fast converting itself into a new religion and church, outside of which there is no salvation — all the better to manipulate the fear and paranoia prevalent among its adherents.

It also seems that many people do fear the idea of transgender individuals among their midst, living and working freely and happily. Some are simply reacting to the excessive government interference that we all experienced a few years ago; that much I openly sympathize with, after 18 months of remote work during 2020-21. (I recently burned my “vaccination card” and scattered its ashes in my vegetable garden; interestingly, the plants in that area are now flourishing.) Truly, a federal government composed of the Dr. Politicians, M.D. that introduced public problems vastly worse than the one we were trying to solve, deserves no automatic vote of confidence when it comes to imposing its parochial Manhattan-Beltway-Hollywood worldview on the nation at large.

But others do seem prepared to support collective policies toward transgender individuals. They may well be in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water. In this case, as with most others, one size really does not fit all. I have to wonder — how many of them actually know one of us as a person? It is one thing to see transgender characters depicted in a movie or a TV program, or to see photographs from a drag show. But these are often extreme examples, easy to caricature, and do not lend themselves to breaking down any meaningful social barriers. That can only be done through direct personal interaction and dignified public visibility.

Colleagues on our way to lunch!

Speaking for myself, having come out fully three years ago with no ill effect personal or professional, I have gotten used to being something of a trendsetter. While the area I live in is admittedly more broad-minded than others, most of the environments in which I am involved with are rather traditional in outlook (as am I). There has been no backlash to my presence. In my neighborhood, church, office, etc. I do not live in any fear over my status. I am confident that people respect me and value my presence, just as they are likely confident that I am a stable, drama-free person that will not make myself the center of attention everywhere I go.

At no time have I approached my company’s management and demanded any kind of special status, treatment or consideration. I have not been shunted off into a remote corner of my workplace; far from it — my visibility has only increased since my transition. My colleagues enjoy working and socializing with me even more than before. Recently, my company created a diversity office, whose leadership has voluntarily expressed an interest in engaging me in its activities. I even leave pronouns up to my individual coworkers, most of whom knew me well beforehand. Guess what? They respect that approach, and have been inclined to show me every deference. I am confident that none of my colleagues are in fear of me, personally or professionally.

Birthday flowers!

Recently, I had a conversation with a longtime managerial colleague, who I encountered in a common area. We don’t see each other or work together as often, since I transferred to another group in 2020, and she herself is now based out of state. She asked me how life has been, and I smiled and said truthfully that things are really very good. She was quick to compliment my attire (light blue cotton tank, navy floral rayon wide-leg pants, grey mules and tasteful accessories) and lamented that she had become quite casual as an unintentional result of working at home.

I commented that in my case, I happened to go the opposite direction; maintaining a semblance of dressier attire (literally and figuratively) helped me to feel better during all the isolation — and when onsite work resumed in summer 2021, I never looked back. It was a nice, extended, friendly chat with someone highly placed that I genuinely like. For her part, she was obviously (and correctly) unafraid to interact with me.

So ladies, no matter your circumstances or state in life, please don’t let fear be a factor. Be responsible, of course – but know that when you face your fears head on, you might find that they are nowhere near as bad as you think. There’s no need to be Paranoid!

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Category: Transgender Opinion


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