It’s impossible for me to not like much of German culture. I was raised to a large extent by my maternal grandmother, who was about as German as a person can be. My mom was often at work (and I do appreciate that she worked hard to put food on the table). And so I spent most days in the company of my Omi. German was my first language, and I was raised on German comic books. I ate German food and basically grew up as a little German kid regardless of which country I happened to be in at the time.
When I was maybe two years old, I was dying from some weird condition that the French doctors in Paris, where my parents were living at the time, could not pinpoint (or my guess is, were not enthusiastic enough to try to figure out). In desperation, my mom cast her lot on the more-prudent side of the Franco-Germanic cultural divide and got me out of France and to a German doctor (as in, physically in Germany). The German doctor found the problem and fixed it. Thanks to German know-how, I’m alive and well.
I’ve read enough books on philosophy to be clear that a lot of what’s wrong with the Western world is based on bad German philosophy generally focused on Plato, and what’s nice about the Western world is spearheaded by individualism based on the philosophy of Aristotle. The US isn’t flawless but at least until 2008 it was to a large extent an Aristotelian society and might yet be again. So, yes, the US is my favorite country in the whole, wide world.
But, as a t-girl, I’ve seen some weaknesses in US culture that were hard to discern before I came out as t-girl. And since I am a t-girl in Germany right now, it’s hard to not contrast the US and Germanic approach to t-girls. In this case, Germany wins.
I have owned some nifty British cars, many French cars, some amazing American cars, many Swedish cars, some exotic Italian cars, several nice Japanese sports cars, and even one Korean car. So, I have a relatively wide perspective with which to say that “ueber alles” German cars rock. I bought an old BMW, loved it, and bought another. And another. Now I own 20 of them., with almost all of them made in the 1980s. Most of them don’t run (which is how I was able to afford them) but they’re magnificent cars. I also own a couple of 1980s Mercedes-Benz cars (which don’t run either). I hasten to add that the immobile status of the cars is not a refection on the engineering but rather on the substantial owner neglect (mostly, previous owners). As feats of engineering go, these cars are the sort of thing in whose presence you really should take your hat off and bend a knee. As a rule, when a bunch of Germans get together and decide to do something then they are dedicated, logical and methodical, and the results are impressive.
This is, then, a country with millions of diligent people who (in spite of some institutionalized freeloading and socialism) are for the most part wonderfully effective at whatever its citizens choose to make a priority. The very bad idea set of the pre-1945 era was to a large extent sold to the German public on the premise that the Nazi agenda was the right thing to do. For the most part the only way you can convince Germans to do the wrong thing is to trick them into thinking it’s the right thing. There’s something tragic and yet endearing about that.
After 1945 they decided to prosper and live in peace, and that’s precisely what they did. The place is big, it’s crowded, the weather sucks, and yet it works. There’s a widely generalized sense of fair play and benevolence that parallels the best of these traditions in the UK and US paradigms too. I wasn’t here in the 1930s and I’m glad, but it sure is nice to be here now.
Meanwhile, nowadays Russia is threatening the Ukraine and who-knows-what-else, and is generally behaving like we should expect Russia to do (like a mean bully). And, not too far west of Moscow lies a sleeping Teutonic giant whose internal politics about 70 years ago made it seem quite likely that Russia was going to become a minor easternmost German province.
National socialism (which is what the word “Nazi” is based on) didn’t help the Germans as a nation or as individuals. It hampered them in many ways. The anti-intellectual effect of the Nazi culture made, in so many ways, for a fundamentally crippled nation long before the good guys finally managed to defeat the Nazi war machine.
But, until the tide turned, the Germans kicked butt. They captured France very quickly. And, they were well on their way to defeating Russia too — and if riled might well do so again.
The problem, if it is a problem, is that Germans are not easy to rile any more. They’re now mellow on principle, intent on not making that one very big mistake ever again. Anything Nazi tends to be so vehemently and instinctively opposed even by the otherwise-mild average German that tolerance is the theme of the current German era. To their credit, they have extended the concept beyond superficial issues and have focused admirably on the underlying premise. They’re not just avoiding being mean to Jews. They’re avoiding being mean to anyone.
Not that Germans aren’t judgmental. But, they’ve come a long way as to what they consider worthy of their disdain. Nowadays, Germans are mostly nice or mean to people based on individual merit. And for a pleasant transgender girl in Germany (and yes, that happens to be me right now) that is very, very nice.
Not that there’s the total absence of jerks, either. Or at least, one. I’ve heard one snide remark about my appearance, from a surly young male adult who looked grumpy even before he saw me and was probably going to kick the dog on principle when he got home. But with that one exception, the German people are nice — very nice, even though most days I look more like a transgender girl than a genetically integrated girl.
The most productive part of my trip might well be that I’m learning the viability of buying 25-year old BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars here and shipping them off to the US, or to ship pristine non-rusty examples back to Germany. But money aside, it’s nice to be here. The key premise is that there is no hint of a doubt in people’s minds that a t-girl is a girl. I like that. They actually understand.
In the US, there’s a lot of stratification. It’s sort of like the “earth is flat” sort of thing was not too long ago. There are some nice and savvy folks who “get it” and then there’s the group who’s slow to “get the memo.” The latter is not a small group. For many of the more conservative folks (esp. in small-town America and/or the South) a t-girl is basically a delusional gay guy with a wardrobe problem. That’s what God said, that’s what the Bible said, and by golly, they believe it.
Not that this mind-set limits itself to those locations. It’s tedious for me to deal with that mentality. Whenever I’m out and about in the US, I’m always on guard. I don’t even make eye contact with males any more unless I know them or it’s socially unavoidable. It’s not that I’m afraid of violence. I’m just tired of approximately half of the people being mean to me automatically.
By contrast, in Germany, everyone is mellow and nice to me. Today, I suddenly realized that nowadays when I’m out in public, I’m relaxed. It’s new to me. And, it’s nice.
I miss the US and I look forward to being back soon, perhaps with a containerload of dead BMWs in tow. But while I’m here in Germany, it sure is nice to be in a culture where the concept of t-girl has been so well-understood and well-assimilated into popular culture.