Maybe I’m just constitutionally incapable of answering with a simple answer (one that doesn’t, in one way or another, involve the phrase “that depends”), but I think I’m at same time both an optimist and a pessimist and neither one at all.
I feel as though I’m too much a realist to be an optimist and too much an idealist to be a pessimist.To me, optimism seems to be believing that things are, and will, work out for the best — and I know that there is too much in this world that is utterly, senselessly, screwed up for things to be working out as they should be. At the same time, I believe in my ideals, and I believe that change is possible — I refuse to believe, and expect, that life is inevitably going to work out the worst that it could.
The things I have read at my internship, the research I did for my thesis, the stories I hear from my friends, the books I’ve read, the newsposts I read from newspapers, blogs, and even links on facebook — I can’t pretend that we’re just almost there in terms of equality for everyone or that most people are accepting of socially marginalized people (that it’s only a bigoted minority that is against them — us). I know too much. And when even people I know — people who once claimed to by my friends — throw my race in my face, or devalue and invisibilize my identities, I can’t pretend that we’ve reached a point of acceptance and respect for diversity.
At the same time, it absolutely cannot be said that I am a pessimist. If I were a pessimist, I wouldn’t be able to leave my apartment in the morning for fear of being killed for being queer, trans, a person of color, read as female, or some other reason I haven’t even thought of yet. Pessimism would paralyze me. Something — idealism, optimism, hope for the future, pride in who I am, or even just sheer perseverance — something keeps me going.
And I don’t just survive — I live. I thrive. I outright refuse to let the transphobia, homobia, racism, and other bigotry in the world keep me from living my life as who I am and who I want to be. I will stare into the face of injustice, and I will fight it. I refuse to give up — I fight to win. The future I envision may be very, very far off, but I can envision a better future, and I can work toward it — and that’s what really matters. It’s about the process.