we deserve better: on learning to love each other as trans women

i don’t always get along with my whole family. my brother is headstrong, my little sister is foolish. my siblings by choice, well…we’re siblings. i don’t always know how to fix my little sister-by-choice’s wounds as much as i want to help, and sometimes i flat out piss off my big sister-by-choice. i don’t always get on with my grandmother, who is still inwardly disappointed that i am not Erica the Proper Pioneer Girl ready to inherit their farm and a Wenger bonnet or two, but she covers it so well. but what unites us is love, because after all we’re family. at the end of the day, we love each other, even if sometimes we bloody well dislike each other.

similarly, as much as i am constantly tearing my hair out about how to deal with stressing the need for pan-African unity and solutions that work for all of us, at the end of the day, we are able to get to similar places on the page about what we need. Africans in the US are a really diverse bunch…some people came here 10 years ago, some folks (like me) had forebears who came here stuffed into ships. obviously, the US is a better place to be Black than some will have you think if you consider that i know people clamoring to come here from relatively peaceful places like Botswana and Mozambique…it’s not perfect, but i still kind of foolishly believe in the idea that this is a place the huddled masses can come, or even the not-so-huddled masses, as much as that’s been screwed up since 2001, especially for racial miniorities. we have learned, whether fresh off the DC-10 or if we’ve been here since slavery, how to get along to further our goals. is it perfect? no. do we disagree? absolutely. but when we deal with the Caucasian-kyriarchical structure we live on, we know how to speak with one voice for what we need. we know how to talk about what affects our neighborhoods, what we want to make our children’s lives better, and what we desire from a government which systemically tries to fail us.

in fact, this works in the disability rights movement, another movement that i’m part of. it works in the Latin@ and Native/First Nations rights/respect movements, which i see as an outsider that i support. it used to work in the gay rights movement up to a point, but the HRC and the monomaniacal obsession with making marriage available to same-gender couples ended up slowly destroying queer unity…and i say this as a supporter of universal marriage, by the by. the idea of advancing queer rights generally fell by the wayside and now we have a fractured and damaged queer rights movement where a small number of rich cis white gay men (and a few token lesbians) are all the HRC really cares about. now, in the vacuum of the HRC’s departure from leadership on queer rights, many state queer rights organizations, like Basic Rights Oregon and Equality Florida, have taken leadership positions in advocating for all queers, including trans people. is it a perfect alliance? lord, no. but when the cis queers have our back, our outcomes turn out much better.

i’ve spoken about my unpleasant and painful journey to self-acceptance far too much. i’ve talked about the fact that regrettably i used to be a transfundamentalist, and honestly i feel such great shame and horror in talking about it that it troubles me to go down this trail again. transfundamentalism destroys your ability to ever cooperate with other trans people, especially other trans women, and it wrecked at least a couple of friendships where i behaved like an asshole and where i wish i could have a second chance that i’m never going to get. it’s a destructive force because it’s inherently designed to get us to hurt each other because we’re supposed to. i feel like a horrible person that i went along with this shit, but i really believed this was going to be the price of my freedom. i wish there were any way i could apologize to the people who my bullshit hurt, but perhaps unsurprisingly they’re not willing to accept apologies. i am nevertheless very sorry, because my conscience will never be clean regardless of if those apologies are accepted or not. transfundamentalism is inherently destructive and practicing it makes you a hurtful person. like most things that make you an asshole, though, transfundamentalism is a choice.  just like people choose to be racist or choose to be homophobic, it’s a choice in every respect to be a patriarchy-enforcing transfundamentalist.

see, tranfundamentalism serves a false master: the idea that you are better than *those people* based on a few narrow criteria. what those criteria are seem to randomly change, whether it be physical beauty, genital surgery, facial surgery, social class, or one of literally scores of other things that can be used to proclaim some trans people “real” and some trans people “fake.” at first, when pronounced insufficient by other trans women because i’m not pretty, because i’m disabled, and because i’m not femme, i took this as an affront. but that’s the thing, folks: it’s not an affront to you, you’re just the person on the wrong end of the rifle here. everything transfundamentalism enforces is a false meritocracy based on adhering to certain things that don’t even necessarily have anything to do with cisnormativity but have everything to do with trying to enforce a preordained idea of how you’re supposed to behave. i have talked way too much about growing up Mormon, but the things i was expected to adhere to as a Mormon girl are remarkably similar to the rigamarole expected of trans women. dress in a specific manner. act in a specific way. do not cross authority or there will be consequences. sexuality is dirty at best and forbidden at worst. in fact, the hoops you’re expected to jump through are a veritable “Krabat’s deal” where you can’t really actually complete the contract without sacrificing people to unknown forces, “for the good of the rest of us.”

it’s time to stop. we don’t all have to get along. i’m still not gonna be besty friends with Autumn Sandeen or her “pal” Just Jennifer. i am fully and completely aware that in a world that glorifies the idea of “good and bad” in minorities that we all slip up…heck, as much as i am pretty much the stereotypical Angry Black Chick about many things, sometimes i inadvertently fail to have the back of other Black folk, often about really tiny things, but they add up. i know we can’t all get along, and i’m fine with that. but what i’m not fine with is the idea that toxic hatred of each other and the veneration of these false meritocracies are actually us destroying ourselves and each other all alike. when someone mocks the idea of informed consent access to healthcare for trans people out of their own fear that their legitimacy will be challenged, they’re doing two things: they’re actually eroding their own legitimacy by suggesting that a doctor deserves such thrall over us, but they’re also damaging other trans people out of some level of fear. the idea that some trans peoples’ deaths, generally those of trans women of color, are “acceptable losses” is part of what weakens us. the idea that there are some places trans women don’t belong, or we only belong with some conditions, hurts us all. it reinforces the idea that we aren’t good enough unless we meet arbitrary criteria, and it encourages the very conditional privilege that is a tightening garrote around all our necks when we believe we have to hurt other trans women to save ourselves.

we have pushed each other in front of the bus far more effectively than the HRC, Dan Savage, or Barney Frank. we have constantly begged for our humanity for too long, or accepted the Faustian bargain that some trans women are more equal than others. we are constantly bargaining with these kyriarchical structures which keep their boot on our throat, and that’s a fact of life. but what we need to do is achieve some amount of unity, regardless of how pretty you are or you aren’t, regardless of if you’re out at work/school or not, regardless of how big your hands are and regardless of what your eyefolds look like…we have to start to work together. we have to stop accepting the idea that we deserve to be consolation prizes because of who we are and begin to accept that backstabbing and hating really isn’t getting us anywhere and the fact that we’re expected to be complicit in hurting each other is hurting us all. you don’t have to be my friend, you don’t have to be anyone’s friend, but you do need to stand up, throw your shoulders back, and stop believing that living on your knees is getting you anywhere. because, trust me, i can tell you from experience that being that person who just backstabs and hates is an awful life once you accept that there’s something better than that. i’m tired of asking permission to exist, and i shall live on my knees no more. we need to learn to love and support each other, at least writ large, even the folks we can’t stand, if we’re going to grow stronger together.

transfundamentalism is hate; this is love. they’re both imperfect, they both have limits, and love won’t solve everything. i choose love, and i hope you will, too.

2 thoughts on “we deserve better: on learning to love each other as trans women

  1. I’m gonna reread and reread this again and again to keep me focused on maintaining some sense of compassion towards the hate. Keeping in mind our sacrificial bargains helps me remember not to snap back at the hurt they cause, but to try to maintain at least a somewhat rational attitude. If only to keep from getting dragged under by them. Tone doesn’t help so much, though… even politeness gets ignored in favor of an authoritative response. But it shouldn’t be, it just shouldn’t.

    Sorry, this is a bit rambling of a response, as I’m still plagued by some of the silencing language used towards me recently. A “FULL STOP,” no less, as a part of the research I had done on an issue of trans health being repeatedly dismissed and the veracity of my claim denied. Was I wrong? hardly, but the information I set forth was at odds with the transfundamentalist narrative of the lady I (inadvertently) confronted.

    And the whole time, I can’t help but think, “I know you’re scared and wrong, but you’re erasing us!” I told her as much and she went on to bad-mouth me as a troll to get me banned from the online group where it was being discussed, despite her language being the inflammatory bit. And I’ll admit, calling someone on their privilege can be inflammatory. Just like any truth-telling that’s needed can.

    Coming back to the present, though… I want to thank you for saying this and for teaching me through related posts.

  2. Pingback: the fallacy of scarcity | erica, ascendant

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