the fallacy of scarcity

Just so you know, the theory of resource restriction on the basis of scarcity is that of my good friend Caylee, and I recommend you read their blog. Thus, they get the credit for planting the seeds of what this blog post is about, but the thoughts based on this observation are mine.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the logic of the transfundamentalist, and some recent events in my life have led me to attempt to pursue why some people who reject transfundamentalism in the trans community still perpetuate a creation of artificial scarcity in the trans community, especially when it comes to medical access and access to transcentric social space that is open to trans women. Artificial scarcity is what leads us to the threat of movies being put in the “Disney Vault” and rendered unavailable for the better part of a decade, a wonderful trick to boost DVD sales, or the frenzied flurry of activity that surrounds a sandwich known as the “McRib”, a formed pork patty which honestly tastes like pickles on wet cardboard to me.

Artificial scarcity may work fine with shredded processed pork or with the crime against animated deer known as Bambi II, but it just plum doesn’t belong in a situation where peoples’ lives are at stake.  Caylee, also someone who escaped fundamentalist Christianity, has remarked that much of this logic descends from Prosperity Gospel-type ideas, a particular strain of fundamentalist Christian thinking which proclaims that following faith will lead one to prosperity and health.  I grew up Mormon, which has a different take on the Prosperity Gospel theology but espouses most of the same things. It’s an ideal that unquestioning devotion will get you everything you want in life, often recreated in secular New Age twaddle like The Secret, which proclaims that thinking positive thoughts about money will make you have money by some unseen force. I’m thinking positive thoughts that the Mega Millions numbers tonight will be the ones on my ticket, but I know the odds of being mauled by a polar bear in Long Beach, California are slightly higher than the odds of my becoming a Mega Zillionaire. I know that no amount of thinking happy thoughts will bring me things; think happy thoughts because they’re authentic, think happy thoughts if you’re an optimist (and in places I don’t like to admit, I am one), or think happy thoughts because you’re happy. But don’t let the discourse become that any bad thing that happens to someone comes from “negativity” because people who are kept out may naturally feel negatively about those situations.

I’ll be the first person to tell you that treating people poorly won’t get you anywhere, and that having a truly negative attitude toward others based on your own fears really poisons things, often without your even realizing it. When you go up to a cashier at the supermarket screaming and yelling, I can guarantee you that transaction will go poorly. However, the enforcement of this scarcity may leave people in a position where negative thought comes into the situation. I’ll give you an example: grousing about not knowing other trans women in my city has led to three suggestions, namely that I should just suck it up and brave the awful support group because maybe it’ll be better this time, ask your friends to introduce you to other trans women (when you’re the only trans woman all your friends know…that’s not gonna work), or “create your own space”, which is kinda hard when nobody knows who you are and besides in the next breath the condescending “but there already is space…” always comes next.

Sure, there’s space. But the reason the support group is so hostile, the reason its capo is so vicious, is that the fallacy of scarcity is being enforced. If they let the “defective” people in, there’s no way that they can enforce this scarcity, and I, dear reader, am “defective” in the minds of these folks. Because in their gospel I am not worthy of being allowed, even if I’m willing to pay the $5 “mandatory donation”, and not willing to put up with what they may see as hazing but what really has an effect on a girl (sorry, calling me “it” is a real sore point), I am an outlier, a non-believer, a heretic.  Caylee is right: this is the prosperity gospel indeed.

But why do we accept this scarcity? Why do we choose not to be proactive about creating safe medical access for all trans women in the informed consent model for hormones and healthcare in a safe, shame-free environment when you go to the doctor for non-trans-related maladies? Why does our community refuse to share safe medical resource information with others where such resources exist?  Why do we give credibility to the idea that there’s one safe commons for trans women and that any unknown is inherently dangerous and bad? I could put an ad on Craigslist for a get-together over coffee one day a month for trans women, and I have serious doubts that it would ever get past people wanting to know who the hell I was. Yes, much of this is because there are any number of people with predatory interests, some cis and some trans, who believe that trans women represent a group of people who are easy to abuse and victimize. I’m pretty sure that this, too, is actually a product of the idea that scarcity means that we end up being vulnerable to these people. We have cults of personality who do destructive things within the community and go truly unchecked because of their “importance”, and they are able to gain frightening amounts of influence because they believe in their need to be the proverbial big fish in a small pond.

We need to stop accepting that this pond has to be small, and part of that is realizing that trans women come in all narratives, colors, shapes, looks, and sizes. You don’t have to be a transfundamentalist to enforce transfundamentalist rhetoric, and part of that is the desire to enforce this scarcity that permeates our community. The idea that this scarcity is necessary is actually something present in, for example, the rampant fatphobia in the “trans community”. When someone makes statements about fat people which imply we don’t deserve dignity or a wholesome diet, they’re actively pushing out fat people. When someone makes gross statements about people who are really skinny and shames their bodies, when half the skinny people I know would pretty much give anything under the sun to gain twenty pounds, they’re engaging in body-shaming and making generalizations about their bodies, too. And yes, the latter is a real problem, too. See also shaming people for choosing not to have facial surgery…and then shaming people who do who didn’t have it in a manner that satisfies someone else’s desire. These boundaries, this territorial spraying, is absolutely the behavior of people who believe that there is a very limited space which they must protect.

Now, I’m not saying you have to welcome in people who behave in disrespectful or problematic manners. Anne Lawrence, for example, should be excluded from our spaces because she’s a fucking rapist. (tw: rape, medical abuse)  There need to be some boundaries, but boundaries should be based on real actions and not fear. Personally, I’m pretty sure some of my problem is that I’m disabled and it’s really easy to throw around demonizing rhetoric about disabled people based on completely false rhetoric. For example, the idea that disabled people are violent, a stereotype that just isn’t true. In fact, a disabled person is fifty percent more likely to be a victim of violent crime than an able-bodied person. (It’s higher than 50% for women, by the way.)  Oh, and while we’re at it, we’re far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. Yet the unexplained and severe phobia of disability permeates the “trans community”. Why is this? I feel that we are considered to be a safe group to target and exclude because we don’t fit the transfundamentalist vision of perfection and we often literally cannot. You’re still going to be able to tell I’m disabled from looking at me, and there’s no amount of surgery that can change that, nor do I have any desire to have it.  And guess what? In fundamentalist religion, we are held up as being both “inspiration” and subhuman wretches at the same time. In fiction, we are plot devices, from Helen Burns in Jane Eyre to Beth March in Little Women. We exist in public often treated by people like a living, breathing zoo exhibit. But if our actions aren’t problematic, why keep us out?

Well, it’s best explained by the difference between what happens when a child asks me what’s wrong with my face and an adult does the same thing. When a child does it, it’s out of curiosity, not understanding the situation and needing more information.  When an adult does it, it might well be out of curiosity, and when they take the honest answer and walk away or learn from it, great. But the sneering, angry “what’s wrong with your face” or “what happened to you” that comes from some mouths is never innocent, and it’s important to recognize that, because these people are playing into the idea of scarcity, too. My presence in their world confuses them because a “defective” is in their space, and I will tell you that I hear that tone far more often when doing things that indicate I have some responsibility in society, like minding children or doing public-facing work. Maybe someone who looks ‘normal’ should be doing that instead.

In other words, I know that the “trans community” is merely parroting patriarchal values and standards in enforcing scarcity, and that we’ve given people a free pass for unquestioningly upholding these patriarchal values as a way of devaluing people the patriarchy doesn’t like. It’s time to stop letting this be an excuse, though…being a footsoldier for the patriarchy after you’ve had it, repeatedly, pointed out to you what you’re doing means you’re accepting those patriarchal values or you’re too scared to question them, and either way you’re hurting people on behalf of the patriarchy. If we can transcend gender and birth assignment, why can’t we transcend the idea that some people are disposable? The people the “trans community” considers disposable are largely members of other minorities, generally racial minorities, but things like disability play into this also. We believe we have to enforce this scarcity with no proof that it has any benefit other than “things must be kept from those people.”

I’m one of those people. I refuse to believe that I must be denied a place at the table because of race, class, disability, and the mortal sin of being a size 22. When one enforces this artificial and completely unnecessary scarcity or act in complicity with it, it’s saying I am lesser, and that, dear readers, is what we call “fucked up” where I come from.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s