the ‘trans community’, trans women of color, and the ‘you deserve it’ mentality

trigger warning: a lot about violence and probably some more swearing than usual. also you should probably go read Monica Maldonado’s excellent “Erasing Trans Women of Colour The Easy Way” as her piece says different things with the same basic thrust.

i started out writing this post about what happens when you get ditched off hormones for three years and the good/bad matrix of what happens when you get back on, as, of course, this is completely Not Discussed. i’ll get there sooner or later but it’s gotten thrown to the back burner because i had One of Those Revelations, namely around the idea advanced by the “trans community” that some people seem to deserve bring treated in certain ways and how it might seem innocent at first but it leads to the frame of mind that considers some of us to be so disposable that we end up nothing more than fodder for Remembering Your Dead.

what got me kicked off of hormones? the informed consent clinic that i’d been going to for hormones and basic health care alike closed. the woman who was in charge apparently absconded with the funds and ran away to Las Vegas, which ewas really depressing since they were the primary outlet for trans woman-inclusive care that was willing to take new patents in this city. they were a friendly, supportive place for women to get medical care generally, and a lot of us who are low-income and female had been thrown into the lurch by their closing. anyways, i mail-ordered for a while, but mail-order sometimes gets intercepted by Customs, and, well, it happened twice and the second time i got the notice that if you do this again, we’re going to prosecute.

so i tried the three private doctors who see trans women around here and struck out. one didn’t like that i wasn’t feminine enough, one badgered me about my weight (of course, having no hormones in your system only makes you fatter), and one wanted to list me as male on my paperwork, which is kind of a shitty solution seeing as that i’m not male. she claimed she did that for all her trans patients and nobody ever objected. so i tried a couple of doctors who allegedly work with trans women in neighboring cities; one was aggressive about wanting to see my junk, which is really not okay (i mean, hi, i’ve obviously already transitioned…looking at my junk won’t change that i need hormones and why should i be showing it to you when you’re not even gonna do a pap?) and the other didn’t like that i wasn’t heterosexual…it was a little more than just “didn’t like” but this post is too long-winded already.

reaching out to ask for information led to the first example i’d seen of “you deserve it.” i got harangued for having let this happen. i gave up for a bit, came back a couple of years later, and ran into the “you’re lying”/”you must be somehow flawed because doctors would never do this”/”it’s just hormones it can’t be that important” bullshit that defined the beginning of my willingness to fight back against this mindset. it’s all they can do, you see, is decide that people who aren’t situated the same as them deserve it. now, it’s harmless, just someone’s words? sure, if that’s all it is…but it’s much more than just that.

see, “you deserve it” translates into micromanagement of the lives of other trans people. it translates into the reality that there’s a very small core group of trans people who believe they deserve the power to decide whose concerns are and aren’t valid. unfortunately, many other people defend any decision that small core group makes…they’re like an army working on behalf of their commanders, and they follow along out of fear or out of not thinking. this army knows how to shout down any concern with the People In Charge (call them “angry and bitter”, claim they’re lying, obfuscate the facts with a wall of opinion) and they keep the core group protected and safe. by doing the will of the People In Charge, you become as evil as their agenda once you’ve had it pointed out to you and you don’t question it. playing nice with oppressive institutions always turns out the same way every time: your safety is temporary and can be revoked at any time no matter how nice you play, and you know it.

the scariest part is that when i brought up the problematic nature of the support group in these parts, what i was seeking was, you know, someone who’d just keep the flak off me if i were to go, not looking for friends or anything, just someone willing to stand up to the people who make it suck or at least keep the People In Charge and their hateful, bullshit “passing tips” away. for some reason, nobody volunteered. i think that says a whole lot about how the “trans community” works…you wouldn’t want to be seen as *responsible* for letting someone who isn’t good enough into the circle, would you? fear is a powerful, strong motivator and it’s used to keep the plebes in line…if *that one* isn’t good enough to be allowed, what would happen if you spoke up? what would happen if you expressed difference? what would happen if you mentioned that the emperor had no clothes? you might end up like *it*. (because, after all, calling me “it” reminds me of my place, right?)

i feel like this mentality builds into the idea that there are acceptable deaths in the eyes of the “trans community”. after all, Remembering Your Dead requires a nice long list of names to read each year to maintain its atmosphere at what looks like the see and be seen event for Caucasian trans people every damn year. Remembering Your Dead always comes with a mess of pronoun fuckups and flubbed names (seriously, people, how hard is “Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar” to get right?) and it’s just beyond frustrating. of course, when you point this out to the people behind it, you run into the same wall of denial because “nobody else heard that, and nobody knows who you are anyways.”  yes, direct quote. i think that if you asked the “trans community” nobody there knew who Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar was either, until she ended up murdered, and then suddenly they noticed. as trans women of color, we’re acceptable losses when we’re alive but we matter when we’re dead.  there’s so many of these examples that it’s beyond gross…Gwen Araujo, (Victoria) Carmen White, Amanda Milan, Erika Keels…misgendered in the news, ignored by the cops, and fucked over by the world, and all that the “trans community” cares about is a name they’re gonna screw up. ps: if you didn’t know how to say “Gonzalez-Andujar” right, you coulda looked it up.

i always kind of rage quietly and angrily when i get to read about another dead trans woman of color because i know damn well that the people in our community who profit off this won’t be far behind like vultures to rip apart the corpse. we’ll get a well-intentioned but ultimately poorly executed article or two about violence, a pile of misgendering (and yes, when you say “born male” about a trans woman, you’re fucking misgendering us…just like using an old/dead name), and probably a free side of racism and transmisogyny working together somewhere in the article. the journalist is almost always white, they’re pretty uniformly cis, and though people misunderstand journalists as members of the ruling class (they’re not, have you seen what it pays in the trenches?), journalists often use their position of personal power and privilege to assume everyone else reads from the same perspective and sees a dead trans woman of color as someone else/something else entirely. i read the paper, and i don’t see the epidemic of violence against trans women of color as an external issue. and, oh yeah, what you see in the paper? that’s just what gets reported. how many acts of violence go unreported because of shame or how fucking awful the cops are?

thus, the solution is twofold: one, we need the “trans community” to stop being an exclusive treehouse for some. i’ve made this point before, others have made this point before, and it’s possible your mom has made this point before, and in at least two cases, someone i know’s mother HAS indeed made this point before. it’s old business, and it keeps coming up for a reason: the fact that people keep  acting in ways that perpetuate this power structure is Deeply Problematic, and when nobody questions why this same core group of people gets to exercise their vendetta against people who aren’t the same as them even when it keeps happening, people are enabling that behavior and sinking to that level, which is quite honestly pretty gross. two, the idea that acceptable human losses exist needs to be confronted. from “you don’t deserve hormones” to Erika Keels’s broken body in the street being run over by a waste of humanity who was never fucking charged with a crime though he ran her over four times, this mentality has got to change because it’s killing people, whether quickly or slowly. the acceptable losses, you’ll start noticing, are almost always trans women of color, disabled people, people whose appearance doesn’t match certain expectations…and we all know damn well why it is and that shit needs to stop. Caucasian folks, able-bodieds, etc: time to step your game up and start asking hard questions about things like this. if you’re doing so, great. if you’re making excuses for the power structure, time to stop. if you’re carrying water for the power structure, it’s time to throw that water on the ground and stop making excuses for why you’re doing it. and if you’re the power structure…your days on top are numbered and it might behoove you to clean out your treehouse because you know what happens to treehouses built without permits…they get demolished. we’ve asked nicely and you slammed the door in our face, over and over…


18 Responses to “the ‘trans community’, trans women of color, and the ‘you deserve it’ mentality”

  1. Remembering Your Dead is my absolute least favorite day in the world. It is a wretched hive of privilege and personalizing the suffering of others. Last year, someone complained because I had apologized for “botching the pronunciation of any names I read” because “botching” was deemed too violent and triggering for the white trans people who attended.

    Yes, to perform or make clumsily is indeed a very violent and disrespectful image to associate with people trying to get through a list of over 200 names without being overcome with hopelessness and grief.

    (I am aware that they probably heard it as “butchering”, but I still maintain that to take up space at a memorial ceremony to nitpick verbs is ridiculous, invasive, and disgustingly privileged.)

    I love my community. I do not like it.

    • i’d like an opportunity, honestly, to know how i feel about it from within as opposed to from without…but you know how i feel about all this. there’s a reason i just let a lot of trans people run with their assumptions that i’m cis, because their little heads are not ready to consider that that girl could be trans.

      that said, i’d rather an apology for botching (and i assume you’d get the pronouns right, yo) than just going DAMN THE TORPEDOES and steaming full speed ahead assuming you know. i know that the community probably gets pissy around “botched” because there’s so much of a narrative around “botched” surgery…of course these are the same people who police surgery and say you have to have every surgery they think you should. (this is also super othering and gross for trans men)

      “(I am aware that they probably heard it as “butchering”, but I still maintain that to take up space at a memorial ceremony to nitpick verbs is ridiculous, invasive, and disgustingly privileged.)”

      …word. so much word. and yet there’s this mess of pronoun fuckups from the people reading names and NOBODY CARES.


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