Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. -C. Bronte, from the preface to Jane Eyre
reader, i will be on hiatus for a while to deal with important personal needs…so unless something seriously major pops up or i end up fighting writer’s block by blogging, which does occasionally happen, i’ll be off the intercats for a bit, and this post is a bit of a follow-on to my last one, so you’re not getting anything truly new and ground-breaking. also, Charlotte Brontë, wherever you are, thank you so much for existing…i bet you probably never would have imagined a creature such as i, and yet i think one of your books helped me through the darkest places in my life…you, Emily Shore, and Eva Gore-Booth.
about trans spaces and inclusion…and why “stop criticizing and make your own space” is silencing
one common silencing tactic in dealing with the criticism of the iron fist the local support cabal keeps on the “trans community” is “well, Erica, make your own space!” yeah, sorry, that’s a separate but equal argument. it’s like saying that “well, Erica, they won’t let you drink at their nice water fountain, so you use the hose out back.” it might be my bitterness here but i remember how that worked out for my grandparents…add in that when nobody knows who you are, you’re going to have a very hard time competing with an established group of people who allegedly already fill that role where you live. i know some of you mean well, but even well-meaning silencing is silencing, and the reality is that a competing group would not be able to have the access to resources, connections, and, oh yeah, space to meet in. add in that i am decidedly not a leader and given that the issue involving the established group is their inability to accept difference, not nonexistence entirely, and it’s just not a workable solution. if it were, wouldn’t someone else have started it? plenty of other people have shared being unwelcome with this “support” cabal, so it’s not like my experience is all that unique…these tales are told in private, though, for you must not question things in public.
i know you mean well with this one, but the dominant and oppressive institution needs to stop being oppressive and people need to stand up to it rather than handing me a garden hose and telling me my half-colored ass can go around back because maybe there’s a tap there. don’t do that…we both deserve better and the solution isn’t trying to duplicate a resource that sucks up money and claims to represent the community, it’s to make that resource actually serve the damn community.
community and ‘where do we go from here’
well, we certainly talked about what next and people do have some ideas about what an inclusive community would look like. the problem is: this is still a far-off utopia for most of us, and the trouble with utopia is that its literal meaning in Greek…”no place.” (Sir Thomas More was quite the wit.) i feel like the reality is that community must take many forms, from starting your own group if there’s no group where you live and you want one to online communities to reforming transfundamentalist dominance of institutions that work to oppress people who don’t match their vision of who is and isn’t trans. also, part of building this community is freeing up information and that matters, too. when information is controlled by anyone, friend or foe, transfundamentalist or not, and then used as a bargaining chip or for personal gain, it hurts us all. if you won’t volunteer the name of a doctor who treats trans women, a fairly rare resource in many places, when asked, ask yourself why you’re not doing that…ask yourself what the gain is in keeping that information to yourself.
to see a fine example of someone who is an information-sharing rockstar, check out Catherine’s tumblr for lists of informed consent providers and the like. now, of course, someone claiming to be informed consent doesn’t mean they actually *are*, they might be informed consent for some but not all, but she does a great job. this is what we need more of; the willingness to share information to make each other stronger is a huge part of building an inclusive community the same way that transfundamentalists who hoard information use their position to keep community exclusive because of their fears and self-loathing. information is power, and when shared, we all benefit.
(ps: if you can get to Santa Cruz, CA, Dr. Jennifer Hastings is really amazing.)
politics and community-building, or ‘inclusion means inclusion’
uh, this is nice and easy. i don’t give a shit what your politics are outside trans space. inside trans space, you need to be polite, respectful, and inclusive.
in other words, if you’re “uncomfortable with feminists,” you “hate all Republicans,” or you think Tori Amos should be canonized as a saint, that’s lovely, but you need to leave your willingness to damage other people for your political ends at the door. respect and inclusion are not partisan values, or at least they shouldn’t be…some people can’t seem to figure that out. taking out your issues on other trans people, again, just weakens us all. i don’t give a hot fuck what corridor you voiced your identity in or who you voted for in the last election if you’re willing to work toward better outcomes for us all. i similarly don’t care if you don’t think this is possible, as people accomplish lots of things in this big green world without politics and it shouldn’t be any different just because we’re trans.
if your politics mean you can’t respect a safe space, the identities of others, the basic ability to be polite, or including all trans people, then you’re blaming your own personal fear and self-loathing on your politics. i mean, i hate myself too, so i know where you’re coming from, but i don’t use that to justify hating other people. i dunno, i just hope maybe someday neither of us will hate ourselves either way?
‘maybe you should just move’
yeah, no, sorry, this is not a solution at all. people are tied to where they are for any number of reasons, from where they can afford to live to where their family is to the fact that moving is expensive and no guarantee of success. i relocated to get closer to a place where i felt like there would be more opportunities for me to be out as being trans and fell back in with the same culture i dealt with in small-town New England, and i can tell you that you shouldn’t move because you’re told you can’t be queer where you are. yes, i needed to get away from the environment i was living in, but no, i did not get any additional freedom to come out as trans, which was one of the basic reasons behind my moving in the first place. i still live with isolation and a pass-or-die environment, i still live in poverty and did not succeed in becoming upwardly mobile because there were “more opportunities.” yeah, my poverty has become less crushing, and yes, i live in a place where the economic conditions are not as bad, so i moved up…
…but i failed horribly in the idea that i would find other trans people and not be isolated anymore. i tried the support group. i tried the livejournal community for queers here. i got nowhere, and fell right back in with an entirely new set of dykes who were the same dykes i was around through college and beyond…just different people. i’ve been pretty successful making friends with all sorts of people here. the trouble, though, is that i moved to not be isolated as a trans woman anymore, and that totally didn’t work. i want to be able to not live in isolation, i thought moving would change that, and i was very wrong. if you want to move for whatever reason that is a good one (better job, more friends there, escaping a bad living sitch) do it, but don’t believe that being rural and queer means you have to move.
(major props to the Rural Queer Project, by the way. check ’em out if you’re rural and queer, they’re building just such a community.)
maybe you really are doing it wrong
…didn’t they say this to women when we sought the vote? how about driver’s licenses, equality under the law, careers outside the home…yeah, actually they did. i, as an American, have the right to my own independence because of these women, and there are analogous women in many countries who have fought for similar rights. in some countries, our sisters are still fighting; in others, they’ve come much farther than the failings of the United States in terms of womens’ rights. scoffing that maybe we’re doing it wrong when it comes to fighting for our same basic rights as queers? perhaps you want to be known as a naysayer by history, like the newspaper headline we once mocked in Women’s Studies, the one where the Oneida Whig trumpeted its disgust for the Seneca Falls resolutions: “This bolt is the most shocking and unnatural incident ever recorded in the history of womanity. If our ladies will insist on voting and legislating, where, gentleman, will be our dinners and our elbows? Where our domestic firesides and the holes in our stockings??”
and yes, i was a Women’s and Gender Studies minor, though it’s now called Gender, Sexuality, and Culture at the college i went to. a century and change after Seneca Falls, society hasn’t collapsed, people are still getting their dinner…and i think i’m the only person i know who can darn holes in a stocking.
reader, i’ll see you in a little over a month for sure, and maybe a little sooner if the desire strikes me. until then, i leave you with a little more Jane Eyre, namely a quote which is what my next tattoo is going to say…I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will... (and yes, i know it ends with …which i now exert to leave you but that’s not good tattoo material nor the message i want to send!)