two things are weighing heavily on my mind this morning, and as i put on another cup of tea, i think i’m going to try to write them out. i had started a post on racism within the trans community and some myths about passing that often seem linked to them, but as muses are wont to do, doing research on that to find some gallingly racist quotes led me to something else entirely…go figure.
first of all, Kiira Triea/Denise Tree/Denise Magner has passed on at age 61. there’s a number of reports out there on the Intertubes about her passing, but Kiira played some role when i first peered out of the closet in the early 00s…i had not suspected she was perpetrating a hoax until much later when i was presented with clear and complete evidence that this woman, along with her many sock puppets, lied to me along with other people i consider dear. Kiira was the kind of silver-tongued liar who had a story that constantly changed as her life went on, and though i sympathize with what probably led her to do this, her choice to use sock puppets and her willingness to use other people led to her much-deserved undoing. Ms. Magner often advanced theories toxic to trans women, from intersex primacy to the most fervent transfundamentalism i’ve ever seen. i have refrained from linking to the truly acidic content about Ms. Magner’s passing, as you can find it yourself with some work and because as bad of a person as she was/chose to be, i prefer not to speak ill of the dead. additionally, Ms. Magner died of cancer, which is pretty much the most likely thing to get you when you’re intersex/ed, something we don’t really talk about and something that underscores why all trans and/or intersex/ed and/or gender-nonconforming people need access to safe healthcare. i am very conflicted about Ms. Magner, her position as Alice Domurat Dreger’s sycophant, and the lies she told, but i confess i still cried a bit because i hoped one day maybe we’d get the whole story…because i have no doubt her real story was meaningful and maybe she’d even renounce her transfundamentalism.
but this reminds me of something, an admission i’ve long been waiting for some way to make: i used to be a transfundamentalist. i believed the line that there were good trans people and bad trans people, i believed that your worth was directly related to how well you passed, and that being trans was something to be terribly ashamed of and something you should hate yourself for. whilst i didn’t engage in controlling access to common spaces or hiding resources, i did engage in many things i’m not proud of, from mocking people online to at least twice inadvertently saying really horrible things to someone’s face about their passability, or whatever commodity i had bought into. i feel awful for all these things, and i am very sorry to have been so reprehensible. i would blame the fact that i was pretty much psych medicated into a haze…during those years of being medicated so i won’t remember stuff, [TW: rape, incest, violence] i used to be an asshole, but at the same time i know i freely chose to enforce transfundamentalism in the belief that maybe it’d buy me some safety. my early explorations of a world beyond the trans closet after a decade-plus in it were unfortunately steeped in transfundamentalism, and i have to be accountable for that. if i hurt you, if i laughed at you, if i invalidated you, i’m sorry…and i know, sadly, i did all these things. i am ashamed, i am horrified, and i understand that i probably lost a few people out of my life who i deeply regret losing because i was a transfundamentalist.
this is why i get the transfundamentalist mindset: i really believed that maybe if i cut down my sisters at the ankles that i’d buy myself some safety and maybe i’d be thought of as less threatening than, you know, those people. while i never got into the “transgender vs. transsexual” shit, i sure did buy that my chromosomes made me better and that my age at transition meant i wasn’t affected by all those meanie-pie things Bailey, Lawrence, Zucker, and Blanchard (BLZB) said about autogynephiles…i mean, if you dealt with it before 18, it magically didn’t apply to you! oh, lord, i really believed that autogynephilia made a difference? i feel so horrible for believing this shit, but i should also talk about how i let the construction of whiteness into my life that i believed i had to follow, too.
i have spent most of my life trying to pass for white. yeah, as i’ve discussed before, i’m pretty pale, but between my features, hair, social class, family, etc…i would have to do some work to be able to maintain consistent passing as Caucasian. i once thought this, too, was something i was supposed to do. i have bought more Black Opal Body Fade Creme Maximum Strength Plus than i really want to admit, fighting the hell out of my skin as it darkened in puberty. “Apply over areas of discoloration of the body…” the label advises, and did i ever…from my nape to my feet. even in places on my arms and torso where i’m literally pretty close to see-through, i slathered myself in it. i straightened my 3B/3C (depends on the day…) curls into this dead, lifeless curtain that would hang over my face. i tried blue contact lenses for a while, colored my hair every color under the sun, and though i would rage against the white man in private, in public i found myself trying to figure out if this shit was really working. i mean, after all, i went from an ugly, misshapen sometimes-regarded-as-boy to what most of the world seems to agree is female, why not power through my race and leverage that my skin wasn’t “discolored” to my advantage?
because, well, it’s bad for you. my hair was a lifeless curtain because it broke; i grew it out once with the help of so much weave it actually stayed…kind of…straight. i tried putting it in dreadlocks when it was long…don’t dread your hair when it’s half-weave. $200 every two months to make your hair have that special “it’s relaxed!” look, carrying a flatiron with you everywhere…and that Black Opal shit…it’s a tube full of lies. see, hydroquinone will lighten your skin…a bit. it will take out those weird discolorations we get on our knees and elbows (ASHY KNEES!) but a good moisturizer will do that, too. and from a look of horror i gave my hairdresser one day in 2011 when she told me to give it up and go natural to today, i have grown to love my curls and all the weird things they do. a little fluffing, a little humectant, and boom, out the door. that thirty minutes i spent every morning in my quest for Caucasian approval? i spend it sleeping now. the funny part is that i know i am a whole hell of a lot better-looking this way…the past couple of times i straightened my hair, i gave up after two days and started wearing a hat for the rest of the week, covering the shame from hurting my precious locks. since i got back on hormones about a year ago after a three year lapse, i don’t even look like my driver’s license picture from 2010 anymore, and i think that’s a wonderful thing. that person hated herself, and whilst i don’t exactly love myself now, it’s better.
so i understand you, transfundamentalists. i used to ascribe to the impossible standards you uphold, i used to want to be in your circle and pursuing the same illusory safety that you believe you’re finding. i used to think i was better than other trans people, and now i know that i’m not. i scream about your poison because i drank so much of it. i drank Ms. Magner’s poison, from her sockpuppet “Janelle” who carefully copied my entire fucking life story to Kiira herself talking about intersex/ed rights and organizing and how we were going to make ISNA relevant again, etc etc…it never happened. like everything Ms. Magner did, like everything transfundamentalism does, like trying to be a race you’re not, it’s all poison in the end regardless of your intent.
second, i’m dealing with a lot of criticism that all my blog ever does is, well, criticize. there’s multiple examples of this not being true but i do know that much of this stuff that gets spread all over is critical. i recently discovered that the local TDoR people actually do have planning meetings, but an email about a month and a half ago to the published address for information claimed that, you guessed it, there’s no such meetings and that you can get involved through the simple universal leader of all things around here, your gender-appropriate support group. i feel badly, because i now know there’s at least one woman of color working in this structure that looks all-white from the outside, and i really don’t want to criticize other trans women of color for existing and i feel awful about, well, what i’ve had to say on the matter. but at the same time, i don’t know how to be involved since that door isn’t open to me. i am sure this is not a personal vendetta, but instead the usual bullshit about “the way things work” and “the way things have always worked.” the TDoR people didn’t blow me off because i’m Erica, they blew me off because i’m a generic outsider.
this is the central question i have about how to stop always criticizing and start doing. criticism is important (i mean, Statler and Waldorf are the best Muppets and not just because y’all know they’re an old gay couple…) but i think there’s got to be some development past criticism. but how do you develop past criticism when you’re outgroup? i feel like this is kind of screaming in a vacuum, and while i am deeply honored and touched that 41,000 (whoa!) of you have read this stuff, i don’t know how to take it to the next level. i don’t know how to navigate this world of closed doors, of “leadership summits” with hefty price tags i can’t afford, and of living somewhere other than the Bay Area, New York, or Chicago when it feels like all trans activism that has transcended the boundaries of closed-door secret meetings and support groups (at least in the US) is in one of those places. because activism has transcended those boundaries there, there’s more opportunity to try to work to find a place that you fit. and yes, there’s something to be said for trying to build something like that, but i can’t do it alone and that’s eternally frustrating, and until there’s some sea change moving away from the idea that the support group is what you use to vet people, well…nothing’s going to change.
but i want, i so badly want, to figure out how to start doing. and maybe, for now, criticism is all i have for that doing. and if that makes me seen as a mean person or an asshole, so be it. i freely admit i am envious of the level of access some people enjoy and some of us do not have, but i can’t think of a proactive solution to change things, and for fuck’s sake, i don’t want your pity, i want your ideas. i want to know why things that work in other places can’t work here, or in Los Angeles, or in Peoria for all i care. i want to be able to show clinics that no, trans women are not all opposed to informed consent healthcare (which the local nest of transfundamentalists is, medical access info and being an entry point to the community is how they keep their power, keep taking grants for “trans health” and doing nothing to advocate for us…) and yeah, that we can live in a world where trans women come in all shapes, colors, sizes, forms, and types. i want to know how you stand up to tyrants, because what i see in comic books isn’t the truth and what i see in the movies sure as hell isn’t, but our society, for all its tall tales about “the King’s tyranny”, has stood up to tyrants only when it’s convenient to do so. our society encourages us to sit down, shut the fuck up, and let the tyrants have their way.
speaking truth to that might be criticism, yes, but for now the only tool i have is criticism, and that’s what i’m doing. if that’s not right for TDoR, your “organizing meetings”, or your “leadership summits”, maybe you ought think about what you’re doing in not including those of us who criticize. i know it’s making me enemies, but increasingly i just don’t give a fuck about the feelings of tyrants. now if i could only stand up to them…