so i’m sitting at a bar in a nondescript Pacific Northwestern city drinking a large jar of something very pink and laden with bourbon, chatting with a few friends, including Caylee (whose blog you really ought read) amongst others…and i had one of those “eureka” moments as we were discussing why the “trans community” is so inherently and openly toxic: the fear of outsiders and otherness is about as serious as it is amongst geeky folks, and the resulting fear is to keep out difference and claim that this difference is because someone isn’t “good enough.” in other words, much like the abject horror and open sexism that is the war against “fake geek girls”, a war based on a delineated and clear fear of women entering spaces like cons and gaming venues, there’s a war against “fake trans girls” here within our community. it’s based on the same baseless fears and enforced using the same ridicule and othering, and much like the war on “fake geek girls”, the war on “fake trans girls” needs to stop.
i’ve been called a “fake geek girl” even if not exactly in those words. this is particularly hilarious because i am not especially conventionally attractive and was just there to play Magic: The Gathering, a rather addictive tabletop turn-based card game that i used to be pretty involved in. because i relocated, i needed to find new people to play with. this became a circus of humiliation: unlike most games, i do actually know how to play M:TG, and i was actually pretty good. however, on all three stops i made, i got told various things about how they didn’t have space for any new people that night (while at least one gent was waiting to play), that the open game night announced on the store’s website was “private”, and, oh yes, that “you don’t look like you belong here.” when there’s 23 guys and you, ladypeople, and you’re the one being told you don’t look like you belong there, i think we all know what’s going on. of course i don’t look like i belong there when everyone there fits a monoculture…but that doesn’t mean i don’t belong there, goddammit. so because i had no one to play with, and nobody answered my Craigslist ad seeking people to play with, i gave up on playing Magic: The Gathering about six years ago. is this necessary and central to my life? no, no it’s not. but it reminded me that solely because of my gender, i have no place in geek space because of some unfounded fear that i was there to laugh at people…when my presence was there solely to make them taste the wrath of my blue-white deck. i’ve been cleaning up lately, and when i clean, i see my endless amount of M:TG cards and not only is it a reminder that i miss playing the game, it’s a reminder that a structural barrier got in my way of being able to enjoy something that brought me fun…because someone who didn’t even know me saw me and assumed that either i was going to laugh at them or that i would be incompetent…based on my gender.
the feminist critiques of the “fake geek girl” fabrication have been pretty scathing and deservedly so. the article i linked above from the always amazing Devin at Badass Digest is a fine example of a reasoned criticism of the misogyny behind the “FGG” designation and Susana Polo provides some constructive criticism of the trope, but there have been writers like Tara Brown who have shamelessly played into the sexist concept of the “fake geek girl” while all the same venerating almost all the elitism that makes geek circles inaccessible to those of us who come from lower classes, even once we have the cards and know the rules. there’s Joe Peacock’s fiery rage of sexism and woman-fearing that he splattered all over the CNN GeekOut blog, a particularly nasty and hostile piece which reminds most of us womenfolk that in a world run by bro-culture we’re never going to be let in even as guests, because nothing we can do is good enough. Peacock sets out one of the greatest fallacies in treehouse culture: “i deserve to be here, but I get to decide whether or not you’re good enough.” hint: you’re never going to be ‘good enough’ when the person deciding is scared to death of you, regardless of the reason. it’s me and my Magic card case wandering into the game store looking for someone to play all over again. no matter what excuse you give, the end result is that the myth of the “fake geek girl” is advanced to keep all women out of the geeky pursuits.
so maybe i don’t know who directed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier or the reasons behind the worship of Wil Wheaton and i certainly don’t read the “right” comics though i do treasure my signed copy of Hazelnuts #0 and i can give you a nuanced and detailed critique of the comics distribution system in the US and Canada and how it helps preserve independent comic shops and keeps the chains from getting in on the action as easily as they do in many other forms of media sales. i know my credentials are going to come up short on some level, but i have a feeling that Joe Peacock’s will, too…it’s just that as a function of entry into space, his credentials aren’t questioned based on his gender.
and this is what dawned on me over that giant pink Mason jar: i’m a “fake trans girl.” i don’t have the credentials to be allowed into trans space without being questioned and called insufficient. i’m never going to be able to claim that i have legitimacy and cite how much money i’ve spent on surgery as a justification and i don’t have anyone already inside the space to vouch for me. i’m an outsider, and the guardians of trans space, generally unquestioningly enforcing transfundamentalism, believe that this space must be protected from outsiders at all costs. the possibilities are just as narrow when it comes to trans circles as it is within geek circles: you’re either scared i’m there to laugh at you or that my assertion of gender is inherently insufficient. is my femaleness inherently insufficient? well, of course it is because that’s how it is for all women. consider the levels of body policing and shaming that patriarchal culture dispenses toward even cis heterosexual white women like Romola Garai, claiming she’s “too fat” for fashion and Hollywood movie roles and airbrushing her curves away in still photography. now, Ms. Garai and i are the same height, but she’s probably about 6-12 inches smaller around than i depending on which body parts we’re discussing. the fact that her body is shamed and hidden has everything to do with the trap all women find ourselves in…because we live squarely under the thumb of patriarchy, no woman’s body will ever be “good enough”. in other words, by dint of presenting as female, we’re all already not good enough and the transfundamentalist kapo merely enforces whatever their own biases entail to say some trans women aren’t good enough, blithely ignoring that many people they do let in don’t meet the standards they cite as “necessary to keep the group functioning.”
now, as for the thinking i’m there to laugh at you part…i don’t even know what to say there, but increasingly i fear that might be part of how transfundamentalist enforcement works. i mean, when there’s no other explanation, Occam’s Razor pretty much suggests to default to base human instinct and around trans issues that seems to always be fear. transfindamentalists cling to a pathological need to enforce borders but there’s no real foundation for the enforcement of these borders…the differences in trans women that Ashley Love, Just Jennifer, TS-Si and their ilk rage against are completely ethereal things that cannot possibly be grounded in reality and which sound much like the “feminine essence” argument many people from the MichFest boards use to justify excluding trans women. (since MichFest “prunes” their boards to remove all trans-related discussion, i regret i can’t provide you with a link. got screenshots? send ’em to inchoaterica at gmail dot com!) when the argument is identical from someone who says all trans women are invalid and someone like Just Jennifer who says most trans women are invalid, you start to notice that they’re chasing identical wisps into the woods of transmisogyny, and i think we all know what happens when you chase wisps into the wood. the same fate invariably befalls every traveler who is unwise enough to give chase to those mysterious lights…
heck, an open invitation to transfundamentalists to explain their position garnered no actual responses, here or on any of the various messageboards these posts end up reblogged on. so let me tell you this plain and simple, HBSers and your sort: no outsider trans person is there to laugh at you, and the suggestion that we would implies that all of us have the same base instincts in your hearts that you do in excluding. if you believe this, you surely buy that Magneto was right and that humanity is beyond saving…i guess maybe that’s the real difference between us, as i subscribe fervently to that Dumbledore was right, in that people may well be different but a common uniting cause should be enough to bring us together. We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open. (from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling)
so you’re enforcing borders that have no foundations in reality and clinging to them…i had thought that the reason was to be mean, but now i realize that transfundamentalism clings to these borders because it’s terrified of what happens if it doesn’t. in other words, the transfundamentalist lashes out first out of fear of how the outsider will treat them, ascribing the worst intent to the outsider without giving them a chance. the Just Jennifers of the world are so scared of how other trans people will be seen by cis folks to the point they destroy other trans people for what amounts to shits and giggles to preserve their illusionary safety that they believe they’re “good enough” to be provided by cis people. at the heart of all these things, though, it’s all wired into fear. fear preserves monocultures and keeps the dread outsiders who don’t perfectly match your monoculture out, producing the monocultural idea of One True Way.
when you’ve never tried anything else and believe there’s One True Way, you get things like the idea that there are “fake geek girls” and “fake trans girls” alike. we can go on at length about why these standards are used to judge women and how all this does is reinforce kyriarchical-patriarchal ideas that keep us all down….but it’s time to reclaim the tar being thrown at us by people clinging desperately to their sinking lifeboats because they’re too scared to imagine a world populated by people less terrified than they. i reclaim my being a “fake geek girl” because it’s always going to be leveled at me if i try to put my nose into geek space, and i reclaim my being a “fake trans girl” because it obivates the ludicrous nature of deciding who is and isn’t a “real” transsexual based on unquantifiable, imaginary criteria which are enforced whenever someone feels like it.
so yes, i’m a “fake trans girl”…and a member of Dumbledore’s Army while we’re at it. we are only as strong as we are united.